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A half-step on a keyboard is the distance from one key (black or white) to the next (black or white) in either direction (up or down). To make a note sharp, you play the key that is one half-step higher. “Sharp” is indicated by the # symbol, which is commonly substituted with a simple pound sign (#) on most chord sheets. Notice on the keyboard above, for example, that C# (C-sharp, or C#) is the black key one half-step higher than C.
is commonly substituted with a “b” on most chord sheets. Eb, for example (E-ﬂat, or Eb) is the black key one half-step lower than E. This means that each black key has two potential names. Any given song will use either all sharps or all ﬂats, you just need to be prepared to know both. Most songs used in a corporate worship setting - or in a rock band setting - will use sharps instead of ﬂats.
To make a note ﬂat, you play the key that is one half-step lower. “Flat” is indicated by the b symbol, which
There are some sharps and ﬂats not represented on the keyboard above. You may have noticed there’s no E#, for example. The rule of moving one half-step up or down to make a note sharp or ﬂat, respectively, still applies - even if there is no black key in that space. The missing sharps and ﬂats are white keys, as illustrated below:
an Fb, E#, Cb or B#. Those keys will almost always be known as E, F, B and C, but it’s good to know.
You will probably never be asked to play
Cb B# B C