Music 06 – Notes
We’ve already discussed a little bit about notes in previous lessons. We’ve looked at where notes can be located on a grand staff, along with the lengths of different notes, and what the length is described as. Let’s take a look now at what the actual notes in western music are. We will use the keyboard for demonstrations.
The image above explains quite a bit about the notes, in relation to the Grand Staff and the physical keys on a piano. As you can see, the grand staff can only facilitate so many notes, and then it runs out of space. Like we discussed in the grand staff section, the notes can be extended by adding more lines and spaces on the specific note you need. Take a look at the image below for a good example of this. It’s another great example to look at because it shows the letter of the note.
Now the above picture only has 31 notes listed, and it is not including notes that we refer to as “Sharp” and “Flat”. Piano’s generally have a total of 88 physical keys (white and black). These consist of 52 white keys, and 36 black keys. Each key is assigned a string(s) that produces a sound wave, in a specific frequency that we refer to as a note (more on frequencies in another lesson). Let’s view the differences in these notes, and why they are described with letters.
Each note on the Scale is assigned a letter not, A – G. You’ll notice on the staff above that the notes then repeat again, these are called octaves. These octaves have the same letter notes, because the tonality and timbre of the notes are very similar.
Even though you can tell the differences between octaves, it is very important that the notation labeling is essentially the same. This allows musicians to move from one octave to another, using the same chord and scale structures without having to have several different labels for the notation.
These notes are formed, in most western music, into 7-note “keys”, and have different variations with what we call “flat” and “sharp” notes. You can find these by moving just a half step from one of the 7 main letter notes (chromatic notes). Now, with the way that the music works, one half step could lead you to a chromatic note, but depending on the key, it can make that labeled a “flat” or a “sharp”. You can see this in 2 example images below.
These shifts from chromatic notes is called “Enharmonic Equivalents”. In the first picture, you will see what it looks like when a piece of music contains any flats or sharps. The position of these notations shows that all of the notes played there will be the flat, or sharp, of the chromatic note. The flat is noted by “b” and the sharp by “#“.
I’ve provided a link that explains in higher detail about enharmonic equivalents. Please read the article for further study.