Having a little trouble with the whole E# concept

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fr0me0, May 24, 2005.

  1. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    So I notice there is an "E#" in the F# major scale. And I've been tryin to wrap my head around the logic as to why they don't just call it F and use a natural sign when it shows up? and I'm thinking maybe its "less" confusing to put an E# in the signature than to put an F# in the key signature and use a natural sign every time an F shows up? Someone wanna help me out?
  2. Wasabi1264


    Oct 3, 2004
    President: MusicDojo.com
    I'd be happy to help you out. The main thing is when you are "spelling" a scale, you use each pitch letter once. You don't repeat the F, so you need to express it as E#. Hope that helps!
  3. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    Ok it does help. Is there a specific reason you only use the pitch once? or is that "just the way it is" I have no problem accepting "thats just the way it is" but if theres a specific reason i'd like to know cause the only think I could come up with is the key signature thing. but hey if you don't use and F and F# in the same scale cause the guy who invented music said so I can live with that.
  4. Thats just the way it is. Be thankful it makes memorizing scales a WHOLE lot easier.
  5. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    Less confusion. Key center is specified on the left of the staff; every line or space on the staff represents a different note (this wouldn't be true if you included F and F# in the scale). Any additional notation gives an 'accidental' (even if you do it on purpose). Makes a difference if you are sightreading a lot of notes at once (think piano).
  6. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    Well,remember that in a Major scale there is no repetition of the same letter in the scale notes. That is why in F# major scale you will have the E# as the seventh note BUT, it is gonna be called F in Gb Major.
    Gb and F# are enharmonics scales.
    Hope this will help,
  7. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    It may have started because of scale spelling, but I believe, as mentioned below, that it's stuck around because it makes sight reading easier, transposition easier on arrangers and composers, and overall presents a neat appearance on the written page. You ever seen someone's score that they've done on Finale's freebie notation program? It doesn't make much of a distinction between certain rhythyms and certain accidentals, and it's ugly and d**n confusing to read.
  8. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    This is an example where piano extends different challenges than bass.

    To transpose in bass, you can think of repositioning the left hand. On piano, you look to the key signature-center, and reinterpret given the black-white key structure (which has no counterpart on the bass).

    I'm not sure if the E# notation preceeds the standardization of the 7+5 keyboard (until tempered tuning, you could have up to 18 notes per octave, often with black keys split in the middle to allow, e.g., D# and Eb as separate notes). With mean-tone and just-tuning there is a dissonant difference between D# and Eb; or E# and F. Especially for ears that were not used to any beats at all in harmonies.

    Thank J.S.Bach for promoting tempered tuning ... e.g., via the Well-Tempered Clavichord, where he had the temerity to publish a fugue in F# major (it is said) just to piss-orff Gottfreid Silbermann (then champion of just tuning) ... Silbermann pulled Bach's wig off and threw it out of the choir loft in anger.

    Before calling Silbermann a Luddite, recognize that Bach only played the organ; Silberman had to build and tune them which was made (a lot!) harder by the move from 'just' to 'tempered' tuning. Most German churches wouldn't pay Silbermann (the greatest builder in the world) until Bach (the greatest organist in the world) had signed off on his workmanship.
  9. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Nifty bit of info, I'd never heard that before. I'd always assumed some relation to the physical realties of keyboard construction, as so many other elements of modern musical theory are.

    Never heard the part about the wig either :)
  10. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    There was a time when basses and keyboards had a lot more in common. :bassist:

    Let's imagine you own a clavichord (which BTW came in fretted and unfretted versions). You don't get in a clavichord tuner every six months like you do with a piano, because clavichords have light, wooden frames, and they don't hold their tuning that long. Nope. You tune the thing yourself at least every week, and you'll generally do some fine adjustments every time you play it. Fretted clavichords were popular because they only had half the strings to tune.

    Here's a home brew tuning method. Get middle C in tune with a tuning fork. Now play middle C and the G above it, and tune the G until you can hear that it's exactly in tune with the C. When the beats disappear, the notes are precisely in tune. You can now tune the F to the C in a similar way, and if your ears are good enough, you can go right through the middle octave, tuning each note to the C. Finally, tune the notes in the other octaves to the corresponding notes in the middle octave.
    What this gives you is "Just Intonation" The frequency of each note is in exact proportion to the frequency of the C, and therefore exactly in tune, and it's not just theoretical. You can hear it. What's more, the clavichord has the sort of tone that makes the most of slight tuning differences, so you have to be really accurate and train your ears.

    This is fine if you want to play in the key of C. Everything sounds wonderful. Now play a piece in F#. It sounds utterly horrible. That's because all the intervals are related to C. Use F# as your keynote without re-tuning all the intervals, and they're all wrong. There is no way round this; it's a fundamental property of music and harmony.

    You can only get everything precisely in tune in one key.

    We can dispense with the key of F#, but we can't play everything in C. We can get away with playing in the closest related keys of G or F. They're slightly out, but not horribly so. Let's move further away, and try pieces in D and Bb. Now the tuning is getting a trifle offensive. By splitting the black keys, e.g., into D# and Eb, we can play in more keys.

    Or there is another solution – equal temperament. We drop the perfection of just intonation tweak a few of the notes so that a respectable number of keys sound acceptable.

    Equal temperament sounds OK on a modern piano, because it has a very thick sound that masks slight tuning errors (ditto for electric bass). But you don't use it on harpsichords or clavichords, because it sounds slightly "off", but at the same time bland and boring.

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