#1
Old 05-04-2002, 11:10 AM
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B and E sharp

Why is it that B and E don't have sharp notes? Is there any particular reason or is it "just because"? Are sharp notes somehow less important than the other notes, or is it just the name that they've been given?

These are the things that keep me awake at 2 in the morning. Help fight my ignorance and let me get a little sleep.

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#2
Old 05-04-2002, 11:33 AM
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they do have sharp notes, b# is c and e# is f . also... c flat is b and f flat is e....(though this'll probably lead to more sleep loss )
#3
Old 05-04-2002, 12:19 PM
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Look on a piano: between the white keys there aren't always black keys. "Sharp" just means the closest note up from a white key. For B and E, this is another white key. You can call them B# and E#, but they are the same as C and F.

Which frequency a named note refers to is a matter of convention. Pitch has gradually risen over the centuries, so what used to be an A used to be a A#.
#4
Old 05-04-2002, 12:37 PM
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I think it's pretty much "just because." There may be an historical reason, but there's not really a musical one. It's essentially convention.

A major scale in the key of C has no flats or sharps (all white piano keys). I could see where this might have something to do with how our Western system of music was set up.
#5
Old 05-04-2002, 01:07 PM
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Well as far as I know it's different if you're on an instrument such as violin than on a piano. The ideas mentioned above are true for a piano, although sometimes you see something like F## and you wonder why they don't just say "G", it could have to do with the key sign.

In singing and on a stringed instrument I think there is a slight difference between something like E# and F. But I'm not a string player, someone else should confirm this.
#6
Old 05-04-2002, 01:34 PM
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There is no difference between E# and F beyond the name. There are other tones in between, but within that naming convention, there is no difference. The reason why E and B don't have sharps (or why C and F don't have flats) is simply a matter of definition.

All musical notes are simply variations in frequency of vibration of air. The consonances and dissonances between notes are products of adding the frequencies. Small whole number ratios generally sound "Nicer".

Western scales are defined in terms Half steps (H). A half step is one of 12 equal steps from a given frequency to its octave tone, which is exactly double its frequency. The frequency ratio of a perfect half step is constant, and is about 1.06:1. Two half-steps make a Whole Step (W).

The major scale, the one you're used to hearing, that sounds upbeat and happy, and makes you feel good when the chord resolves is defined as W,W,H,W,W,W,H. The names of the notes are defined in terms of the Major scale:

C to D is a Whole step. (C#/D-flat is the note in between)
D to E is a W (D#/E-flat is between)
E to F is a Half Step (no note inbetween)
F to G is a W (F#/G-flat)
G to A is a W (G#/A-flat)
A to B is a W (A#/B-flat)
B to C is a H (no note in between)

Sharps and flats are simply named so because they are the notes between the whole steps in the major scale. You can sharp, flat, double-sharp and double-flat any note. That's just the process of incrementing or decrementing the pitch by a half-step.

Look here for a little clearer discussion than mine.
#7
Old 05-04-2002, 02:13 PM
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Joe Cool has described the equal temperament scale. This actually represents a bit of a compromise. The real "pleasing intervals" use something called "just intonation". The drawback would be that this would require a different tuning for each key, to use exact ratios 1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2, 5/3, 15/8, 2 to construct the scale.

The equal temperament scale which divides the octave into 12 steps allows these ratios to be approximated pretty closely in all keys via the pattern that Joe Cool described, and makes it practical to construct keyboard instruments. Players of instruments which do not have fixed stops, like a violin, can play with just intonation, which is what a player of such an instrument is getting at when they suggest that E# is NOT F.

As any guitarist knows, tuning of a fretted instrument represents a similar compromise. Take your guitar, and tune so that a folk D chord sounds absolutely, dead-on "right". An A will sound horrid, because you've "cheated" your tuning so that the intervals produced in the D chord pattern are just. It drives a different pattern like the A even further off than tuning the strings to their exact equal temperament pitches and spreading the error, which is what most of us do in this age of electronic tuners.

