Which is correct: A flatted B note was added ..., or A flattened B note was added ...?

Likewise, would "A sharpened [or sharped] C introduces chromatic passing note ..."


  • So, someone is playing a tune and they play a note out-of-tune low. Do you say "sharp it", "sharpen it" or "make it sharper". And if it's out-of-tune high do you say "flat it", "flatten it" or "make it flatter"?
    – Dan
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 22:56

2 Answers 2


D, when sharpened becomes D# not Eb. D, when flattened, becomes Db not C#.

Free Music Theory

Furthermore, the verb flatten means to lower the pitch of a note, typically by a small musical interval.


An F double sharp is an F sharp that has been sharpened


  • 1
    Thank you, Nigel J. Grammatically speaking, I agree. However, I have seen both ways used in music anals which is why I'm asking if one is more correct than the other.
    – Udon Joe
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 18:36
  • 1
    J. Taylor, a great memory indeed. I'm sure you know by now that A-flat and G-sharp are enharmonic only in 12 equal temperament systems.
    – Udon Joe
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:35
  • 1
    Well, what I think I know is that if one picks up a Western woodwind and attempts to consistently to produce more that the half steps of the Western Tempered Scale, one might become a candidate for constant observation. Or worse, might succeed, and wonder constantly why nobody cares. I'm a little backward.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:49
  • 1
    J. Taylor, I believe the black-key answer has something to do with modern music systems centering on twelve equally-tempered pitches defining the octave. With only seven letters available for naming notes in the letter notation system, accidentals were needed iot create five additional notes to fill the gap. Of course, the five extra notes each have natural enharmonic counterparts, resulting in seventeen possible names for a 12-note octave. Musicologists then arranged the notes in a way that gives us our modern music forms.
    – Udon Joe
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:50
  • 1
    I think we have broken the bounds of English Language & Usage. I will retire
    – J. Taylor
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 20:02

There are two variants of both verbs. Collins gives:

sharp vb (Music, other) (tr)

[music] [US and Canadian] to raise the pitch of (a note), esp by one chromatic semitone.

(Usual equivalent in Britain and certain other countries: sharpen)

AHD [op cit] gives the declension:

sharp v. sharped, sharp·ing, sharps [Music]


and, again from Collins {the declension from AHD}:

flat [flatted, flatting, flats] 42. (Music, other) music the usual US word for flatten [sense 3]

So you have a choice, unless you think you must do as the Romans do. But what do the Romans do halfway across the Atlantic?

  • Thanks, Edwin. So sharpened would be international for U.S.' sharped?
    – Udon Joe
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 20:02
  • 1
    It is pretty common in English for words that are used, almost metaphorically, in a new context to take on the regular past form. For example a 'fly ball' (something to do with a sport called baseball, apparently) is said to have 'flied' rather than 'flew'.
    – user184130
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 20:30
  • @James Random Pretty common? I think I found three in a search I once did. It could have been two. Commented May 24, 2018 at 22:46
  • @Udon Joe I don't even accept 'BrE' as it is not well-defined, and I suspect that 'International English' is an even looser term. / Neither 'sharped' nor 'sharpened' can justifiably be termed 'incorrect' as they are accepted in the US and/or the UK. You may want to use the prevailing term, and certainly be locally consistent. Commented May 24, 2018 at 22:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.