Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Why Only 7 letter names?

Related threads:
Time Signatures: 2/4 or 4/4 time.... (60)
12 tone music explained -- 30 min vid. (1)
Question about musical notation (47)
Music Theory: Who is W.A. Mathieu? (6)
Unequal temperament (46)
Helmholtz: Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen... (7)
harmony vs. melody (51)
Online printable music paper source (55)
Basic Music Theory Question (62)
Time Signature help needed... (7)
tone vs pitch (36)
help with music theory (19)
Origins of music: new theory (18)
stupid notation question (11)
Music Question: Improvisors? (82)
Scared of Music theory? Faggggedaboudit! (120)
Music Theory:Number Notes Need? (30)
2 ideas for technique/theory study (3)
Tunes rule OK? Or chords? (34)
How to train one's ear? (8)
Music Theory/Arrangement Question? (38)
Another Music Theory Question (6)
Theory questions that make me nuts-- (24)
US / UK differences - music theory (12)
Link for music theory and tunings (3)


GUEST,Guest (Susan) 30 Oct 08 - 01:02 PM
Bernard 30 Oct 08 - 02:38 PM
Les in Chorlton 30 Oct 08 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 30 Oct 08 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 30 Oct 08 - 03:04 PM
Acorn4 30 Oct 08 - 03:42 PM
Sorcha 30 Oct 08 - 06:26 PM
Ythanside 30 Oct 08 - 06:44 PM
catspaw49 30 Oct 08 - 10:18 PM
The Fooles Troupe 30 Oct 08 - 10:40 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 30 Oct 08 - 10:58 PM
GUEST,guest, Susan 31 Oct 08 - 04:18 AM
GUEST,doc,tom 31 Oct 08 - 05:02 AM
Bernard 31 Oct 08 - 06:23 AM
pavane 31 Oct 08 - 07:14 AM
Cluin 31 Oct 08 - 07:17 AM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Oct 08 - 08:24 AM
Mr Red 31 Oct 08 - 09:34 AM
Jack Campin 31 Oct 08 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 31 Oct 08 - 10:19 AM
pavane 31 Oct 08 - 11:56 AM
Jack Campin 31 Oct 08 - 12:18 PM
Murray MacLeod 31 Oct 08 - 01:22 PM
Bernard 31 Oct 08 - 01:27 PM
open mike 31 Oct 08 - 01:44 PM
Bernard 31 Oct 08 - 04:22 PM
The Fooles Troupe 31 Oct 08 - 09:49 PM
Bernard 01 Nov 08 - 07:29 AM
Cluin 01 Nov 08 - 08:09 AM
Mr Red 03 Nov 08 - 03:30 AM
pavane 03 Nov 08 - 03:59 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,Guest (Susan)
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 01:02 PM

The answer is probably SO obvious but I don't know it. Why are there 7 letter names plus sharps and flats in Western Music instead of, say, 12 letter names? How did this come about?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Bernard
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 02:38 PM

Early music was 'modal', using only seven notes (a very complex and lengthy explanation needed for that!).

Gregorian Chant, around the 4th Century, saw the introduction of what we now call 'Bb', as the augmented fourth from F to B was considered to be the 'Diabolo Musica' or 'Devil in Music'.

What they did was to rename B natural to 'H', and call Bb 'B', which is still commonplace in some European countries.

That is where the flat and natural symbols originated, and the sharp came a little later - and is also derived from the letter H, as is the natural.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 02:38 PM

The sharps and flats get you to an octave in 11. We hear octaves and know they sound special.

I guess the major scale, which is one of a number of ways of getting between octaves, is easy to harmonise.

1/4 notes are less helpful in harmony.

None of this may be relevant,

L in C getting coat and leaving.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 03:04 PM

We got that ultimately from the ancient Greek nomenclature for one of their scales, the diatonic genus. They had many other scales, but Western Christian chant didn't use them. There are a lot more note names in Arabic music, which developed more in the ancient Greek spirit.

The Greeks in turn got their music theory from ancient Sumeria, which already had a named 7-note scale nearly 4000 years ago.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 03:04 PM

It's partly historical, sharps and flats weren't invented til long after the 7 letter name system was already in use. But it's also much, much easier, as diatonic scales have 7 notes in them, therefore using each of the letters ocne, with sharps or flats as modifiers, rather than each key using a different combination of letter names.

It also makes much more sense from the point of view of written music- if you had to have a separate space/ line on a stave for each of the 12 notes, it would be really hard to read.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Acorn4
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 03:42 PM

The early keyboards could only play in one or two keys, because the notes were tuned exactly to pitch. if you tried to play in the key of E, for example, it would sound out of tune. On a modern piano, every note is slightly out or "tempered", but the "offness" is so small the ear doesn't notice, but it gives each key you play in a slightly different character. By Bach's time "tempered" tuning meant that you could play in any key, hence the "Well Tempered Clavichord".

Before this the eight notes (white if in C)would be the ones you used the most, and the rest would truly be "acccidentals".


