Accidentals

Note: New users are sometimes confused about accidentals and key signatures. In LilyPond, note names specify pitches; key signatures and clefs determine how these pitches are displayed. An unaltered note like c means ‘C natural’, regardless of the key signature or clef. For more information, see Pitches and key signatures.

A sharp pitch is made by adding is to the note name, and a flat pitch by adding es. As you might expect, a double sharp or double flat is made by adding isis or eses. This syntax is derived from Dutch note naming conventions. To use other names for accidentals, see Note names in other languages.

\relative c'' { ais1 aes aisis aeses }

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A natural pitch is entered as a simple note name; no suffix is required. A natural sign will be printed when needed to cancel the effect of an earlier accidental or key signature.

\relative c'' { a4 aes a2 }

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Quarter tones may be added; the following is a series of Cs with increasing pitches:

\relative c'' { ceseh1 ces ceh c cih cis cisih }

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Normally accidentals are printed automatically, but you may also print them manually. A reminder accidental can be forced by adding an exclamation mark ! after the pitch. A cautionary accidental (i.e., an accidental within parentheses) can be obtained by adding the question mark ? after the pitch.

\relative c'' { cis cis cis! cis? c c c! c? }

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Accidentals on tied notes are only printed at the beginning of a new system:

\relative c'' {
  cis1~ 1~
  \break
  cis
}

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Selected Snippets

Hiding accidentals on tied notes at the start of a new system

This shows how to hide accidentals on tied notes at the start of a new system.

\relative c'' {
  \override Accidental.hide-tied-accidental-after-break = ##t
  cis1~ cis~
  \break
  cis
}

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Preventing extra naturals from being automatically added

In accordance with traditional typesetting rules, a natural sign is printed before a sharp or flat if a previous double sharp or flat on the same note is canceled. To change this behavior to contemporary practice, set the extraNatural property to f in the Staff context.

\relative c'' {
  aeses4 aes ais a
  \set Staff.extraNatural = ##f
  aeses4 aes ais a
}

[image of music]

See also

Music Glossary: sharp, flat, double sharp, double flat, Pitch names, quarter tone.

Learning Manual: Pitches and key signatures.

Notation Reference: Automatic accidentals, Annotational accidentals (musica ficta), Note names in other languages.

Snippets: Pitches.

Internals Reference: Accidental_engraver, Accidental, AccidentalCautionary, accidental-interface.

Known issues and warnings

There are no generally accepted standards for denoting quarter tone accidentals, so LilyPond’s symbols do not conform to any standard.


LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.25.8 (development-branch).