Likes Likes:  0
Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Beginner singer's music theory questions

  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Posts
    4
    Post Thanks / Like

    Question Beginner singer's music theory questions

    Dear All,

    I picked up classical singing as a hobby a couple of months ago, and I really enjoy it. For obvious reasons, I need to learn to read music. This in turn requires music theory knowledge, so recently I strarted to learn. While I think that it is fun and I am faring quite well, I always stumble on some questions which do not resolve themeselves (clearly) no matter how much I research online.

    The one question I ponder about the most is why is there only a semitone difference between E and F? Why did someone design an abstract procession of notes in which the fourth note is only half the distance away of the previous two notes' distances?

    I understand that this has to do with the physics of sounds, harmonics, and what we perceive as a pleasant pair of sounds.

    If I had to answer my own question, I would guess that first set of notes was not in fact abstract, it was rather a (C-major) scale.

    Now that we have different scales and more notes through accidentals, considering the notes in themselves first is abstract and can lead to the above question/confusion.

    I am sure that it is visible on my question that I am very new to this. I would be very grateful for your explanation/insight/confirmation.
    Last edited by Norbari; Jul-17-2020 at 21:27.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DaddyGeorge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    Czech Republic
    Posts
    672
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default


  3. #3
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Posts
    4
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Thanks for the video. It is clear but it does not answer my question.

    To put it in another way: why is F a natural but only a semitone away from E?

    To illustrate the question through a thought experiment:

    Imagine that the description of music is designed with establishing the notes first. Each at equal distance. Then would come the scales. This way a C-major scale would look C - D - E - Fb - Gb ...
    Without knowing more, this would seem logical.

    To have an answer to my question, perhaps I should ask: how were the notes established? Why is an F (or any other note) is what it is?

    My intuition is that first they simply gave a new letter to each pitch/ratio that sounded in harmony with the others (due to physics, perception etc.) and F happened to be only a semitone away from E. Accidental notes came later to allow transposition and other harmonies.

    BTW: I saw this question appear earlier in this forum, but the thread is too disorganised and no related answer followed.
    Last edited by Norbari; Jul-19-2020 at 14:29.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    422
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Norbari View Post

    To put it in another way: why is F a natural but only a semitone away from E?

    To illustrate the question through a thought experiment:

    Imagine that the description of music is designed with establishing the notes first. Each at equal distance. Then would come the scales. This way a C-major scale would look C - D - E - Fb - Gb ...
    Without knowing more, this would seem logical.

    Forget about history (you can read whole books on such topics, going back to whatever we know about ancient Babylonian or Egyptian music ) and think logically:

    Let's say you have 12 notes on the standard piano, but you don't want to have 12 unique names.
    You can take a certain subset and define it as "natural" and all other notes as "alterations".
    Diatonic scale pattern is the most even heptatonic scale, basically 7 equal, embedded in a universe with 12 notes (Pattern of Dorian mode is:212 2 212 = DEFGABC, notice the symmetry, it exists only in meantone temperament, you need 2 different kinds of "D" in non-meantone). It also has a nice transposition pattern.

    "Why is E to F" a semitone? Because you have a scale with 12 equal (or unequal in more accurate tunings) semitones. E to F is "1" semitone. E to F# is 2 semitones = 1 whole tone. Btw, the accidental notation (flat vs sharp) doesn't matter, because the differences don't really exist in 12 equal, and if you are going "purist" about spelling, you are basically going into microtonal territory (or you are one of those guys that don't really know what are they talking about, but repeat the truth that they have learned from the books... written in times without equal temperament).



    If you are a commercial singer, know that if you give a good and expressive performance, autotuning (quantizing to 12 equal grid) can certainly ruin it in most cases.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enharmonic
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesis
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syntonic_comma
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semitone
    Last edited by BabyGiraffe; Jul-19-2020 at 13:55.

  5. #5
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Posts
    4
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Thank you for this! It starts to make sense.

    I talked about basic, equal temperament. I am interested in the logic.

    Definitely not a commercial singer; nor a user of autotuning.

  6. #6
    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    So Cal
    Posts
    2,598
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Shh.

    Don't tell Norbari about B and C.

  7. #7
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    5,239
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default

    The reason is that our system was developed to notate music in seven-note modes modeled on diatonic modes used by the Ancient Greeks. These ancient modes were built by combining two tetrachords, each comprising two whole steps and a half step. When letters began to be used to represent the notes of our system, seven were required. By happenstance, the intervals between B-C and E-F ended up accommodating the two half steps that existed in the Greek diatonic modes as they were (mis)understood by medieval theorists.

    There is no reason beyond the historical one, so you can forget the other answers.

    Your frogs make me shudder with intolerable loathing and I shall be miserable for the rest of my life remembering them.
    — Mikhail Bulgakov, The Fatal Eggs

    Originality is a device untalented people use to impress other untalented people and to protect themselves from talented people.
    — Basil Valentine

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Posts
    185
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    it seems you are already arriving at this conclusion, but any amount of studying non-western pitch systems basically immediately exposes how wildly arbitrary these things are - total historical contingency, as edwardbast explained (except for some basic underlying math of course).

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    arkansas/missouri
    Posts
    1,507
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Look at a piano keyboard. E/F and B/C have no black key between them. If you play the C scale it's Ionian mode (Major scale). That mode utilizes a half step between scale degrees 3/4 and 7/8.

  10. #10
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Posts
    4
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Thank you very much to everyone! It is clear now!

    @pianozach: Haha! I did see B - C but I assumed that the answer is very similar/the same/directly following.

    Now that I consider this solved, this thread can be archived, unless you have something to add!
    Last edited by Norbari; Jul-20-2020 at 20:39.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •