A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Natural Sign on a Keyboard

Have you ever looked at sheet music and wondered what the symbol is that looks similar to a sharp sign? The signs might look similar, but don’t play a sharp note. What you’re seeing is the natural sign.

Like a sharp or flat sign, a natural sign is also accidental [1]. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, when you might see it, and how you need to use it. Read on for a comprehensive guide to understanding the natural sign.

What Is The Natural Sign?

When you see a sharp sign, it’s telling you to raise the pitch of a note by a half step. When you see a flat sign, you’re supposed to lower the pitch of a note by a half step.

A natural sign is a signal that you should play the natural note instead. It cancels both sharp and flat signs when it’s written.

So, for example, if you were playing B-flat, the natural sign tells you to play a natural B.

When Do You See It?

Let’s use one of the most famous compositions ever for an example — Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” [2]

In the beginning, the sheet music directs you to play the first D as a D-sharp. The sharp still applies for the second D. However, there’s a natural sign in front of the third D, which tells you to play the natural note.

This also applies if there’s a flat or sharp sign in the time signature. This means that you’re playing either the flat or sharp for a certain note throughout the entire composition unless it says otherwise. (Hint: the natural sign is your direction to play something else.)

If you see a natural sign next to a note, that’s the one time that you play the natural note instead of a flat or sharp.

How Do You Write It?

When you write a natural sign, it looks like a sharp sign with two shorter lines. The center should be aligned with the note it’s annotating. The entire sign should take up about three staff spaces.

When you’re writing music, keep in mind that sharps are usually canceled after a bar, anyway. Special annotations last the length of a measure.

The musician reading your composition will probably understand that he or she should go back to playing a natural note. However, it’s more professional to write a natural sign to confirm the change.

If there was a double flat or double sharp earlier in the measure, you don’t have to write two natural signs to tell the musician to play a natural note. Just one will do.

Expand Your Music Knowledge

With this guide, you’ll be better prepared to play any sheet music that comes your way. If inspiration strikes you, you can also use natural signs to accurately represent the music you imagined.

For further understanding, you may want to read also the difference between half note and half rest.

Make sure you practice to keep building your musical knowledge. Don’t have an instrument at home? No worries. Check out these virtual sites that will help you learn to play from anywhere.

Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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