In Western music notation, we name musical tones using the first seven letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. This musical alphabet repeats endlessly. We “count” up or down in the series by reciting its letters forward or backward. To count up beyond G, start over with A. What is pitch? A pitch is a tone sounding in a particular octave. What is 8 above C? The answer is another C. In this seven-name system, each letter name reappears every eighth position. Tones eight letter names apart make up an octave. Tones an octave apart sound similar. This principle is known as octave equivalence. Octave-related notes have the same letter name and belong to the same pitch class. The pitch class C, for example, consists of every C on a piano or other instrument. The white keys of the piano correspond to the seven letters of the musical alphabet. We name them on the keyboard in relation to the two- and three-note groupings of black keys. Immediately to the left of any group of two black keys is pitch-class C; immediately to the left of any three black keys is F. Middle C is the closest C to the middle of the piano keyboard. The white keys on the piano that have no black keys between them are E-F and B-C.
The black-key pitches are named in relation to adjacent white-key pitches. The key immediately above (to the right of) any white note gets the white notes name plus a sharp (#). The keyboard group of two black keys is therefore called C# and D#, and the group of three black keys is F#, G#, and A#. The key immediately below (to the left of) any white key gets the white note’s name plus a flat (b). That means the keyboard group of two black keys can also be called Db and Eb, and the three black keys Gb, Ab, and Bb. In fact, every black key has two possible names: one with a sharp and one with a flat. The two names are called enharmonic spellings. The sharp and flat symbols are called accidentals. There is a third common...
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