What Does a Double Flat Mean in Piano Music?

Written by lisanne jensen
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What Does a Double Flat Mean in Piano Music?
In piano music, a double flat lowers a note's pitch. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Fanch)

A "double flat" doesn't mean having two flat tires on your car. Instead, in piano music, a double flat lowers a note's pitch. Read on to learn more about double flats, which are a type of musical note called "accidentals."

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Piano Key Basics

Here are the musical notes on a piano keyboard: middle C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and high C (all white keys). The black keys are sharps and flats. Middle C to high C is one octave.

What Does a Double Flat Mean in Piano Music?
A piano's white keys are "naturals"; the black keys are sharps and flats. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Benny Lin)

What Is a Double Flat?

A musical note with two flat signs added lowers the pitch by an entire step. For example, the musical note B with a double flat applied to it lowers the note so that it's harmonically equal to the musical note A.

How to Recognize a Double Flat

A flat looks like an italicised, script-like lower case "b" letter next to a musical note, most often to the left. A double flat looks much like "bb" in the same location.

What Does a Double Flat Mean in Piano Music?
There are several flats in this music piece. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Mat Smith)

Why Use Double Flats in Piano Music?

So, why not just say "A" instead of "B double flat"? According to "Pitch: Sharp, Flat, and Natural Notes," these two notes "don't have the same function within a particular chord or a particular key."

What About More than Two Flats?

Triple flats do exist, but they're mainly found in complicated classical music pieces and are not very common.

Which Songs Use Double Flats?

If you've ever heard the song "Ten More Miles to Louisiana" by Tony Joe White, you've heard one example of double flats. "Put 'Em Back," a tune from the Broadway musical Lil Abner, is written in the key of C flat. Many other songs also use double flats.

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