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Example of flats in music on piano. An A, then A♭.
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In music, flat, or bemolle (Italian: "soft B", "to make minor" [as, e.g., a minor third]), means "lower in pitch"; the flat symbol lowers a note by a half step. Intonation may be flat, sharp, or both, successively or simultaneously. More specifically, in music notation, flat means, "lower in pitch by a semitone (half step)," and has an associated symbol (♭), which is a stylised lowercase "b" that may be found in key signatures or as an accidental, as may sharps. The Unicode character ♭(U+266D) is the flat sign. Its HTML entity is ♭.
Under twelve tone equal temperament, C flat for instance is the same as, or enharmonically equivalent to, B natural, and G flat is the same as F sharp. In any other tuning system, such enharmonic equivalences in general do not exist. To allow extended just intonation, composer Ben Johnston uses a sharp as an accidental to indicate a note is raised 70.6 cents (ratio 25:24), or a flat to indicate a note is lowered 70.6 cents.
Double flats also exist, which look like (similar to two flats, ♭♭) and lower a note by two semitones, or a whole step. Less often (in for instance microtonal music notation) one will encounter half, or three-quarter, or otherwise altered flats. The Unicode character '𝄫' (U+1D12B) represents the double flat sign.
Although very uncommon and only used in modern classical music, a triple flat () can sometimes be found. It lowers a note three semitones.
In tuning, flat can also mean "slightly lower in pitch". If two simultaneous notes are slightly out of tune, the lower-pitched one (assuming the higher one is properly pitched) is said to be flat with respect to the other.
A half flat, indicating the use of quarter tones, may be marked with various symbols including a flat with a slash () or a reversed flat sign (). Play (help·info) A three-quarter flat, or sesquiflat, is represented by a half flat and a regular flat ().
- Benward & Saker (2003). Music in Theory and Practice, Vol 1, p.6. McGraw-Hill, Seventh edition. "Flat (♭)—lowers the pitch a half step."
- John Fonville. "Ben Johnston's Extended Just Intonation- A Guide for Interpreters", p.109, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 106-137. "...the 25/24 ratio is the sharp (♯) ratio...this raises a note approximately 70.6 cents."
- Extremes of Conventional Music Notation.