Is it a sharp or a flat?


I could have sworn someone recently asked about when to call a chord a sharp or a flat. I can’t find that post now, though. While I don’t exactly know the answer, I just ran across this image that I thought might be helpful.



Tolkien music theory is good.


Hi @Mark_Rocka I am sure if Tolken had written a book on music theory we would all be music wizards.

Here’s what I’ve been using as a reference tool for years. An interactive Circle of Fifth’s although I don’t recall if it actually answers that specific question it sure is a lot of fun to play around with just point and click.

Have fun


We have a forum, so let’s discuss whether a note is sharp or a flat. I am no expert. Here’s what I think I know/suspect:

  • The note that falls between an F and a G should be an F# when playing in a keys of G, D, A, E, B and F# and their relative minors. F# is part of the scale. That rule seems pretty common sense-ish.

  • If you are in a key that has neither F# or Gb (such as the key of C) what do we do? It is an accidental. I think you can call it either. I would think that you would want to be consistent within a piece (not notate both an F# and a Gb).

  • For accidentals, while it may not be “right or wrong”, I think there is likely situational bias or convention. Is the flat third in a G lick an A# or a Bb? I have my thought, but I suspect it may go against how most people think. What say y’all?


Me, I just leave the theory to the theorists and play banjo.


Here is a good read to put you to sleep:



I would have liked to see the original question because the phrasing here is confusing to me (I’m not sure what the question is and I prefer to answer it properly).

I have heard folks describe minor chords as sounding “flat” and major chords as sounding “sharp”, but I don’t think that is the question here.

Sometimes folks have questions about "when is a chord called sharp (like A# major) and when is it called flat (like Bb major). Since both A# maj and Bb maj are fingered in the same way, the question about when to use which term then becomes confusing to some folks. The simple answer is to use the descriptor (sharp or flat) when it fits the key signature of a song. For example, in the Key of A major, you would play a C# minor chord rather than call it a Db minor chord, as the note C# is in the key of A major. When it comes to chords outside of the key, I tend to use the chords around the chord (in question) to help describe it in the simplest terms possible.

For example:

C / Am / | F / G / | C / F#dim7 / | G / C / |

In this example, the chords are in the key of C major. The F#dim7 could be described as Gbdim7, but since the chord is to resolve to the G chord, that would just confuse the reader. And it only gets worse from there as that chord could be labeled 6 other ways, all of which are only more confusing as a chord leading to G and then back to the C. So the chord G tells me how to label the chord preceding it.


Mike touched on it above. It was something like “If I’m playing in key X and a note in between the scale notes is played, when do I call it a sharp as opposed to a flat?”

That’s a paraphrase of the specific details of the question.


That’s a different question altogether. In that case, it depends on what the note would have been without the accidental. For example, in the key of C man, the 3rd (E) flatted to sound “bluesy” would be written as an Eb not a D#. Context is everything and the proper use of accidentals should help the musician reading the music, not confuse him or her.


the original question was mine…if in key of F is a Dbm the correct term…
I came to figure out the actual chord in the song I was writing a chart for was a Dm so I scrapped the question.


Well that explains why I couldn’t find it. :slight_smile: