Question to ponder: Chromatic scale

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by SpankBass, May 10, 2002.

  1. Just out of curiosity, the chromatic scale looks like this:

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

    My question is, why didn't they just do this:

    A A# B B# C C# D D# E E# F F#

    Why is there no E# or or B#? Wouldn't it make sense just to write it the second way? There are still 12 notes and all, you just name them differently. Or is there something I'm missing?
  2. You're missing the fact that (on a keyboard, tuned to the Equal Temperament Scale), B# and C are the same note, and E# and F are the same note, so therefore in your chromatic scale, your 4th and 5th notes are the same, as are your 10th and 11th notes.

    - Wil

    BTW - B# and E# DO EXIST - check out the key of C# (seven sharps); also Cb and Fb exist in the key of Cb major (seven flats) - although these are seldom used (the en-harmonic keys of Db (five flats) and B (five sharps) are used instead)
  3. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I think what SpankBass meant was, why did they name them that way to begin with?

    And my guess is that, given the way the white and black keys on a piano are laid out, that's the way you have to do it. Black keys correspond to flats/sharps, and there aren't any between B and C, or E and F.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    The naming convention is based on the C major scale, not the chromatic, thus the eight letters of the alphabet.

    The chromatic isn't really a scale at all, just a never-ending progression of all the notes in the universe.

    By using this convention, when the major scale is transposed to any key, no letter of the alphabet is used more than once, just a flat or sharp notation.

    It keeps with the circular nature of most of theory.

  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I am sure that is what he is asking.

    I would have to say that the major scale and theory precede any keyboard-like percussion instrument, so the piano is designed to meet theory's demands, not vise versa.

  6. More thoughts:

    Your scale starts on A, and if it is to be a chromatic scale of an octave, should therefore end on the A one octave above - so... er, um - the eleventh degree of your chomatic scale is F#... how would you resolve the F# -> A gap of 1 semitone?

    Are you saying that you go from F# to A?

    So show me how a major scale would look (bearing in mind that a major scale consists of uniquely-named notes, and is made using the intervals of Tone-Tone-Semitone-Tone-Tone-Tone-Semitone) I think in your system, you would be using six letters to describe seven notes...

    - Wil
  7. That was what I'm asking, and unfortuneately I think this is the answer.

    Yes. The F# of my scale would be the same as G# of the conventional one. Thats what I think you're asking right?

    Lets give this a try..

    A major scale
    A - B - C - C# - D# - E# - F# - a

    Sure there are 6 letters, but since I am not going with the conventional way of writing the scale, I think I can get away with that ;).

    I just think it would be a little bit easier, because (since I'm a newb to theory) I'll sometimes get muddled when I am lets say going up 1 tone from B, I think that its going to be a C. Ya know what I mean?
  8. bassandlax


    Dec 31, 2001
    Raleigh, NC
    i get what your saying spanky.
    im sure you could find the answer, and it actually is a pretty intruiging question that i must admit, ive never really thought about. if you really want the answer im sure you would have to do some major reasearch back to before the middle ages and rennosance. the originator of the western scale was... crap... forgot name... greek philosopher... also had to do with math... well anyway, he would be key if you want to know where it originated

  9. bassandlax


    Dec 31, 2001
    Raleigh, NC
    pythagorean was his name
    if i remember correctly he also led an underground cult that had the pentagon/star as its symbol

  10. You can't use C and C# in the same major scale - (conventional) definition of a major scale - the note names have to be unique - otherwise you could say "here's an A-major scale (where X = double-sharp, XX = double-double-sharp etc.):


    er, is this getting silly or what?

    - Wil

    (Interesting question, though...)
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Actually, it was Pythagoras.
  12. frankencow150

    frankencow150 Guest

    Oct 17, 2001
    ...and pythagorean was his theorem...

    No Nino,I'm not gonna put a huge Theorem picture here!
  13. Slater

    Slater Bye Millen! Hello?

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    This is an A major scale:

    A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A
  14. You mean seven letters of the alphabet.
    A B C D E F G, no H
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree - it's more fundamental. So if you are singing it is much easier to sing a scale without sharps/flats - haven't you ever seen "The Sound of Music"!!! ;)

    The earliest written music was undoubtedly choral, sacred music - which was just about intervals and no fixed pitch - these scales seem to come naturally when singing.

    If you think about it in terms of singing in church, it all makes much more sense - it's only when you introduce instruments and notation that it looks awkward!
  16. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    I suppose you have never heard Mozart's 19th concerto in H sharp minor? :) It isn't one of his more popular works.

    Yes, seven.
  17. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Not to be pedantic ... well, yes, to be pedantic, I can't help it. I have seen "h" used in German to designate B natural as opposed to B flat. Thus, "B dur" would be B flat (not B) major, and "h moll" would be B (not B flat) minor. I used to see this fairly often on imported classical scores in the '70s; dunno if it's still current practice.
  18. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    It isn't that antiquated really. Both my mother and grandmother learned to sing using shape notes. Most Hymnals that I have, some published as late as the 60s, still printed the standard notation music with the actual notes shaped for those taught to read intervals.

    My grandmother, when sight-reading, would ask "what's the doe" and with a piano chord or even a pitch pipe, she could then read the music.

    It is a huge part of the southern (U.S.) christian culture and traditions. I am very interested in it.

    For info, click