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Encyclopedia of Microtonal Music Theory

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flat / flat - musical accidental symbol

[Joe Monzo]
1. accidental symbol in music notation

A symbol, placed before a notehead on staff-notation, or placed after a nominal in text, which indicates a change in pitch of one chromatic semitone lower than that of the plain nominal. The flat is a specific type of accidental.

A note with a flat is also one diatonic semitone higher than the plain nominal just below it, i.e., A:Bb is a diatonic semitone.

The flat sign evolved out of the "round-b" notation which was used to indicate the lower version of the note "B" which appears in the synemmenon tetrachord of the lesser perfect system.

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2. general meaning: lower in pitch

In a general sense, "flat" simply means lower in pitch by some amount (which may be defined or undefined); often used in this (undefined) sense when one instrument is out-of-tune with another.

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