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D# or Eb half full or half empty ???

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Fire-Starter, Dec 25, 2005.

  1. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    Curious, I know a little about theory, and I understand that if your are moving towards the bridge on your bass, your notes are sharp, and moving towards the nut they are flat, fine...but does it really make a difference if someone is playing and they call out d# and I play Eb? I mean, are we not playing the same note?? is there someone who can explain situations where my example would not work or could be a disaster? I am a logical thinking person, so I figure it the rules for theory suggest that "flat going one way, sharp going the other" then there must be a good reason for it, I just have not ever come across any. I do ask this with all do respect because I would really like to know. Is calling the same note by a different name weather its (G# called Ab)...(C# called Db) etc... just a case of debating over weather the glass is half full, or half empty???

    Thanks much fellow TBERS
  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Are you familiar with key signatures or accidentals?

    D# an Eb are, for all intents and purposes, the same note. They are both played on the 6th fret of the A string(and the 11th fret of the E string, 8th fret of G string...etc.) If someone says tells you to play a D#, you will play the 6th fret of the A string, if someone tells you to play an Eb you will also play the 6th fret of the A string.

    For practical purposes, it's the same note.

    The reason, has nothing to do with the neck. It has everything to do with key signatures and accidentals. It is difficult for me to know what to say, since I am not sure what you already know. So, perhaps you'd like to fill us in some more about where your knowledge ends so that we might help. cheers.

    in short, it has nothing to do with "glass half empty/full".
  3. bigtexashonk

    bigtexashonk Supporting Member

    The old adage was "sharps for country, flats for jazz".

    They are indeed the same note. It's simply a matter of notation.
  4. It mostly has to do with key signatures and written music.

    A key can only have one of each letter name in it: B and A sharp are fine, but B and B flat aren't allowed. You couldn't write your key signature if the B line were allowed to represent two notes. It also makes naming intervals in the context of a key easy when A and C always make some kind of third (major, minor, or whatever), no matter what accidentals are applied. If you often ran across odd enharmonic spellings it would take a lot more thinking to describe a piece of music theoretically.

    We could get by just fine using only sharps or only flats, but you always want the smallest number of accidentals. So by having a way to go up and a way to go down we get twice the number of spellings for each key. Rather than sharping every note in the key and starting in with the double sharps we can just use a lesser number of flats.

    Choosing sharps or flats matters a lot when writing music down, and when analyzing music from a harmonic perspective, but not so much when just talking about what you're playing. A G# and a Ab are the same sound, so it wouldn't matter much which you said you were playing. Being careful about sharps and flats is only important when you've got a lot of context and need to stay consistent.
  5. In a 7 note scale (excluding the octave) you can only have one type of each note (ABCDEFG). For example, a Bmaj natural scale would be

    B C# D# E F# G# A# (B)

    Notice how it goes in ABC order, with only one of each letter. This is for key signature purposes. You can't mark # AND b under the same note in a key signature. Wouldn't work. There are many other ways to represent the same scale, but they wouldn't work because there would be two D's or what not:

    B Db D# E Gb G# Bb (B)

    This is an example of an incorrectly represented scale. notice that there are both flat and sharp G's and D's. This could not be represented on a key signature. It is fine to call a D# an Eb, but for notation purposes you can't. Because of this you might actually see a Cb notated. You might think that the composer is an idiot; there is no Cb! but it needs to be written as such for the scale to have no note repeated.

    The "Flat's for Jazz" saying is so true! I play so much jazz that if you told me to play a D# I would have to pause and think for a second. It's Eb!!!

    Fire-Starter, I would recommend reading up on basic music knowledge and taking lessons. Learning the 12 note scale and knowing that an Eb is also a D# should be the first thing you learn when you pick up an instrument! Go out and learn young padwan!
  6. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    Well if i'm tuning, I say Eb. If i'm watching DOWN the fretboard from E to D, i'll call it Eb. If i'm walking UP the fretboard from D to E, i'll call it D# because i'm going up.
  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Irrelevant to anyone other than yourself.
  8. took the words right out of my mouth. :D
  9. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    Generally true, because of the strong influence of keyboard on notation, where C was arbitrarily chosen as the 'default' key center before there was a standardization on tempered tuning. Notes like D# Eb are called enharmonics in tempered tuning. This standardization makes G scale a # key and F scale a flat key center.

    But early keyboards did have both D# and Eb keys (often a single black key split in the center, and perhaps only for the bottom octave for use in thoroughbass). This is because the two notes are different in 'just' or other untempered tunings. For less rich timbres, just tuning was preferred, and was easier to tune (imagine a bass with around 300 tuners, each requiring a wrench, and you understand the bias).

    For more, see my blog enharmonics
  10. I often wondered why C was the default key chosen, but then I heard that it was because the Cmaj natural scale is all straight notes (CDEFGABC) with no sharps or flats. Now it all makes sense.
  11. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    The whole idea of flats and sharps is actually related to the 'circle of fifths'. this is used in outlining the key and the number of accidentals. the circle of fifths starts on the c major scale, with no accidentals, and branches out in two ways. the next scale up on the circle is the fifth from C, making it a G. it just happens that the G major scale has ONE SHARP, it is a sharp because the circle is going UP a fifth each time. this happens until seven accidentals are used.

    Root no. of accidentals
    C major 0 sharps
    G major 1 sharp
    fifth up is D major 2 sharps
    A major 3 sharps
    E major 4 sharps
    B major 5 sharps
    F# major 6 sharps
    C# 7 sharps

    on the other side of the c major scale; it starts going DOWN a fifth for each scale, so after C major is F major. but because the circle is decending DOWNWARDS, the accidentals are written as flats.
    F major 1 flat
    Bb major 2 flats
    Eb major 3 flats
    Ab major 4 flats
    Db major 5 flats
    Gb major 6 flats
    Cb major 7 flats

    I would highky recommend that you look up a diagram of the circle of fifths, it is much easier to understand.

    EDIT: Here's a link to a diagram:
  12. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    I'm surprised there hasn't been a post from a fretless player here.

    Once you get a handle on all the things posted here, check out the difference between Just Tuning an Even Tone Tuning. There you will find a small difference in Eb and D#, but most of the time there is no real use for it since it is most useful in the higher pitched/melodic instrument.

    Still, an interesting look at how pitch and music is organized
  13. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    My understanding (I could be wrong) is the choice of C goes back to the church modes and a particular 12th century plainsong by Guido de Arezzo that had the words "do re mi fa so la ti ..." which defined the notes in the C major scale. Keyboards appeared on church organs around the 11th century (before that the organ was not popular in churches because of its association with the circus games involving Christians). Many early organs were tuned to C -- i.e. had the modern layout, but without (accidental) black keys. All of the church tunings were Pythagorian. Tempered tuning developed with the evolution of keyboards in the Renaissance.