Difference between Sharp and Flat Note

Musical notes are the key to the melodies created by western music. Essentially, a musical note provides a way of defining the pitch and duration of a sound coming out of a musical instrument. Pitch of the sound determines how low or high the note will be. Furthermore, musicians also take notice of the duration of the note to create the desire effect from their musical instruments. In western music, there are seven notes and they are further subdivided into sharp and flat notes. Although there are a number of similarities between a flat note and a sharp, there are some key differences between these two terms, which should be understood by musicians when playing a melody.

Musicians talk about music in terms of notes and not the frequency or wavelength. If you are beginner, you will be surprised to see 12 notes within in a single octave rather than seven natural notes, represented by symbols A, B, C, D, E, F and G. The additional five notes added are the flat and sharp notes. Any musical note reduced by half then the natural note is recognised as the flat sign.

These flat signs may be entire step apart of just half step away from each other. However, if they are one step apart, then an additional note can be adjusted between them and the resulting note becomes either a sharp or a flat note.

Music students, who get confused with sharp and flat notes, need to remember that a sharp sign represents one half step change in the natural note whereas a flat sign is realised when the natural note is one half step lowered. Difference between a flat or a sharp note and an entire note is typically a half step.

Natural notes, on the other hand, represent a whole step as the distance between the two natural notes.


  • 1

    Sharp Note

    A note half step higher will result in a sharp sound and therefore it is categorised as a sharp note. If C is the natural note, then C sharp will be just a half step higher than the actual note and it will produce a pointed melody.

    - Image courtesy: turbosquid.com

  • 2

    Flat Note

    Notes a half step lower than the natural note are known as flat notes. If A is the natural note then C flat will be a half step lower than the real note.

    - Image Courtesy: themusicdepot.com

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