Manuale d'istruzioni - Pizzicato 3.6 IT230 - Revisione del 14/11/2012

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The scale and the accidentals

Subjects covered:


The scale and the musical keyboard [Base] [Principiante] [Professional] [Notazione] [Composizione Base] [Composizione Pro] [Percussioni] [Chitarra] [Coro] [Tastiera] [Solista]

We have seen that there are 7 notes named C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The next note is again called C and the sound generated vibrates exactly two times faster than the sound generated by the first C. This interval from the first to the second C is called an octave. In a more general way, an octave is the interval separating a note from the next note bearing the same name, such as for example from G to the next G. Here is an example with C:

This series of notes from C to C is called the scale of C. As this diagram is repeated higher and lower, we will limit ourselves to explain the contents of the notes from C to C. The same explanation is valid between two successive C.

These notes correspond to the white keys of a piano or organ keyboard. You can easily locate them by observing that the black keys are laid out by groups of 2 and 3 between the white keys. The C are the keys which are just to the left of a 2 black keys group. Here is an illustration:

The white keys located between the 2 C follow the same order as on the staff:

The black keys of the keyboard are also notes that can be played. They are located between specific white keys. With 7 white keys and 5 black keys, you thus get 12 different notes. The thirteenth note is again a C and the same diagram is repeated.

Tones and half tones [Base] [Principiante] [Professional] [Notazione] [Composizione Base] [Composizione Pro] [Percussioni] [Chitarra] [Coro] [Tastiera] [Solista]

The interval separating one of these 12 notes from the next note is called a half tone (or semitone). There is a half tone between C and the black key which is just next to its right. Between this note and D, there is also a half tone and so on. These 12 semitones divide the octave into 12 equal parts.

The intervals located between the white keys are not all the same. Some have 2 half tones (= 1 tone) and the others only one half tone. Here is a table. Compare it with the layout of the keyboard; each time there is a black key, the two white notes are separated by 1 tone and when there is none, there is only one half tone:

The sharp and the flat [Base] [Principiante] [Professional] [Notazione] [Composizione Base] [Composizione Pro] [Percussioni] [Chitarra] [Coro] [Tastiera] [Solista]

As all the notes of the staff correspond to the white keys, how can we write the black key notes?

Two symbols are used for that: the sharp and the flat. They are placed right in front of a note. The sharp means that the note should be played one half tone higher than its normal pitch. The flat means that it should be played one half tone lower than its normal pitch. Here are graphic examples:

The name of the note is then followed by the terms sharp or flat. We have here an F sharp and a B flat. The F sharp is located one half tone higher than F. It is thus the black key located just to the right of F:

B flat is located one half tone lower than B. It is the black key located just to the left of B.

:

By this system, all the keys of the keyboard can be written on the staff. Because there is a symbol to go one half tone down and another to go one half tone up, there are two different ways to write each black key. The first black key can be written as a C sharp or a D flat. The second can be written as a D sharp or an E flat and so on.

Let us notice that there is no black key between E and F, neither between B and C. If you place a sharp in front of E, the note must be played one half tone higher. As there is no black key to its right, the following key is the F key. E sharp is thus equivalent to F, F flat equals E, B sharp is equivalent to C and the C flat equals B.

Here is a diagram showing the names of the 12 notes of the keyboard and their writing on the staff:

Open the Ex019 file. It contains examples of sharps and flats:

These symbols are called accidentals, because they alter the pitch of the note. Listen to the sound result while following the score. Notice that the accidental notes have an intermediate pitch between two non accidental notes.

When you place an accidental in front of a note, it remains valid until the end of the measure. Let us take the following example:

The measure contains 3 F. The second F is modified by a sharp. The next F, located in the same measure, is automatically an F sharp. The symbol must not be written again. In other words, when a note is altered, it remains altered for the remainder of the measure, unless otherwise specified. In our example, if an F is placed in the following measure, it will not be affected by the sharp.

We will further see that you can place accidentals at the clef. They are accidentals drawn just to the right of the clef, at the beginning of each staff. They automatically influence all the concerned notes of the staff. Here is an example:

Two flats are drawn just to the right of the clef, with the pitch of B and E. It means that all B and E notes will automatically be B flat and E flat, for all measures.

In such a case, it must also be possible to play a natural (non altered) B. In our example with 3 F, what can we do if the third F must not be altered by the sharp?

The natural [Base] [Principiante] [Professional] [Notazione] [Composizione Base] [Composizione Pro] [Percussioni] [Chitarra] [Coro] [Tastiera] [Solista]

There is a symbol which lets you cancel the effect of an accidental, it is the natural. By placing a natural sign in front of a note, it returns to its natural state, whatever are the previous accidentals near the clef or in the beginning of the measure. Thus, if we want that third F not altered, we place a natural sign right in front of it:

Notice that if a fourth F would follow in the same measure, it would automatically be a natural F. The natural sign can be used to cancel an accidental which is near the clef.

To find if a note is an accidental, here are the rules to follow:

  1. If an accidental is drawn right in front of the note, this accidental has priority on the preceding accidentals or those located near the clef.
  2. If the note does not have an accidental drawn in front of it, the note automatically takes the accidental of the last note having the same name and preceding it in the same measure.
  3. If no note bearing the same name precedes it in the same measure, it possibly takes one of the accidentals near the clef.
  4. If not, then it is a natural note (not altered).

The double sharp and the double flat [Base] [Principiante] [Professional] [Notazione] [Composizione Base] [Composizione Pro] [Percussioni] [Chitarra] [Coro] [Tastiera] [Solista]

To be complete about accidentals, let us mention the double-sharp and the double flat. Respectively, these accidentals increase or decrease the note by two half tones. Here is an F double-sharp and a B double-flat:

The symbol of the first is a cross placed right in front of the note and the second represents two flats one beside the other. They are less common than the sharp, the flat and the natural sign. If you observe the F note on the musical keyboard (diagrams of the beginning of this lesson), and if you go up by two half tones, you arrive on the following white key, which is a G. An F double-sharp equals to G. In the same way the B double-flat equals to A.

When the same sound can be written in several ways on the staff (F sharp = G flat, B flat = A sharp…) we speak about an enharmony. F double-sharp is the enharmony of G and vice versa, F sharp is the enharmony of G flat and vice versa, etc.

Two notes which are enharmony of each other will be equivalent to the ear, because they correspond to the same key on the keyboard.


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