# Theory question - E#?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by t77mackie, Jul 5, 2012.

1. ### t77mackie

Jun 13, 2012
Wormtown, MA
http://www.cyberfretbass.com/theory/chord-construction/3-note/part-3/page3.php

OK, I was reading that^ page about chord theory. They are explaining how to make an A+ (augmented) chord / arpeggio from an A major. Here's the quote that made me go, "Huh... really?"

"Note the #5 is called E# and not F. F would be a b6. Even though E# and F sound exactly the same, the note name has to reflect the function within the chord."

Is this true? I've never heard that before. I read music all through school in band class and I don't recall ever seeing an E# or Cb or anything like that. It was a long time ago so I could be wrong...

Thanx,

-Mac

2. ### wrench45us

Aug 26, 2011
It happens once in a while, I ran into a Bbb just a few days ago.
It does help sometimes to keep the name of the note reflecting its origin, but even sticklers for this have to realize it's can be confusing, as there's a perfectly fine note that sounds like that with a name we already know.

I think when one gestto the bottom of the circle of fifths it's required to know if you're in a sharp key or a flat key even if the notes are the same.

3. ### Wolffgang

Jan 1, 2012
Newcastle, Australia
It's called Enharmonic Spelling, it determines what you call (or how you 'spell') notes depending on context.

To me, one of it's main values is that it means you only have to learn 7 chord spellings; CEG, DFA, EGB, FAC, GBD, ACE, BDF. Every tonal chord, will be one of those 7, with #, ##, b, and bb added as needed.

In a sheet music context, it also allows intervals to be read correctly on the staff; ie C-G and C-F## are the same note, but looking at it on a staff, one will look like a perfect fifth, and one will look like and augmented fourth.

This is as I understand it. If I'm wrong, I'm happy to be corrected, my theory knowledge is a work in progress.

4. ### iplaymetal

Jun 14, 2010
E# or F usually depends on the key signature. I assume this is A, which would have F#, C# and G#. Some people don't like to show F natural, and then re-write F# in the same bar because it's confusing or at least more so than leaving F# as F# through the measure and then using E#.
Like Wrench45us said, A is a key with 3 sharps, and so to continue with sharps rather than making things natural is common.

I hope this helped, but just know that you only rarely see this, so its not too bad!

Edit: Oh by the way, Augmented means sharpened, so an Augmented chord has a sharp 5th or an Augmented 5th. So in this case he wants to have an explicitly sharp 5th to avoid confusion with the 6th (F#), even if its weird.

5. ### Portphilia

Jun 8, 2012
SATX
Think of it this way: If you have an A major triad, those three notes are going to be in spaces on the staff. In order to keep them this way, for an augmented chord you would write in an E# so that the E is still in a space, because an F natural would be on a line, and this could in fact be read as an inverted F augmented chord.

6. ### carldogs

May 31, 2012
Johannesburg S.A.
Hi T77 Mackie, in popular music they are not common, but in musicals and theater productions they do come up quite a bit, i've often seen Cb, E#, Fb, and then there are bb and x (double sharp) I'm not sure all the reasons but chords have certain notes that make them up, with variations to that chord the note names stay constant and the adjustments are made through the accidentals eg Gmaj7 = G B D F#, G7 = G B D F, G half dim = G Bb Db F, G dim7 = G Bb Db Fb. If I used E instead of Fb it would look like a 6th chord in the writen music. I hope this helps.

7. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
I just memorized the basic note names in a sequence of 3rds : GBDFACE (GBD...etc) any chord spelling starts with a chunk o that.

8. ### Jazz AdMi la ré sol

The reason becomes obvious when you write notes down on the chart. Each has to keep its name.

9. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
indeed, learning notation clarifies a tremendous amount.

10. ### FretlessMainly

Nov 17, 2010
It is indeed correct, and it's important to notate an A+ and the accompanying melody over the A+ as A C# E# so that an instrumentalist recognizes how the melody is following chord function.

11. ### oniman7

An A triad (the one, three, and five) are on the A, C, and E lines on staff notation.

Because there is a major third from the A, the C space will be sharpened, meaning the three note s are A, C#, and E.

