Robert Estrin - piano expert

What are Double Sharps and Double Flats?

Learn more about this basic music theory question.

In this video, Robert talks about "double sharps" and "double flats." What exactly are they?

Released on February 3, 2016

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com, I am Robert Estrin with a question, what are double sharps and double flats? You might think I just made that up because it sounds like a crazy idea if you've never heard it before. Well you've seen sharps and flats in your music and usually you think of those as being black keys. But first of all, sharps and flats are not necessarily black keys as I've described in another video that you can reference. In fact, sharps and flats simply raise or lower by a half step the note that's written. Half step being the closest interval. Any two keys next to each other, with no keys between, is a half step. So indeed, if you were to play a C Sharp, it is the black key above C. But a C flat could be a white key. Also called B most of the time but it could be written as C flat. So what about double sharps and double flat, do they really exist? Absolutely!

A double sharp looks like a little star with dots on either side and a double flat is simply two flats. If you've ever seen two flats written on a note, it tells you to simply play the note two half steps lower. Or a whole step lower which is the same as two half steps. So if you had a C double flat, you would go down the one half step and the second half step. So C double flat is the same key in the piano as B flat which could also be known as A sharp. It's all the same key. Why do composers do this? Do they do it just to confuse you? Absolutely not. Actually it's because music is written diatonically. That is, with the letters in order. Basically, it's step-wise. When you have music that's written in a certain key, it can actually make sense if a certain tone is altered down and it's already a flat, to write it as a double flat to differentiate it from some other alteration in the harmonies. It actually makes a lot of sense in music visually to be able to know the structure and where you are in the key that piece is written in.

Double sharps are the same thing. It just raises a note a whole step. So if you went to F and it was an F double sharp, you raise it one half step and a second half step. So, F double sharp is the same key as G on the piano. And that's all there is to double sharps and double flats. I hope this has been helpful and solved the mystery if you've ever seen them in your music. Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at virtualsheetmusic.com and livingpianos.com.
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