What is the difference between sharp and flat?
Someone asked me this question on Facebook and here’s my answer. He asked “Pls sir i want you to tell me the difference between sharp and flat.”
Great question, Marcus!
It is very simple. Sharp means to go up a half step, while flat means to go down a half step. Up means moving to the right on your piano keyboard while down means moving to the left. What is a half step? A half step simply means the distance between a key (black or white) on your piano and the key that is next to it. So C to C# is a half step. D to Db is a half step. (Read on…)
On your piano keyboard, the white keys starting on C are in the order C, D, E, F, G, A and B. All that happens after is repetition. In other words, after B you go back to C, D, E, F and so on until you run out of keys. The black key to the immediate right of C is C sharp. We moved up a half step. In other words, we moved to the next key. This is what sharp means.
Now let’s say we were on the key, D. We can move one half step down to D flat. Remember that flat means to go down or to go lower. D flat and C sharp are played by the same key. It is one key with two names. Why? Because in the first example we went up by a half step while in the second example, we went down by a half step.
I created a quick video just for you on the difference between sharps and flats:
If you’re reading music and you come across any note with a sharp or flat sign before it, all it means is to go up or down by a half step. If you see the note G with a flat symbol before it, all you’re being told is to play G flat instead. Simple play the key that is to the immediate left of G. If you see that same note, G with a sharp symbol before it, all you’re being told is to play G# and not G. In that case you will play the key that is to the immediate right of G.
Really, any note can be sharp or flat. In other words, if you see the note, B with a sharp in front of it on the music staff, all it means is to play the key that is to the right of B. It’s the note B# which is played by the key, C on your piano keyboard. In the same way, if you come across the note Cb (C flat), all it means is to play the key to the immediate left of C. That key is the same as B on your piano.
Just remember that sharp means to move to the next key to the right while flat means to play the next key to the left. Hope this answers your question. All the best.
Video: Piano Lessons – Half Steps or Semitones – Sharp and Flat Notes