Some background:

http://home.earthlink.net/~kgann/tuning.html
#8
Old 05-04-2002, 02:25 PM
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Gah, you beat me to it, yabob. But I will say, in answer to the OP, that there is such a thing as B-sharp, only in equal temperament it is the same as C. In other temperaments, it isn't. If you start on C and move up by 12 perfect fifths (7 semitones), on a piano or guitar you'd end up back on C. But if you use the Pythagorean perfect fifth (a frequency ratio of 3/2), as people did before equal temperament was devised, you end up on a B# which is slightly higher than C.
#9
Old 05-04-2002, 04:16 PM
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OK, yabob and Usram, if there really is such a thing as B-sharp (as slightly distinct from C), at least for non-fixed-stop instruments, then how come we never hear about any composer writing a Prelude in B-sharp, or an Invention in F-flat, or a Canon in E-sharp? Or am I mistaken and such pieces really do exist?
#10
Old 05-04-2002, 05:07 PM
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One of the reasons that no one wrote pieces like that is that for instruments such as the violin, where B# really means something, one of the things it means is that it is a passing note on the way to the next note up - C#, in this case. In other words, it often functions as a leading tone (trust me on this) to a higher note. Consequently, it's not a very good stopping or starting place. This is a performance issue. It does exist in a lot of music written in the key of c# minor, a fairly common key, and in the key of C# Major, a less common key. But, as a practical matter, to write a piece in B# major, you'd have to write the piece in a key signature that no one would be able to read and it would be extremely cumbersome. As I think about it, I believe the key of B# would have to have three sharps and four double sharps. And god help you if you modulated to a key of secondary dominance, or farther. No - it's pretty much of a theoretical notion that performers FEEL, but the distinction becomes pretty meaningless when you try to write music in such a key. (I bet this doesn't help much.)
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#11
Old 05-04-2002, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by yabob
Joe Cool has described the equal temperament scale. This actually represents a bit of a compromise. The real "pleasing intervals" use something called "just intonation". The drawback would be that this would require a different tuning for each key, to use exact ratios 1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2, 5/3, 15/8, 2 to construct the scale....
I knew I forgot something. I really did mean to include this, but in all the re-edits I ended up leaving it out. thanks for the save.
#12
Old 05-04-2002, 08:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ratatoskK
sometimes you see something like F## and you wonder why they don't just say "G"
I think it is simply because there is a convention that each note in a musical scale is represented by a different letter (it makes musical scores easier to read). Take the G#-major scale; one way of writing it is G#, A#, B#, C#, D#, E#, F##, which includes the ugly double-sharp F##. But whichever way you slice it, you can't avoid using F##, if you want to assign a different letter to each note. That's why you sometimes see things like F##, and indeed B#.

Quote:
Originally posted by psychonaut
how come we never hear about any composer writing a Prelude in B-sharp, or an Invention in F-flat, or a Canon in E-sharp?"
I'd guess that it's because, before equal temperament arrived, composers only used the keys that 'worked'; after equal temperament, they could use any key they liked, but there was no point in using B-sharp, because they might as well call it C.
#13
Old 05-04-2002, 09:50 PM
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I came in here ready to educate, but Joe Cool covered it in a slamdunk with some whipped cream on top.

Whole step
Whole step
Half step
Whole step
Whole step
Whole step
Half step

B# IS C.
E# IS F.

A lot of it depends on what instrument you're playing and what key you're playing in. Chuck Berry used a lot of "piano" chords/constructions in his music. A guitarist would normally call it F#, but Gb is the same animal with a different name. You just learn to play it on the fly, and the name be damned. Some folks say Germany, some call it Deutschland. No one has any question about where it is that you are discussing.
#14
Old 05-05-2002, 06:45 AM
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Most has already been covered, but B and E sharp certainly do exist in conventional notion, as do C flat and F flat. Much of musical notation has to do with theory. For example, in an augmented chord, you raise the fifth. So, for the key of C, the notes are C-E-G#. Now, in the key of A, your major chord is "A-C#-E," but the augmented chord should properly be written as "A-C#-E#" not "A-C#-F."

A similar thing happens with minor chords. In a minor chord, the third is flatted. So, the proper notation for something like an A flat minor chord would be "A flat - C flat - E flat" NOT "A flat - B - E flat."

There are a bunch of conventions which determine how you notate enharmonics (i.e. notes with the same pitch). This explains the use of those nasty-looking double sharps, double flats and other notational oddities. (For example, a full-dimished 7th chord in C should be properly notated as C-E-G flat-B double flat, as the dominant 7, the B flat, is being diminished.)
#15
Old 05-05-2002, 07:48 AM
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I know this is an SDMB naughty, and I promise to behave in future, but can I just chime in with something that isn't actually an answer to the OP but which I feel is worth saying anyway?

Namely, that I do wish all of you who care about music, know about it, understand it, want the world to appreciate and love it and share it more, would please do something to simplify the sheer unadulterated mind-squishing logic-lite dumbness of conventional musical theory. Then, perhaps, sane and normal people might be able to get on with it.

