A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Archive for April 20, 2011

What are sharps and flats?

In a previous post, I spoke a little about how to play sharps (♯) and flats (♭) on the first few frets of the E string. I didn’t actually talk about what they are though. This is a little confusing to me still, but lets take a shot at it:

What are sharps and flats?

Sharps and flats belong to a group of notes in music called accidentals. They’re most easily visible on instruments like piano and keyboard as the black keys. In contrast, each of the natural notes (A – G) is played on a white key on the piano. The accidental notes occur between the naturals.

On bass, the pattern is the same, but it’s represented a little differently. Most of the natural notes on bass are 2 frets apart. The in-between frets are where the accidentals reside. For example, on the E string, the first fret is F. The 3rd fret is G. That fret between them is an accidental.

Look at the keyboard image above. You can see F on a white key, followed by a black key, and then G. Now, look at the image below. You can see F is the first fret of the E string, followed by an F# and then G is the third fret (the first dotted fret on the bass).