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#953097 - 05/22/07 06:34 AM Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
My reference describes an accidental as

“A sign indicating a
DEPARTURE FROM THE KEY SIGNATURE,
by the momentary raising or lowering of a note by means of a sharp, flat, double-sharp, double-flat or natural.”

Can anybody advise of a collective noun for “sharps and flats?”

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#953098 - 05/22/07 07:20 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
uh... accidentals?

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#953099 - 05/22/07 08:26 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Thanks Mark ... but I got told off well and truly by the professorial brigade that accidentals were as defined as notes which are a DEPARTURE from the key signature ... that's why I'm looking for a more accurate (but less wordy description) for sharps and flats.

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#953100 - 05/22/07 08:53 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
There isn't a standard word for "sharps and flats."

I think your "professoorial brigade" is full of crap. The term "accidentals" often refers to the symbols for sharps, flats, naturals, double sharps, and double flats.

Why's it so important? It's just a word.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#953101 - 05/22/07 09:17 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Ragnhild Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/22/06
Posts: 1117
Loc: Norway
Language is fun, sometimes....

I have been a little confused by the term "accidental" in English , because of the way it's defined (as pointed out by btb).

Norwegian seem for once to be more precise in this matter :
Sharps and flats are called "fortegn" (something like pre-sign).
Sharps and flats in key signature are called "faste fortegn" (fixed presigns), and other sharps and flats are called "løse fortegn" (loose presigns).

BTW "accidentals" sounds a little dangerous to me....
\:\) \:\)

Ragnhild
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#953102 - 05/22/07 10:07 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
Thanks Mark ... but I got told off well and truly by the professorial brigade that accidentals were as defined as notes which are a DEPARTURE from the key signature ... that's why I'm looking for a more accurate (but less wordy description) for sharps and flats. [/b]
The collective noun for sharps/flats that are in the key signature is called the "key signature."

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#953103 - 05/22/07 12:52 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
Thanks Mark ... but I got told off well and truly by the professorial brigade that accidentals were as defined as notes which are a DEPARTURE from the key signature ... that's why I'm looking for a more accurate (but less wordy description) for sharps and flats. [/b]
Hm. Yes, I see. So...I guess...in the key of G, F# is not an accidental. Yet, it is still called F sharp. So it's a sharp, but not an accidental.

I guess the only thing that makes sense, then, is to just call them "the black keys." Of course, that's a piano reference, not a music notation reference... Hm. Problem.

How about..."things that would be accidentals in the key of C major." There. That's efficient use of language.

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#953104 - 05/22/07 01:19 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
The problem with that idea is that C-flat (which is B, of course) could be an accidental in a key that has B-flat in it. Accidentals aren't just the black keys.
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#953105 - 05/22/07 01:26 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
I'm with Kreisler on this - I think they're splitting hairs a little too fine for their own good. While it is hardly the final source for music terminology, dictionary.com defines accidental as:

a sign placed before a note indicating a chromatic alteration of its pitch.

Sounds good enough for me...
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#953106 - 05/22/07 02:47 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7311
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Well, that's what I teach my students. We don't call an F# in the key of G an accidental, because it isn't. If you were working with a relative solfege system, it would "ti," as in do, re, mi etc. Our notation system only allows for the placement of tones in the key of C, which is perhaps why they are white (formerly black or actually "natural" on older keyboard instruments). We call them naturals, by the way.
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#953107 - 05/22/07 05:44 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
We might also make note of the fact that musical terminology is sadly unstandardized. Nobody agrees on the meaning of "hemiola," either. (That debate tends to come up at least once a year around here.)

There is disagreement on some formal terminology as well. Some people call it a "second theme," others call it a "second tonal area." Some call "fugue" a form, others think of it simply as a compositional procedure.

There are rarely truths in music theory, simply because theory is descriptive and reflects common practice, not all practice. For every theoretical concept and/or definition, you can always find a counter example somewhere.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#953108 - 05/22/07 06:01 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
P*D:
C-flat (which is B, of course)[/b]

No it isn't; e.g. C-flat is the subdominant of the G flat major, whereas B is the mediant of G major ;\) .

-Michael B.
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#953109 - 05/22/07 06:17 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
the squiggly things
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#953110 - 05/22/07 06:20 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7311
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
And, of course, Cb and B are actually two different tones (well, if we're going to get really technical, 12 different sets of tones, depending upon the key we're playing in) - on all instruments except keyboard instruments, which are purposely tuned out of tune for player's convenience. \:D
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#953111 - 05/22/07 07:30 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5903
Loc: Down Under
How about: chromatic alteration signs \:\)
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#953112 - 05/22/07 07:49 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Wow, my innocuous little C flat comment arouses such passion. I love it. \:D
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#953113 - 05/22/07 10:32 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
PerformingYak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/05
Posts: 205
Loc: Lightning Ridge, Australia
a gaggle of geese
a mob of roos
a shift of sharps and flats??
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#953114 - 05/22/07 11:39 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7311
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
_________________________
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#953115 - 05/23/07 12:29 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
lol! This is quite the conversation to read. Has this been asked in the Pianist Corner too? I'm going to check.

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#953116 - 05/23/07 12:31 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
p.s. There are a lot of things in music that are just a given - sort of like Algebra - you know it but you can't explain it.

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#953117 - 05/23/07 04:11 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Thanks Yak for your collective noun “shift” ... IMHO right on the money ... the process of moving up or down off the original stave note is a “SHIFT”. .. no more, nor less ... but it will be another thing to persuade the boffins that a

“shift-rich” key signature

(meaning those signatures with 7 sharps or flats)
is acceptable jargon when wanting to say

“key signatures rich in the number of sharps and flats”.

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#953118 - 05/23/07 04:40 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
David:
Wow, my innocuous little C flat comment arouses such passion. I love it. \:D [/b]

I obviously couldn't let such an outrageous statement pass unnoticed!

Yours enharmonically,

-Michael B. ;\)
_________________________
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

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#953119 - 05/23/07 08:45 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Wish I could speak Norwegian to be able to pick up on Ragnhild’s positive lead regarding a collective noun for sharps and flats ... her suggestion of “fortegn” (something like a pre-sign) ... and interesting adding how out of place the word “accidentals” sounds.

Wikipedia tells us all about “fortegn” ... but unless you’re fond of skiing and have, during snowy visits picked up the lingo ... the Wiki blurb in Norwegian is about as comprehensible as double-Dutch (whatever that means).

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#953120 - 05/23/07 09:01 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17747
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by sid:
the squiggly things [/b]
this is my favorite answer in the whole thread. \:D

I do agree with Ragnhild that the Norwegians appear to have dealt with the issue in a most logical manner.
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#953121 - 05/23/07 12:37 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2846
Loc: UK.
In the UK the collective term is 'Flarps'.
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#953122 - 05/23/07 01:24 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
Wouldn't it just be an accidental that would therefore change a major scale to a minor.

I'll still vote for "Flarps".
(That is the best one yet!)

Diane
__________________________________

Blues/Jazz/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
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#953123 - 05/23/07 04:15 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7311
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Flarps? What about naturals? Flarpurals?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#953124 - 05/23/07 10:04 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Flarps?

Well, that beats the cr@p out of "shats." \:D :p
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#953125 - 05/24/07 03:15 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
What a merry chase!

“Flarps” sounds like the undignified splash of an obese poltroon not wanting to get a hair-do wet.

But who was the clown who came up with the name accidentals? We’re all so used to the misnomer that we don’t blanch at the blatant inaccuracy of the term.

An “accident” by definition is an “unexpected event/mishap” ... how then can the 5 notes outside any scale bear the yoke of being dismissed as accidentals ... especially when the so-called accidental Eb (in C major) is the very spice which epitomises the C minor scale.

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#953126 - 05/24/07 08:47 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
bogbrush Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/09/06
Posts: 3
Loc: Basingstoke, UK
How about a collective noun for bankers?

Would that be a wunch? LOL

Regards
Keith

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#953127 - 05/24/07 09:22 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2846
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
An “accident” by definition is an “unexpected event/mishap” ... [/b]
In that case the word 'accidental' seems to work quite nicely doesn't it?

If you are reading music in the key of C Major then any #'s or b's could be considered an unexpected event.

As far as I know accidentals were first used in the 9th Century. Gregorian chant was based on 6 note patterns (hexachords), one of which included the note Bb. F,G,A,Bb,C,D was known as the soft hexachord. All the accidental signs used today are apparently derived from the letter B.

I don't know when the word 'accidental' was first used to describe notes outside of the key signature.
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#953128 - 05/25/07 08:36 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
fumblethumb Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/11/05
Posts: 8
Loc: N. VA
...or shats?
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#953129 - 05/25/07 11:01 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
Technically wouldn't we have to have;

sharps
flats
naturals
AND double sharps (x) in the word?

Diane
__________________________________

Blues/Jazz/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
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#953130 - 05/25/07 11:37 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
So if we add "double sharps" we get,

"floublaturals" or "floublurarps" or "floubluraturalarps". \:D

Diane
_________________________________

Blues/Jazz/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
_________________________
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#953131 - 05/26/07 01:46 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
So now I can be on the money ... and instead of saying “key signatures rich in the number of sharps and flats" I can blurt out
“key signatures rich in the number of "floubluraturalarps"... any takers?

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#953132 - 05/26/07 03:50 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2846
Loc: UK.
The only problem with that is that key signatures include either sharps OR flats. So your key signature is rich in sharps or it is rich in flats. I imagine this is because they are two different things hence no collective noun. There is no collective noun for chalk and cheese.
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#953133 - 05/26/07 04:19 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Too true ... I've just made myself a toasted cheese and tomato snack ... left out the chalk
but added a dab of Mrs. Balls famous chutney ... delicious!! not long before the Springboks take on England at Bloemfontein.