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Sorcha
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 06:26 PM

See if you can find the thread called Modes for Mudcatters. Very good at explaining it all.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Ythanside
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 06:44 PM

I thought erudite was a kind of glue until I read the postings on this thread, and am now convinced that I know absolutely bugger-all about music.

LOL


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: catspaw49
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 10:18 PM

Forget all that stuff.........The real reason is that H chords are too hard to fret.

Spaw


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 10:40 PM

Some questions like this SEEM simple, but the more knowledge one has, the more complex becomes the answer!

Compare "Why is the sky blue?"


:-)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 30 Oct 08 - 10:58 PM

To expand upon Bernard a (Gargoyle's Guide - more basic than the "Idiot's Guide")

C (whole) D (whole) E (whole) F (half)
CONTINUING
G (whole) A (whole) B (whole) C half

The first half of the 8 note scale is mirrored by the second half.

BUT what happens if we start one WHOLE note lower - say F? The same pattern much follows...but "that devil Bd pops in." Ouch - a flatted forth to make things easier - someone more than John's son is meeting at the Cross Roads.

There is a reason orchestra's tune to the first violin (and it is the "devil's instrument") UNLESS there is a piano.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,guest, Susan
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 04:18 AM

Thanks so much. I'm very glad I asked the question. Of course, it inspires forty or fifty new questions but the information you've all given me is wonderful. I love Mudcat.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,doc,tom
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 05:02 AM

When did orchestra's stop tuning to the oboe?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 06:23 AM

When someone sat on it...!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: pavane
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 07:14 AM

Seem to be a whole lot of 'catters to be reported to the "Society for Abolition of the Misplaced Apostrophe"

(as often found in King Edward's Potatoe's)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Cluin
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 07:17 AM

For those old monks who worshipped the Greek mathemeticians, God was (and may still is) the God of whole numbers.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 08:24 AM

Read this and you'll probably start feeling pretty dizzy long before you get to the end... The Musical Scale


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Mr Red
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 09:34 AM

I thought Gregorian was a game of Chants..........

I'll get my coat.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 09:47 AM

That "musical scale" page is interesting but has very little to say about actual music history. It vastly overstates the importance of the Pythagorean tuning system - most European, Indian and Middle Eastern music until the Middle Ages developed without reference to it. It still isn't very relevant to Indian music, which also uses seven-note scales, but selects them from an unequally tempered 22-note "chromatic" pitch set. (They don't use an explicit word for "sharp" or "flat" - the actual pitch of a note is specified by saying what raga you're in).

I love the traditional Indian account of the note names, as described in H.T. Popley's book. High to low:

- Shadja - the sound of the peacock in its highest rapture
- Rishabha - the sound of a cow calling her calf
- Gandhara - the bleat of a goat
- Madhyama - the cry of a heron (or the sound of falling water, the noise of forest, or the buzz of a city)
- Panchama - the note of the Indian nightingale
- Dhaivata - the neigh of the horse
- Nishadha - the trumpeting of the elephant


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 10:19 AM

Thanks for posting the Indian note names Jack, a far more interesting way of looking at it.

No wonder people find music theory boring and irrelevant when we name the notes after letters.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: pavane
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 11:56 AM

The "Nishadha Dvaivata Panchama" notation is a bit more cumbersome than abc, though. And what about having to list the chord of Gandhara with an added Panchama?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 12:18 PM

You just say the first syllable in practice - ni, dha, pa, ma, ga, ri, sha. (Indian musicians often do that, and can sing a sort of sol-fa at unbelievable speed). Or in written notation, use just the first letter.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 01:22 PM

All the kids in my Highland primary school could sing any tune in tonic solfa at unbelievable speed.

It was just a knack we developed. To this day I can take any tune (as long as I know it, obviously) and sing it straight off in tonic solfa.

I am sure my classmates could still do likewise.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 01:27 PM

That was the basis of the Kodaly method, which also uses hand signals to visually reinforce the sol-fa. Teaching young children in this way has an enduring effect.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: open mike
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 01:44 PM

this is still in use in sweden today

"What they did was to rename B natural to 'H', and call Bb 'B',
which is still commonplace in some European countries."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Bernard
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 04:22 PM

Yep - the sheet music for ABBA's 'Waterloo' has Hm as one of the chords! I know people who thought that meant you were supposed to hum...!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 31 Oct 08 - 09:49 PM

As far as I can tell, this will be post no 27, thus the full alphabet has been used, and we will have to start again.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Bernard
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 07:29 AM

Unless we switch to the Cyrillic Alphabet...! That gives us 33 letters!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Cluin
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 08:09 AM

This is the digital age. We can easily go to 256 before we have to switch to 16 bit.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: Mr Red
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:30 AM

2 octaves? confusion ahead.

Stick to 8 bits.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Why Only 7 letter names?
From: pavane
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:59 AM

"You just say the first syllable in practice - ni, dha, pa, ma, ga, ri, sha."

That's how the tonic sol-fa system was invented, too. First syllable of the words of a song, but they changed Ut to Doh to make it possible to sing.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 17 July 7:35 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.