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Lesson #30: Note Names

by Tyler de Witt posted on 1999-10-18
Topic: Theory Subtopic: General
Level: Beginner Number of Readers: 73475

Note Names

The first thing to learn about music theory are the note names. This is because all the other aspects of music theory will make reference to these, and it's important to know them and certain relationships between them.

There are only 12 different notes in western music. Seven of them are:

A B C D E F G

As you can see, they are named according to the first seven letters of the alphabet. As you move to the right, the pitch becomes higher. You may be wondering what comes after G. After G, you repeat the sequence again, starting at A. Thus:

A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A...etc.

Again, as you move to the right, the pitch becomes higher. You may think that once you get to the A, you could say, 'Hey, I'm at the same note as I started'. This is both right and wrong. It _is_ the same note name, and sounds very much the same, but it is an 'octave' higher. Octaves will be discussed later.

We've only looked at seven of the notes. There are five more. These are located in between the some of the existing seven.

A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#

The notes with the '#" beside them are called sharps. Any letter name with a sharp beside it is higher than the letter name. For example, A# has a higher pitch than A, but does not have a higher pitch than B. There are notes between every two consecutive letter names EXCEPT

	-between B and C
	-between E and F

If you look at the sequence above, you will notice there are no extra notes between B and C, and E and F.

For some reason, someone decided to make musical note names complicated, so they ended up giving two different names to the same note. This is where 'flats' come into play. Consider the following sequence:

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

The notes with the 'b's beside them are called 'flats'. Any letter name with a flat beside it has a lower pitch than the letter name. For example, Ab is lower than A, but Ab is still higher than G. As above, there are no notes between B and C, and E and F.

When the two sequences are compared:

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

All the note names underneath one another refer to the same note. So for example, A# is the same note as Bb, and Eb is the same note as D#. Any two notes names that refer to the same note are said to be 'enharmonic'. This system of sharps and flats may seem confusing and maybe useless, but it does have it's purpose, which will be discussed in later lessons.

The things to remember from this lesson are:

1. There are twelve different notes in western music.
2. They are named:

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

with notes names below one another being enharmonic(referring to the same note)
3. The pitch becomes higher as we move to the right in this sequence.
4. The sequence repeats itself:

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

5. There are no extra notes between B and C, and E and F.


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