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#953134 - 05/26/07 10:56 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
All jokes aside, the word is accidentals. Let's bring up your dictionary definition again:

“A sign indicating a
DEPARTURE FROM THE KEY SIGNATURE,
by the momentary raising or lowering of a note by means of a sharp, flat, double-sharp, double-flat or natural.”

If there were no key signature (or simply a "key signature" with no sharps or flats, if you like), you would have to write the accidentals, in the score (as departures from the current "key signature"), as composers did in the past. It was obviously quite tedious to be continually writing in the same accidentals, so it was decided to put them at the beginning of the piece as the key signature - the accidentals were given up front so everyone knew what they were at the start and played them accordingly. If other sharps or flats (or natural signs) were needed, they, of course, would have to be written in the score as they occured, since they obviously were not in the key signature. See? Sharps and flats' function as departures from the key signature does not preclude them from occuring in the key signature, so the term, accidentals, is the appropriate one when discussing them collectively, at least in the abstract.

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#953135 - 05/27/07 01:14 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
Did the "accidental" police just walk in
an we are all "under a Rest". \:D

Couldn't resist just one more joke. My apology!

Seriously, we all know that, but were just having a little fun! No harm intended.

Diane
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Blues/Jazz/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
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#953136 - 05/27/07 03:30 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2846
Loc: UK.
Harmosis, whilst the majority of us would agree with your accurate description I feel you will have a hard time convincing btb. We have been here many times in the past. :rolleyes:
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#953137 - 05/27/07 06:33 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
It’s opportune to say a few kind words of thanks for the positive responses.

Kreisler for “There isn’t a standard word for sharps and flats. I think your professorial brigade is full of crap. The term accidentals often refers to symbols for sharps, flats, naturals, double sharps and double flats”.

Ragnhild for “fortegn”

8ude for “ a sign placed before a note indicating a chromatic alteration in pitch”.

Performing Yak for “a shift of sharps or flats”.

Chris H for “In th UK the collective term is flarps.”

After Harmosis’ wordy defence of everyday key signatures I couldn’t resist some thoughts “out of the box” ... and have included a diagram of the
repeating 6-line stave with NO FLARPS ... the numbering of the 12 basic keyboard notes avoids any alphabetic confusion.

web page

Who said the chat had gone FLAT?

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#953138 - 05/27/07 11:43 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Harmosis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 308
Loc: California
 Quote:
After Harmosis’ wordy defence of everyday key signatures...
Any of those words get through? Does logic hold any weight for you? (BTW, you ain't seen wordy yet ;\) )

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#953139 - 06/14/07 05:27 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I have not understood a single post on this topic.

Perhaps that is because I just sit down and play the notes and chords and scales and runs that sound correct from my subconscious memory recall.

I do not attempt Classical pieces but jazz and swing which I enjoy.

I think all you proper pianists are very clever and it's all a mystery to me.

Alan (swingal)

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#953140 - 06/14/07 05:52 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
jwjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/07
Posts: 278
Loc: New York
btb - where did that 6 (or 7) line staff come from? I've never seen anything like it.
Has anybody actaully trained themselves to read that? What advantages would it have over traditional 5-line staves? I am imagining some type of highly chromatic or atonal music.
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#953141 - 06/14/07 07:43 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi jazz,
You want to know about the origins of the chromatic (repeating 6-line) stave.

You mightn’t realize it but the original keyboard stave consisted of 11 lines ... to cover a nominal range of notes between the two hands ... however the Grand Staff proved impossible to snap read ... and so was split into two more user-friendly 5-line staves ... with Middle C perched on a separate little horizontal line between the two staves.

Which left us with a strange anomaly ... Middle C was ON A LINE ... whereas the octaves above and below placed C BETWEEN LINES ... not very scientific!

The repeating 6-line stave shown below eliminates the above contradiction ...
and incidentally says goodbye to the sight-reading drag of accidentals and changing key signatures.

web page

You might like to have a look at the web address of the MNMA ...http://www.mnma.org/ ... a group of passionate musicians have founded their
efforts towards an improved notation based on the chromatic stave.

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#953142 - 06/16/07 02:48 PM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Cultor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
 Quote:
Originally posted by Diane W:
Technically wouldn't we have to have;

sharps
flats
naturals
AND double sharps (x) in the word?

Diane
__________________________________

Blues/Jazz/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher [/b]
Diane: beware of triple (xxx) in the word.

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#953143 - 06/18/07 10:12 AM Re: Collective noun for sharps and flats?
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Cultor:

Diane: beware of triple (xxx) in the word[/b]
____________________________________

Cultor,

Cute, but just to clarify that there are no accidentals that would be xxx. Example, there is no such thing as a Cxxx. There is, however, a Cx, which is C##, which untechnically speaking would be a D.

Hope this doesn't confuse the issue further!

And back to the initial question. I still think, "floubluraturalarps" is a great new word for;

1. sharps
2. flats
3. naturals
4. AND x!

And the Italian translation would be? Let's not go there!

Diane
Blues/Jazz/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher
_________________________
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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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