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Thread: Why isn't there E# and Cb?

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    Default Why isn't there E# and Cb?

    I know that, technically speaking, F is E# and B is Cb, but I'd like to know why. Why aren't the twelve notes lettered "A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#"? Changing keys in piano would be a lot easier because you would simply learn what the finger positions were for a major and minor chord, and then you'd be able to play in any key just by moving those chords up or down. The way pianos are build right now, a C minor chord looks completely different from an F# minor.

    It just doesn't seem like it makes life easier for anyone to only have five sharps/flats instead of six.

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    The rule of enharmonics makes E# the same as F-natural and Cb the same as B-natural. You can write E#, but it sounds the same as F. Just redundancy.

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    Default why no e# and Cb?

    well, there is an e# and a Cb. the best explanation of this i have found is in Hindemith's "the craft of musical composition".

    if you spend about 20 hours in the first 5 to seven chapters, the issues should be clear to you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rondo View Post
    The rule of enharmonics makes E# the same as F-natural and Cb the same as B-natural. You can write E#, but it sounds the same as F. Just redundancy.
    This seems to be the only answer anyone involved in music can give me. I don't understand why the keyboard isn't laid out and labeled like this?


    Here's what pitches those keys would play:

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    This is really interesting and I'd like to try it as an experiment. However, I think the concept of the circle of fifths would be messed up with that keyboard -- and it would be truely hard to tell where"C" or any other key is because all look alike in relation to each other --

    in th es am ew ay it 's ha rd er to re ad se nt en ce sw it ht oo re gu la rs pa ci ng.

    If we should someday have 24 tone (or microtonal) keyboards though, you should design them.

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    the ionian mode (our major scale) is set up as 2 whole steps followed by a half step, then 3 whole steps followed by a half step.
    the C major scale follows that pattern naturally, hence it works by using only the white keys. the piano is 'built in that key' and the white keys are laid out that way.
    utilizing E#/Fb or B#/Cb as written pitches serves well in music theory - an F chord is F A C. the same sound occurs when one writes it as E# A C, but the implication of that spelling is an Aminor chord with a sharp 5th in the bass.
    to me it's like to, too, and two. they all sound the same but are used in different contexts.

    dj

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    Default there is a Cb and an e#

    Hindemith, in "The Craft of Musical Composition" actually constructs a chromatic scale from the overtone series, and in the process finds Cb and E#, which are at a different frequency than B or F.

    it would take 40 or more pages to outline the procedure here, and i'm not game for that. but if you have genuine curosity - buy the book and hammer it out :-)

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rondo View Post
    The rule of enharmonics makes E# the same as F-natural and Cb the same as B-natural. You can write E#, but it sounds the same as F. Just redundancy.
    Try to write a scale of F# - major or minor. Or a scale in G-flat major - would you write it Gb Ab Bb Bnatural Db etc.
    Last edited by Frasier; Jan-26-2009 at 22:18.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frasier View Post
    Try to write a scale of F# - major or minor. Or a scale in G-flat major - would you write it Gb Ab Bb Bnatural Db etc.
    It depends. If I'm going up, I would write sharps, and flats going down. As far as which sharps and flats, depends on how the half-step, whole-step pattern unique to the scale emerges while going in the usual sequence from A to G. In other words, two Bs in a row may confuse some. In the writing I would change B-nat to C-flat.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Well, I'll say this much: write a II with a 9th or IV with a 7th in Gb. I mean, IV7a: Bnatural, Eb, Gb, Bb? With the key signature of Gflat, that would be B with a natural sign, E(flat) G(flat) B with a flat sign to distinguish it from the natural. Well, it you're Ferneyhough it would help make the music look even more complicated!

    But it's to do with preserving the contours to make the music easier to read (and particularly sight read) so the appearance of a chord sequence in Gflat maj would look the same as the same sequence in G maj (allowing for chromatic accidentals), so anyone experienced in playing in all keys would KNOW what's happening. This is why we have double sharps and double flats - to make things easier for the accomplished keyboardist or composer, when working in keys and often when atonal.

    Of course, it will make no difference to someone unable to read music well - but then they shouldn't be playing in Cb Ab minor, F# or F# minor or C# (maj), should they?

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    I actually play guitar, not piano. I've gotten used to the fact that F is only one half step above E, but it didn't make sense to me. I play in a band with a keyboardist, and he doesn't like in whenever I capo because it makes it harder for him to play.
    So excuse my ignorance. The only music theory I know pertains to guitar.

    Frasier, I don't understand what you're getting at. are you saying that you can see chord progressions easier in the current system?

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    And why do people keep answering my question as if I'm saying F# and Cb don't exist?
    All I'm asking is why we don't use those two symbols. Why, when going up half steps on a keyboard, does it go "A, A#, B, C..." instead of "A, A#, B, B#..."

    I can't figure out how to edit my posts. can anyone help me?

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    Quote Originally Posted by same3chords View Post

    I can't figure out how to edit my posts. can anyone help me?

    Once some one has posted after your post you can not edit, you have to be quick

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by same3chords View Post
    And why do people keep answering my question as if I'm saying F# and Cb don't exist?
    All I'm asking is why we don't use those two symbols. Why, when going up half steps on a keyboard, does it go "A, A#, B, C..." instead of "A, A#, B, B#..."
    Well, I don't think I was saying they don't exist. It's all about scales and keys. A diatonic scale has 7 steps before reaching the octave. These steps all have successive letter names depending on the note on which they start - just to preserve uniformity particularly with the intervals expressed in their traditional way; and to make harmony easier to follow.

    For example C to C' is an octave. But C to B# is an augmented 7th and doesn't occur in the KEY of C (major or minor) even if they sound the same. In harmony, the interval C-B# is possible, depending on what comes next... if preparing for, say, a change to the "remote" key of C# (remote, in that C# isn't a "related chord" in C major, but it would be permissible in chromatic harmony).

    The example you gave was a chromatic scale where either version would be ok though the first a-a#-b-c is simpler to follow.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by same3chords View Post

    I can't figure out how to edit my posts. can anyone help me?
    It's been explained a couple of posts up - a weird system and why I don't post here often. I get worried about time-outs so I don't post until I'm ready - that means short posts. Then I give a quick read-through to check spelling etc with minor edits if need be.

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