Look, I'm probably not the sharpest tool in the box. But I'm not thick either. I did well educationally, and I can get my head around most subjects. But music... aaargh. I've learned to play three or four instruments in my time. I've had good music teachers. I've had good, talented musical friends who can explain stuff to me. And I am still stunned to gobsmacked that nobody wants to update music theory a little, just to chuck out some of centuries-old barnacle junk, so that it even comes close to sensible.

First of all, some big news for ya. 'C' is not the first letter of the alphabet! So if we're going to have one key which is the 'plain vanilla' one, without sharps and flats, and which is usually taught first, then, hey, let's use the first letter of the alphabet. Which is 'A'. It is not 'C'.

Secondly, what in all of sweet creation does raising the pitch of a note have to do with 'sharpening'? Or lowering pitch to do with 'flattening'? Answer: nothing at all. Can't we even use words to mean what they mean? What would be so criminally wrong with referring to 'raised' or 'lowered' notes?

Thirdly, why express some notes as 'raised' or 'lowered' versions of others? B and G are different notes, so they get different names. Well, C and C sharp are different notes. So... different names. Do you hear mathematicians referring to '2 sharp' or '2 raised'? No, they refer to '3'. And the world gets by just fine. Do you hear writers referring to 'N plus 1' or 'N sharp' or 'N raised'? No, it's a different letter, so it has a different name: O.

Fourthly, would y'all please stop reciting the same junk you were fed by your music teachers and which you have never, ever questioned, even though it's crap? I refer to all this stuff about music in certain keys 'sounds happy' or 'sounds sad'. This is palpable nonsense. You keep saying it because you were taught it. There's plenty of music that cheers me up which is written in a minor key, and plenty of dreary crap that is written in a major key. And it's subjective anyway.

What's more, you can take any piece of music you want, in any key, and transpose every single note down by exactly one tone, and 99% of laymen will tell you it's exactly the same piece of music - and it is, because the relationships between every note are preserved. This will not affect whether it sounds 'happy' or 'sad' even though you've changed the key.

Fifthly, and a real brain-derailer if ever there was one, please get rid of scales which contain certain notes on the way up and different notes on the way down. Melodic and harmonic minors, I think. Please, a scale is one set of notes. Not two, or three... one set of notes.

I could go on. But that's enough for now. And I promise to be good from now on, but this did need saying.
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#16
Old 05-05-2002, 08:04 AM
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Well, ianzin, please, don't hold back. Obviously, for you its different, but for me, the theoretically conventions work more-or-less. You're obviously misunderstanding the use of "happy" and "sad" to refer to "major" and "minor" chords. Who the heck has ever said all songs in major keys are happy, and all in minor keys are sad? Nobody I know of. It's just a convention. When people first begin learning about tonality, it's easier to remember the sound of a major vs a minor chord by ascribing an emotion to go with it. I think 99% of laymen would say that a C major chord sounds happy vs. a C minor chord.

As for your minor scales changing ascending vs. descending, harmonic vs melodic...Well, sorry. The notes from a harmonic minor scale don't sound strong or particularly great if the melody is played with a harmonic scale. You don't need theory to know this; just listen. The theory just puts into notation what seems to work in Western music.

Re: keys and emotional associations. I've never been taught this. Some people with perfect pitch associate different keys with different feelings, but I think that's more subjective than it is objective. I find A major bright and strong, while D flat major is somehow more "mellow." I don't have perfect pitch, either. But, you're right, most lay people probably wouldn't notice a distinct difference between "Stairway to Heaven" in A minor vs "Stairway to Heaven" in G minor.

But I don't think most music students would try to convince you that the key of C is one feeling and one feeling only, while the key of D is another. Bollox.
#17
Old 05-05-2002, 08:23 AM
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Nice rant, ianzin.
The one I hate is that, even if you accept that there are seven notes in an octave (Seven = octave? Nice logic, guys), why are there nine positions in the musical stave (five lines with four gaps)? Or eleven, if you include the two outer spaces.
But why not a multiple of seven? That way, each note would always appear in the same place. As it is, an F can appear in several different places, which you have to memorise.

Quote:
I refer to all this stuff about music in certain keys 'sounds happy' or 'sounds sad'
I think that's a throwback to the days before equal temperament, when different keys really did sound different (i.e. the intervals between the notes were physically different). But I agree, unless you have perfect pitch it is complete cobblers nowadays.
#18
Old 05-05-2002, 10:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by stockton
Some folks say Germany, some call it Deutschland.
Only they call their B's H and the Bb's B. http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...hreadid=107696
#19
Old 05-05-2002, 10:44 AM
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I know it's naughty to reply to a hijack, but I just can't leave this one alone.

