Sharp (music)
In UnicodeU+266F MUSIC SHARP SIGN (♯)
Different from
Different fromU+0023 # NUMBER SIGN(HASH) (#)

In music, sharp, dièse (from French), or diesis (from Greek)[a]

means, "higher in pitch". More specifically, in musical notation, sharp means "higher in pitch by one semitone (half step)". A sharp is the opposite of a flat, a lowering of pitch. The ♯ symbol itself is conjectured to be a condensed form of German ligature ſch (for scharf) or the symbol ƀ (for "cancelled flat").


A sharp symbol, , is used in key signatures or as an accidental. For instance, the music below has a key signature with three sharps (indicating either A major or F minor, the relative minor) and the note, A, has a sharp accidental.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' { 
  \clef treble \key a \major \time 4/4 ais1
} }

Under twelve-tone equal temperament, the pitch B♯, for instance, sounds the same as, or is enharmonically equivalent to, C natural (C), and E♯ is enharmonically equivalent to F. However in other tuning systems, the enharmonic relationship is generally different from 12-EDO.

Key signature

{ \time 1/8 \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f { \clef treble \key cis \major s16 ^\markup "" } }
The order of combining sharps is basically "F C G D A E B" from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 7.

When used as a key signature, the key is indicated by writing one or more letters to the right of the clef.

If sharps is used as a key signature, the effect continues to be applied regardless of measure and octave, unless the key changes midway or is affected by another accidental effect such as natural.

The key signature is basically applied as follows: F♯ C♯ G♯ D♯ A♯ E♯ B♯ The major scale with one sharp is G major. In all scales of the key signature for sharps, the tonic note of the major scale is a minor second above the last symbol, and the tonic note of the minor scale is a major second below the last symbol.

If there are three or more sharps, the tonic note of the minor key is the note of the third to last symbol of the key signature. For example, in the case of a minor (F♯ C♯ G♯ D♯) composed of four sharps, the third sharp from the last is C♯, which represents C♯ minor. Each new scale begins a fifth above (or a fourth below) the previous scale.


of sharps

Major key Sharp notes Minor key
0 C major A minor
1 G major F E minor
2 D major F, C B minor
3 A major F, C, G F minor
4 E major F, C, G, D C minor
5 B major F, C, G, D, A G minor
6 F major F, C, G, D, A, E D minor
7 C major F, C, G, D, A, E, B A minor

Order of sharps

Main article: Circle of fifths

The order of sharps in key signature notation is F, C, G, D, A, E, B, each extra sharp being added successively in the following sequence of major keys: C→G→D→A→E→B→FC. (These are sometimes learned using an acrostic phrase as a mnemonic, for example:   Father Can Grab Dogs At Evenings Best   or   Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle   or   Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket   or   Fat Cows Go Down And Eat Buttercups   or   Father Christmas Goes Down All Escalators Backwards   or   Fried Chicken Goes Down All Easy Baby.)

Similarly the order of flats is based on the same natural notes in reverse order: B, E, A, D, G, C, F Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles's Father or Blanket Exploded And Dad Got Cold Feet, encountered in the following series of major keys: C→F→BEADGC.

In the above progression, the key of C major (with seven sharps) may be more conveniently written as the harmonically equivalent key D major (with five flats), and likewise C major (with seven flats) may be more conveniently written as B major (with five sharps). Nonetheless, it is possible to extend the order of sharp keys yet further, through CGDAEBFdouble sharpCdouble sharp, adding the double-sharped notes Fdouble sharp, Cdouble sharp, Gdouble sharp, Ddouble sharp, Adouble sharp, Edouble sharp, and finally Bdouble sharp, and similarly for the flat keys from C major to Cdouble flat major, but with progressively decreasing convenience and usage.


When used as an accidental, it is written to the left of the note head.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' {
  \clef treble \time 4/4 bis1
} }

When used as an accidental, sharp is applied to the note following sharp within the measure. However, unlike the key signature, it does not apply to notes that have the same note name but a different octave.

However, if it is written as an accidental, all key signatures and other signs are ignored, and it is read based on the basic tone (natural tone).

To cancel the sharp used as an accidental in the same octave within the same bar, use other accidentals such as a natural (♮).


A double sharp is indicated by the symbol double sharp and raises a note by two semitones, or one whole tone. It should not be confused with a ghost note which is notated with "×".

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' {
  \clef treble \time 1/1 bisis1
} }

Less often (in for instance microtonal music notation) a score indicates other types of sharps. A half sharp, or demisharp raises a note by a quarter tone = 50 cents (Playi), and may be marked with various symbols including half sharp. A sharp-and-a-half, three-quarter-tone sharp, or sesquisharp, raises a note by three quarter tones = 150 cents (Playi) and may be denoted three quarter sharp.

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' { 
  \clef treble \time 4/4 dih1 eisih
} }

Although very uncommon, a triple sharp (triple sharp) can sometimes be found. It raises a note by three semitones or one whole tone and one semitone.[1][2]

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' {
  \clef treble \time 1/1 \tweak Accidental.stencil #ly:text-interface::print \tweak Accidental.text \markup { \concat { \sharp \doublesharp )) bis1
} }

And the symbol of a quadruple sharp (double sharpdouble sharp)[3] or beyond can also be considered, but has not yet been discovered except in special cases.[4]

\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' {
  \clef treble \time 1/1 \tweak Accidental.stencil #ly:text-interface::print \tweak Accidental.text \markup { \concat { \doublesharp \doublesharp)) bis1
} }

Correctly drawing and displaying the sharp sign

The sharp symbol () resembles the number (hash) sign (#). Both signs have two sets of parallel double-lines. However, a correctly drawn sharp sign has two slanted parallel lines that rise from left to right, to avoid obscuring the staff lines. The number sign, in contrast, has two completely horizontal strokes in this place. In addition, while the sharp also always has two perfectly vertical lines, the number sign (#) may or may not contain perfectly vertical lines (depending on typeface and writing style).[citation needed]

Likewise, although the double-sharp sign double sharp resembles a bold-face lower-case x it also needs to be presented in a way that makes the two typographically distinct.


In Unicode, assigned sharp signs are as follows:


\override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f
\relative c'' { 
  \clef treble \time 4/4 bisis2 bis \accidentalStyle modern bisis2 bis
} }

See also


  1. ^ For the etymology of the words dièse and diesis, see Diesis.
  2. ^ The conventions of western musical notation developed when unequal meantone temperaments and well temperaments were the most widely used tunings, and equal temperament was still a theoretical proposal. For time orientation, and for example, J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Klavier (1722) appears to have been intended as a demonstration-piece for music written to exploit the differences in tonality in the various well temperaments, which had been recently introduced in his time, whereas equal temperament came into common practice long after his death. Bach himself appears to have most often used something close to a  1 /6 comma meantone temperament; the various meantone temperaments were the prevailing systems at that time, and lingered in use for tuning pipe organs into the early 20th century. Bach's choral notation is essentially the same as in current use, and remains appropriate for all tuning systems in use during his time, and the later adopted equal temperament. The circumspect continued adherence to the same conventions Bach and his contemporaries observed for accidentals, developed prior to the near-universal use of equal temperament, ensures that music that is harmonically consonant in any one tuning system remains (very nearly) concordant any other tuning system. That is, as long as the false equivalences of invalid enharmonic substitutions – which create wolf tones – are never used (like keying F to replace an unavailable E, or substituting F for G in any unequal meantone tuning).


  1. ^ Ayrton, William (1827). The Harmonicon. Vol. V. Samuel Leigh. p. 47. ISBN 1276309457.
  2. ^ Byrd, Donald (2018). "Extremes of conventional music notation". Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana.
  3. ^ It raises a note by four semitones or two whole tones.
  4. ^ <Ex. Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz>
  5. ^ Max Reger: Clarinet Sonata No.2 (Complete Score), pp. 33.: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  6. ^ A ♮♯ can be also written when changing a flat to a sharp. Chopin: Études No. 9, Op.10 (C.F. Peters), pp. 429.: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  7. ^ Fonville, J. (Summer 1991). "Ben Johnston's extended Just Intonation – a guide for interpreters". Perspectives of New Music. 29 (2): 106–137, esp. 109. doi:10.2307/833435. JSTOR 833435. ... the 25/ 24  ratio is the sharp () ratio ... this raises a note approximately 70.6 cents.