Friday, November 20, 2009

Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet is notated using letters.

This alphabet consists of the letters A through G. There are no notes named H, I, and so on. Once you get to G, it starts back at A.

Let's start with letters A through G:


These notes are called NATURAL notes. There are SEVEN of them.
In our Western system of written musical notation there are a total of TWELVE unique
pitches. So where do the other Five come from?
It turns out that in between each of the notes A through G there are other pitches.

These notes will be designated as SHARPS or FLATS.

For example, one pitch higher than A is called an A SHARP
One pitch lower than D is called a D FLAT

SHARPS are notes raised by a fret or a Semitone.
FLATS are notes lowered by a fret or a Semitone
(Sharps are notated via a "#" symbol, FLATS are notated via a lowercase "b")

Please note that each of these "in between" pitches can be named by both a flat and sharp.

To further clarify:
We said that one pitch higher than A is an A#; well, one pitch lower than a B is a Bb. These notes while appearing to have different names, actually sound the same on your instrument of choice. A# and Bb are called ENHARMONIC EQUIVALENTS of each other. The reason we pick one name over the other will be explained in a later installment.

So, our Complete Musical Alphabet is as follows:

A Bb B C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab
    A#         C#     D#       F#      G#

As you read through the Alphabet please note that in between E and F there are no sharps or flats, and none between B and C.

A common error that is often made is to state that there is no such thing as Cb or Fb....or B# and E#
Cb DOES exist, however, in our Western Musical system the SOUND is the same as the note B. Hence when we write the musical alphabet out one doesn't see Cb in between B and C. Same goes for E and Fb.

Once again, Cb=B and Fb=E which is the reason we do not write sharps/flats in between those pitches in our musical alphabet.

NEXT TIME-Major Scale Construction