Deer ianzin,
Wile weer at it, mabe we shood do sumthing about the sheer unadulterated mind-squishing logic-lite dumbness of the Inglish langwij. Speling is so ilojical, i don't no how anywun can get ther mind arownd it.
:P

What I'm saying is that the Western musical tradition is the way it is because it's evolved over centuries. It's a lot like learning a new language, in that it makes no sense and seems ridiculously difficult, but when you've immersed yourself in it for long enough, you get so you can't imagine it any other way. What you refer to as 'updating' musical theory would in fact be equivalent to chucking out centuries of musical thought and understanding.

I reiterate, because it's important: notation and tonality and harmony and all those things weren't designed or invented, they grew and evolved. I wouldn't for a moment try to say that it's logical, but it does make sense to millions of people around the world who have learnt to understand it.

Oh, and in reply to the OP, pretty much what Joe_Cool and yabob said. B# does not equal C, and Cb does not equal B, but because they look the same on the piano keyboard, we tend to be a bit lazy and presume that they do.
#20
Old 05-05-2002, 10:46 AM
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jeez, I wonder if responding to a rant in a general questions thread is also a departure from our standards, but I'm more amused than anything else at the fervor of the displeasure with music theory. As in many fields, theory is basically descriptive of practice and derives from it. And, in some ways, it also guides
practice too, often as a matter of convenience and convention. There are a lot of people who have, railing against convention, tried to create different notation systems. And who knows, maybe in 500 years, one or more of these systems will have supplanted the one most Westerners use. But there's something peculiar about becoming angry about a system that has taken hundreds of years to develop and that has worked pretty well up to now. There's probably something here about insiders and outsiders, too. Those outside the system, who don't take advantage of its intracacies and features, who don't really speak that language, often feel disenfranchised by it, and direct their anger at it. While those inside are just fine with the way things work. What you don't perceive, you disparage. That some people can point to certain sensations when listening to music (e.g. certain keys generating certain emontions) is no reason to criticize them or to gainsay their observations. Music is a type of communication, a type of magic, a way of life, a way of being, a world in itself, and a way of seeing the world, and those who inhabit it have some mysterious ways about them. The rest of the world has to use what they can of their language and ways and participate as they can. But it really shouldn't make us angry (unless we desperately want in and just can't get there, I guess).
#21
Old 05-05-2002, 11:15 AM
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After having dragged in temperament to this discussion, it may surprise you to learn that I agree with ianzin. When MIDI first arrived I had some vague hopes that it might be the catalyst forcing a much-needed reform in musical notation, as people started composing on computer, and would have to figure out a streamlined way to present the ideas. Alas, instead, the UI's developed quickly enough to accomodate the old nasty notation to a great extent.

Look, I understand what the notation means. Well enough to have gotten through a couple music theory courses, and discuss it. However, I can't actually play anything from it - I mean actually open a book of staff which describes something I'm not familiar with and render it. I play guitar by knowledge of chords and scale patterns, and ear. My practical use of theory is mainly to transpose practically everything I want to play to some key which accomodates my vocal range, which is actually more of a vocal notch.

Add to the currently aired gripes that the symbology for note duration is archaic and misleading in terms of the chosen graphics (that dotted note and triplet tripe in particular). The notion of time signatures could also stand some reform - measures and beats per measure are valid concepts, but arbitrarily changing which type of notation is going to represent a "beat" is silly. I think it mainly illustrates how unwieldy the note notations are.

First step in the reform might be to get rid of key signatures altogether, along with the idea that the staff represents particular PITCHES, rather than particular scale steps. Why not understand the bottom line of the staff to represent the tonal of whatever key you decided to play the thing in? You would then use some sort of sharp or flat notation only on individual notes to indicate accidentals - notes which are not in the diatonic scale, and are probably worthy of being flagged for that reason.

Minor keys and other modal stuff would have visual aids in symbolically resolving to something other than the base line of the staff - you would SEE something in a minor key parking on a long note on the line or space normally representing the sixth.

Relation of that staff to actual pitches would be something to learn for your particular instrument when asked to play it in a particular key. Note that we've also now got a notation that allows for retuning for just intonation without changing any of the symbolism - we simply agree that we aren't going to use the equal temperament pitches, instead, we are going to all play instruments tuned to the "right" pitches in the key of F. For that matter, we could agree to play with a tonal = doubles and halves of 440 Hz, rather than say we are going to play "in the key of A" without changing the symbology.

