The Musical Alphabet consists of 7 main (natural) notes. These are:
I don’t know why letters were chosen over numbers. I don’t question it.
These notes are simply air waves hitting our ears at a certain frequency that give a recognisable sound. We categorise these sounds as notes to make them easier to work with.
The frequency of the sound waves increase as we move up the letters, meaning a ‘higher’ sound. So B sounds higher in pitch than A. When we reach the end of the letters, they simply restart. For example:
The repeated letters are referred to as being an ‘Octave’ above (or below) their related predecessors, due to it being the 8th note above (octo being Latin for 8).
This means they are the same note, but the frequency is higher or lower than their predecessor.
The frequency is measured in Hertz(Hz), and a note an Octave above is roughly twice the frequency of the same letter note below it.
However the spacing between the letters above isn’t even. For example, the change in frequency or ‘pitch’ is greater between A and B, than it is between B and C as well as E & F.
So as well as the 7 natural notes, there are also an additional 5 notes in between some of bigger of the gaps. These notes make all the spaces approximately even. They are known as ‘sharps’ and ‘flats’. Referring to them as sharps or flats depends on whether you are going up or down the list of letters.
An important point is that the sharp notes and flat notes in the same position are the same pitch and therefore sound exactly the same. The only difference is the naming. For example A sharp and B flat are the same note. Notes that are the same but called different things are known as ‘enharmonics’.
The 12 notes combined are referred to as the ‘Chromatic Scale’. We’ll be covering that in the next lesson.
Note: The theory is generic, the examples provided throughout are for the guitar. It’s deliberately written as plainly as possible. For why, see my other post.