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Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Determining the # of sharps or flats in a song

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Question
Hi Penny. How do I know how many sharps or flats are in a song Iím writing on the piano when I write it out by hand on sheet music? I'm getting confused because some notes I'm writing are accidentals. Meaning there a part of the song but are not mainly repeated sharp or flat notes like the others through out.

Answer
Hi Sterling:

First of all, you can determine the number of flats or sharps in a song by first fignuing out which note the song comes to rest on, usually the last note of the song rests on the tonic or "1" and also indicates the key that the song is being played in, ie.. the melody ends on a D and the song is in the key of D.  when you have looked at the Circle of 5ths (look it up) to determine the number of sharps in the key, you are then ready to write your music down.  If it occurs that in the course of your melody there are notes that would normally be sharped or flatted in the scale or key you are playing it in but in your melody they are not, then you have to either use a natural symbol, (look it up) to unsharpe or unflat the note, or of if the note is normally natural in the key you are using, then you would use a sharp to raise the note of a flat to lower the note.

Best wishes, Penny Nichols

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Penny Nichols

Expertise

I can answer all kinds of questions regarding singing techniques, practice, performance, vocal recording technique and harmony vocal arranging.

Experience

I have been a professional singer/songwriter and vocal arranger and teacher in the music business since 1965.

Organizations
BMI, Folk Alliance, SummerSongs, Inc. (I am the founding director)

Publications
Singer Magazine

Education/Credentials
I have a doctorate in Music Education from Harvard.

Awards and Honors
Platinum record for my vocals on Jimmy Buffett's Son of a Son of a Sailor, 3 times nominated for a Grammy in the background singing category, MVP in the motivational singing category of the Assoc. of Multi-image Assoc. Annual awards two years in a row.

Past/Present Clients
I have sung with, recorded with or opened shows for Mort Sahl, The Byrds, The Dillards, Dillard and Clark Expedition, John Kay (Steppenwolf), The Association and Big Brother and the Holding Co. (Janis Joplin), Steve Miller, Quicksilver Messenger Service, 13th Floor Elevator, Chocolate Watchband, Jefferson Airplane, Dan Hicks & his Hot Licks, Cream (the Santa Monica Civic auditorium 1968), Little Feat in concert.† I wrote and performed commercials for Toyota's campaign to plant a tree for every car bought, Carnation Dairies, and produced a public service announcement for the Navajo Nation called "Black Mesa" to protest the misuse of the land around the Four Corners power stations in Arizona. In 1977, while working with Emitt Rhodes on a record for Elektra, I joined Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefers.† I appeared in the movie FM with the band, toured the U.S. and earned a Platinum Record for my singing on Son of a Son of a Sailor. Also, I've recorded with Art Garfunkle (Fate for Breakfast) Suzi Quatro, Danny O'Keefe, Yvonne Elliman, Jennifer Warnes, Albert Brooks, The Credibility Gap, Steve Gillette and earned a Grammy nomination for my work on Arlo Guthrie's album The Power of Love.† In addition, I have recorded a series of singing lessons which have been sold world-wide by Homespun Tapes since 1985.

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