In rather computer-sciency terms, we've abstracted the actual musical "logic" away from the details of presentation.
#22
Old 05-05-2002, 11:32 AM
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So after reading the posts in this thread, I broke out Structural Functions in Music By Wallace Berry to combat some ignorance. Then I got lost in Berry's exquisitely complicated way of saying things. An excerpt:
Quote:
What follows is a theoretical representation of a chromatic, panmodal tonal system on C, capable of course of transposition throughout the equal-tempered pitch resource. It is a theoretical system of proposed generic significance as opposed to one in which systemic content derives from a particular context.
It goes on like that for four hundred pages. I got so sucked into this book I forgot what the OP was all about.



Common views on tonality...Minor: sad. Major: happy. Phrygian: what you don't want your spouse to be.
#23
Old 05-05-2002, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
First step in the reform might be to get rid of key signatures altogether, along with the idea that the staff represents particular PITCHES, rather than particular scale steps. Why not understand the bottom line of the staff to represent the tonal of whatever key you decided to play the thing in?
So how do you represent key changes? Especially when the change spans a few measures. In the current notation, a song can go smoothly from one key, to one key with some accidentals of another key, to the other key, whereas with a relative staff, the same note in adjacent measures would be in different places.

Another note, by the way, concerning well-tempered and just scales: While keyboard instruments were essentially made possible by well-tempered scales, many wind instruments are only capable of just scales. You have certain fixed pipe lengths, and the wavelengths you can produce are limited to simple fractions of those pipe lengths. The mismatch isn't usually very significant, unless you're using alternate fingerings or are playing a few octaves outside the instrument's accustomed range, but it's a real effect. Experienced players will generally correct for this using the tuning slides.
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Old 05-05-2002, 01:57 PM
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or, they may simply switch to a different instrument that is built in a different key. Hence, the E flat clarinet, for example. The original French horns, in fact, were valveless, and when the music went into a key that was not really accessable using the natural overtones available on the one that was being used, they changed horns. Eventually, they found it a bit easier to change crooks, (until someone invented valves) but the point, which has been made many times here now, is that most people's understanding of scales comes from their familiarity with the piano, which cleverly hides these other distinctions.
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#25
Old 05-05-2002, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
First step in the reform might be to get rid of key signatures altogether, along with the idea that the staff represents particular PITCHES, rather than particular scale steps. Why not understand the bottom line of the staff to represent the tonal of whatever key you decided to play the thing in?

...

Relation of that staff to actual pitches would be something to learn for your particular instrument when asked to play it in a particular key.
This seems rather unweildy and cumbersome: it essentially amounts to transposing in one's head all the time. I much prefer just remembering that a "note on the bottom of the staff" is an E, than having to think: "Ok, it's on the second line; I'm in F major; that makes it... umm... an A!" Yes, I do realize that eventually I'd get used to it, but it seems much harder to learn than just a direct correspondence between positions on the staff and actual notes. I have several friends who play beautifully, but can't transpose worth a damn. But they can play in any key, because they know the correspondence between tones and the notation - something that would be lost with your system of notation.
#26
Old 05-05-2002, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
While keyboard instruments were essentially made possible by well-tempered scales, many wind instruments are only capable of just scales. You have certain fixed pipe lengths, and the wavelengths you can produce are limited to simple fractions of those pipe lengths.
To continue the general questioning, after having comtributed to the ranting, I was just wondering: When I was in middle school, I played the clarinet, and we always treated it as a well-tempered instrument; we played in all keys without retuning, and things sounded fine. Is this just due to my crappy ear? Is the clarinet one of those instruments only capable of just scales?
#27
Old 05-06-2002, 12:30 AM
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I don't get all this bitching about musical notation and theory.

"Well hell, I can talk just fine! Who the hell says I need all this grammar? I know what I want to say and I say it, so who gives a shit if it doesn't fit into all these stupid rules? And this reading and writing crap! I don't need to be able to read, just give me a recording of it and I'll be able to repeat it!"

The rules describe what is happening when you play by ear, and helps us understand what will sound good, and more importantly, why. It's possible to speak without understanding grammar, but all good writers do understand it.