Because this is an augmented chord with an augmented 5th, you will sharpen the 5th interval, resulting in an E#

Because the F space is a 6th interval, an F natural would imply a chord with a diminished 6th. If you wanted to add the 6 in the chord, you would have major and minor intervals, very messy.

By notating A,B,C,D,E,F,G out on a staff and adding the sharps as necessary, it becomes clearer why this happens.

It's important to note that a minor 6 interval would be an F, but as the 5th (E) is being augmented, it's an E#

12. ### lunarpollen

Aug 6, 2007
Sacramento, CA
It just shows the relative absurdity of assigning alphabet letters to sonic pitches!

13. ### PacmanLayin' Down TimeStaff MemberGold Supporting Member

Apr 1, 2000
Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

No absurdity to it at all. It's actually a very elegant system, and it's worked for hundreds of years.

14. ### mrbell321

Mar 26, 2012
While I do think musical notation is pretty silly in general, I don't think the absurdity is in assigning letters to pitches. It's no more absurd than saying "blue" rather than 606668 THz or 450495 nm.
Absurd is having more than one letter for a pitch(E# = F, just for example). When they decided to add in sharps, they should have changed the letters. 12 semi-tones between octaves, we should have 12 letters: A-L. Of course I understand WHY they didn't do it that way, but it doesn't mean I have to agree.
I also think the rhythmic notation is silly.

15. ### Blake BassSupporting Member

Jan 10, 2006
Montgomery, Texas
No more absurd than the English language.. Why aren't the words dough and rough pronounced the same. Actually reading music notation is easier to learn.

16. ### dougjwray

Jul 20, 2005
It's not that simple. Classical string players are known to play E# and F (for example) differently. Having no frets limiting them (obviously), they might play an E# note resolving up to an F# note (as in a C#7 chord resolving to an F# chord) SHARPER than they would play an F note resolving down to an E note (as in a G7 chord resolving to a C chord).
The system makes sense to me, as it is.

17. ### Clef_de_faGuest

Dec 25, 2011
I had a friend who thought like you ... he went on and created is own rythm notation system and tuned his guitar with wierd tuning making nameless chords. When he thought about that we had a class about atonal music, dodecaphony and serialism.

18. ### mambo4

Jun 9, 2006
Dallas
I disagree 100%. Learning rhythmic notation is the easily best thing that ever happened to my understanding of rhythm.

Most TBrs who advocate learning notation argue 'you get more/better paying gigs' and miss the real point of notation , which is that it clarifies and makes precise what was once vague, haphazard and trial by error. It's amazing how may players approach rhythm by guesswork and call it 'feel'.

19. ### uethanian

Mar 11, 2007
no one 'decided' to add in sharps...this has been a gradual development over the course of many centuries. the first accidental, Bb, was used to transpose (but not alter) modes in the medieval period. gradually #s became incorporated as temporary (never in the key signature) leading tones. as polyphony developed in the renaissance, accidentals became more commonplace...but the music was fundamentally still modal, based around the modes of DEFGABCd. as harmonic modulation developed in the baroque, accidentals were put to other uses. because of the tunings used (meantone and other irregular temperaments) each key had a different character and therefore key designation became very important. it was only starting in the romantic period that composition started exhibiting real non-diatonic/non-triadic stuff. even today, after serialism (which was a resounding success ) the vast majority of western music is strictly diatonic and uses triadic harmony. keeping that in mind, a A-G system is just more regular than an A-L system...less forms to remember, because every letter is accounted for in every key/scale.

now for composition outside of diatonicism (like if you're using octatonic scales) standard notation starts making less and less sense. but for all it's faults i can't envision an alternative system representing pitch and rhythm simultaneously to the level of detail that standard notation does. there are probably some areas where it could be revised or streamlined a bit, but for the most part it accomplishes its purpose.

20. ### Snarf

Jan 23, 2005
Glen Cove, NY
It's shorthand. Think of what a 12-line staff would do to scores. That would be a huge pain. And rhythmic notation makes even more sense than melodic notation. So . . . . huh?

With regards to E# vs. F, if you're writing a melody, much better to use E# going to F# than F-natural to F#. It's just easier to read that way.