And while I value improvisation and the ability to play by ear VERY highly, I just don't buy all these guys who say they don't need to learn to read music. If you can't read your native language, you're illiterate. If you can't read music, you're not a complete musician.

and ianzin, shifting the whole song up or down isn't what makes the difference between "happy" and "sad". The difference is in the type of scale. You have to be able to understand the system before you can criticize it effectively. It works well.
#28
Old 05-06-2002, 01:35 AM
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Quote:
I was just wondering: When I was in middle school, I played the clarinet, and we always treated it as a well-tempered instrument; we played in all keys without retuning, and things sounded fine.
I don't know about clarinet specifically, but I would suspect that since you have about a dozen keys, rather than a mere three or four valves, that clarinets can be (and are) made in well-temper. Even if not, you usually do have to go out a few octaves to notice a significant difference (depending on your ear), and most middle-schoolers don't have that range.
#29
Old 05-06-2002, 01:39 AM
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I see the notation reformers are coming out of the timbre.
#30
Old 05-06-2002, 07:35 AM
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hawthorne, those of us who play the shoehorn probably wish you had posted that in the footnotes.






...as the thread morphs into silly.....
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#31
Old 05-06-2002, 08:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ianzin
Look, I'm probably not the sharpest tool in the box. But I'm not thick either. I did well educationally, and I can get my head around most subjects. But music... aaargh.
Would you say you're musically thick then?

I once needed a class to graduate and took an entry level music class, but the music listening class was full, so I took intro to theory. Zoing. The instructor kept telling me that, as a math major, the class was going to be easy for me. Never happened.

Looking back, I can recognize a few of my own misconceptions in your rant.

For instance, what does it mean to write in a key? You seem to think that it just means that the notation fits on the page a certain way--that the relationships among the notes are not affected. I have been assured that this is not the case, that a certain range of notes (and their ratios) is emphasized.

I'm still laughing over your suggestion that it would be "better" to call them "raised" or "lowered" rather than "sharpened" or "flattened". How do you "raise" a note??
#32
Old 05-06-2002, 08:40 AM
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My two cents:

If you want a graphical representation of notes, then possibly the "Piano-Roll" view from cakewalk is about as easy as you can get: an 88+ row, infinite column graph, where each individual note occupies one space, note-length corresponds to the length of the graphical marker. Very logical, and completely useless if you try to read it real-time.

I d o n t b e l i e v e t h i s l i n e i s e a s i e r t o r e a d

than this one, although the above is (arguably) more "logical".

The five lines on a stave makes it really easy on the eye to place notes, spatial-relation-wise. a line in the middle separates top from bottom, the top and bottom line frame it, and a line of division in between. 3 lines might be even easier, but then everything would be on ledger-lines above or below, and the benefit is lost. Critical if you read music as you play, practice, or even store written music.

And just to echo what others have already said: theory is born of practice - the reason why western music theory exists is that it best explains the mechanics of western music. It may seem overblown if you're trying to figure out how to theoretically describe the inner complexities of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", but the words "happy" and "sad" suck for deciphering a Brahms Symphony.

Lastly, the theory that gets bandied around here seems to be regarding Western Art Music. This music theory is not necessarily appropriate for analyzing or describing Jazz, Blues, Folk, Rock, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, or any other kind of music. It is appropriate for each of these other forms to determine their own theory (to describe the rules which already inherently exist in their music form), and use their own notation and words if necessary. TAB is a neat example, IMHO, considering that it's used to relate guitar chords in music forms where the actual voicing is critical, but rhythm is either understood in context, or more flexible than regular stave. Jazz is so individualistic one can get by with just the chord letter and quality (echoes of Figured Bass anyone?).

A "grand unified theory" of music does not seem to be either necessary or appropriate.
My two cents:

If you want a graphical representation of notes, then possibly the "Piano-Roll" view from cakewalk is about as easy as you can get: an 88+ row, infinite column graph, where each individual note occupies one space, note-length corresponds to the length of the graphical marker. Very logical, and completely useless if you try to read it real-time.

I d o n t b e l i e v e t h i s l i n e i s e a s i e r t o r e a d

than this one, although the above is (arguably) more "logical".

The five lines on a stave makes it really easy on the eye to place notes, spatial-relation-wise. a line in the middle separates top from bottom, the top and bottom line frame it, and a line of division in between. 3 lines might be even easier, but then everything would be on ledger-lines above or below, and the benefit is lost.

And just to echo what others have already said: theory is born of practice - the reason why western music theory exists is that it best explains the mechanics of western music. It may seem overblown if you're trying to figure out how to theoretically describe the inner complexities of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", but the words "happy" and "sad" suck for analyzing a Brahms Symphony.

Lastly, the theory that gets bandied around here seems to be regarding Western Art Music. This music theory is not necessarily appropriate for analyzing or describing Jazz, Blues, Folk, Rock, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, or any other kind of music. It is appropriate for each of these other forms to determine their own theory (to describe the rules which already inherently exist in their music form), and use their own notation and words if necessary. TAB is a neat example, IMHO, considering that it's used to relate guitar chords in music forms where the actual voicing is critical, but rhythm is either understood in context, or more flexible than regular stave. Jazz is so individualistic one can get by with just the chord letter and quality (echoes of Figured Bass anyone?).

A "grand unified theory" of music does not seem to be either necessary or appropriate.
#33
Old 05-06-2002, 09:01 AM
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A da capo al fine post!
#34
Old 05-06-2002, 09:33 AM
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Actually, if you read closely, it's a theme and variation!

And this must be the coda

(just when I thought it was safe to eschew "preview")
#35
Old 05-06-2002, 10:40 AM
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Nope, not done yet. It must have been a false recapitulation. MilTan - I taught middle school for 33 years. I've lived through more band concerts than most people. If YOU thought the band sounded great, fine. Most of us, however, detect that such ensembles frequently play desifinado. Not the song, the quality. ("slightly out of tune"). That some of that discord came from wrong notes, etc. is obvious. But it also may be that as instrumentalists gain experience they also automatically learn to lip up some notes in some keys in some registers, thereby tuning (justifying) their instruments as they play, so to speak.
#36
Old 05-06-2002, 01:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Joe_Cool
(a)I don't get all this bitching about musical notation and theory.

(b)Who gives a shit if it doesn't fit into all these stupid rules?

(c) ianzin, shifting the whole song up or down isn't what makes the difference between "happy" and "sad". The difference is in the type of scale.

(d) You have to be able to understand the system before you can criticize it effectively. It works well.
(a) It isn't bitching. It is drawing attention to some aspects of music theory, and the way it is taught, which serve as a barrier to some people's enjoyment of, and participation in, music. Barriers which I feel could be removed or reduced, at least in part.

(b) I'm not railing against rules, and I appreciate their function. I'm suggesting there could be better rules, or ones which work equally well while having some advantages such as being less abstruse, or less illogical.

(c) I understand the difference. You haven't read my post sufficiently well to understand the points I'm making. Try to understand before you reprimand.

(d) I understand it pretty well. I can play four musical instruments, and I teach one (guitar). I've played professionally and semi-professionally. I've written and recorded my own songs. I've written and recorded my own instrumental compostions, using a variety of instruments and multi-track facilities. I've had a single released (admittedly not a very successfful one). I regularly go to rock gigs, opera and classical concerts. Good enough for you? I understand it. And I understand some of the needless illogicalities of the theory and the notation which are plainly not a problem for many people, but which are a problem for millions of others. My simple request was that some modernisation of he theory and the notation, or at least the way it's taught, might make music more accessible to people.

I'm not being entirely self-centred. Look, I've earned a living as a writer. English spelling and grammar are not a problem for me - I can explain either to degree level. But I know they both suck. They're hard to learn, and can put people off. I can see the merits of modernising and simplifying spelling, and grammar, and the way they are taught, so that English is less offputting and more embracing and inclusive. I was just suggesting the same might be true of music.

But hey, according to Joe Cool, it's all just "bitching". Excellent contribution, Joe. I'm sure you put a lot of thought into that.
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#37
Old 05-06-2002, 01:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by CC
That some of that discord came from wrong notes, etc. is obvious. But it also may be that as instrumentalists gain experience they also automatically learn to lip up some notes in some keys in some registers, thereby tuning (justifying) their instruments as they play, so to speak.
I'm going to go with the first explanation. Occam's razor, no doubt.
#38
Old 05-06-2002, 02:00 PM
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Music students at advanced levels get taught what amounts to being the theory and practice of "justifying" intonation as they play (on their nominally equal-tempered) instruments. Perhaps the most common example is that the third of a major chord should be played slightly flat in order to really sound right.

"Huh?" Let me feebly attempt to make that more clear:

In just intonation, the interval of a major third (M3) is a frequency ratio of 5:4. So, if we're pegging our tuning on A=440 hz, a M3 above that A would be a C# at 550 hz. Similarly, a perfect fifth (P5) is a 3:2 ratio, so the P5 above that A would be an E at 660 hz.

In equal temperament, though, a M3 is four equal half-steps, where the ratio between half-steps is 21/12). Four half-steps, then, is a 24/12, or 1.260. An equal-temperament C#, then, is 554.4 hz. Similarly, an equal-temperament E is 659.3 hz.

An equal temperament version of a major triad (e.g., A-C#-E) will sound OK, and that's really all you'll get on an equal-tempered keyboard instrument. However, if you get that played by three strings (or even three woodwinds or brasses), and the guy playing the C# flattens it just a tad (from 554 down to 550 hz), the quality of the chord will improve and it'll just sound more "in tune".

Yeah, the E is technically a hair flat, but the C#'s out-of-tune nature is more obvious to most.

These are differences that can be heard, which is why people bother with them.
#39
Old 05-06-2002, 02:17 PM
CC CC is offline
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first ending?

First, I appreciate Ianzin's relatively calm response to the criticism. On the SDMB, occasionally someone responds to well-intentioned (harsh) criticsm with a real flaming answer. Thanks for just answering. We pride ourselves in our civility here. Second, there are some intersting parallels between teaching music and teaching writing. One is this: there are no rules you must follow in writing Enlish any more than there are in writing music. The "rules" that we refer to from time to time are not prescriptions, but descriptions. They describe the language as the users understand it and have sort of agreed to use it. You can write what you want. You can compose what you want. How that's taken by the reader/performer depends in some measure on the language they have in common. I, therefore, am agreeing with a writer above who suggested that we COULD revolutionize it, but so could we revolutionize the English language - but it would really be a pain and probably counterproductive.
#40
Old 05-06-2002, 05:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Joe_Cool
I just don't buy all these guys who say they don't need to learn to read music. If you can't read your native language, you're illiterate. If you can't read music, you're not a complete musician.
If you are trying to tell us that Irving Berlin, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and Jimi Hendrix are not complete musicians, I think you will find a lot of people here disagree with you.
#41
Old 05-06-2002, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by MilTan
... When I was in middle school, I played the clarinet, and we always treated it as a well-tempered instrument; we played in all keys without retuning, and things sounded fine. Is this just due to my crappy ear? Is the clarinet one of those instruments only capable of just scales?
As a middle school music teacher (though one who's only been at it a couple of years) I can tell you that compensating for the instruments' (and the players') intonation is way down on my list of priorities. Yes, it is important, but not if they're blowing into the wrong end of the instrument. At this point in most of their musical careers, they're doing good to get most of the fingerings, rhythms, and dynamics right.
#42
Old 05-06-2002, 11:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by psychonaut

If you are trying to tell us that Irving Berlin, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and Jimi Hendrix are not complete musicians, I think you will find a lot of people here disagree with you.
Not this one. If they couldn't read music, they weren't complete musicians.

They might have been far better musicians than many of us, but that doesn't mean they were complete.
#43
Old 05-07-2002, 10:14 AM
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Besides which, it's apples and oranges:

Hendrix, the Beatles, Irving Berlin, Buddy Holly, were not classical musicians, so the skill-set they need is completely different from the skill set a classical composer needs.

Classically speaking, these people WERE illiterate, But just because one is illiterate doesn't mean they can't speak!! And in their fields, their illiteracy in western art music was not a liability.

ianzin, I've tried repeatedly to write a reply to your post, but I really have no idea what your gripe is:

Are you frustrated because Classical Theory is too unwieldy when used to describe other music forms? Are you upset because Classical Theory seems to complex, and that something else would be better for describing Classical music? Do you think classical is fine and good, but you'd like to see a theory that describes modern, non-classical music?

I keep qualifying my terminology in these posts, because I want to be specific about what I'm saying. Chemistry and Quantum Mechanics are both Sciences, but knowledge that is crucial in one is immaterial in the other. Also, knowledge of one does not necessarily give one any better understanding of the other.

So please qualify what types of music you're referring to. What do you compose? what style do you play? I'm under the impression that you aren't a classical musician or composer, in which case I wonder why you are concerned. Classical music/theory is not the be-all end-all for describing how music works. Classical Theory is a tool for understanding and describing Classical Music. Period.

Finally, it is not necessary to understand any theory in order to enjoy, or even perform at a basic level any particular style of music. So I really don't get your comments about {a} theory's complexity preventing people from enjoying music. I'd say that if someone's appreciation has extended beyond passive listening or amateur playing, than the difficulties they encounter are to be expected. As one learns more, the complexity of what learns increases, not decreases. Otherwise, we'd all be geniuses and (say) Einstein would be the "slow kid" at the back of the class.
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