Beginner A curious simple question

RiceBag

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Dear forum people,

We had the basic scale is Do Re Me Fa etc.

Then someone decided to use the alphabet letters to refer to the notes above, which is a good idea.

However, does anyone know or have thoughts on why "Do" was not given the letter "A", so that the "first" note as we know in the major scale would be the first letter in the alphabet?

This may or not have practical meaning, but I feel there must have been a reason, and if so would appreciate understanding that.

Thanks as usual.:)
 

kevgermany

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Not such an easy answer. My first reference, wikipedia, gives a partial explanation, saying the words came from a latin hymn: 'Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris' and that the Ut was renamed to Do in Italy - but gives no more info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solfege

However a more scholarly on-line music theory resource ( www.dolmetch.com ) gives a much better, contradictory explanation which is more likely correct than wikipedia:

About a third of the way down the following page find the section on 'Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris':

http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory1.htm

Highly recommended site, esepcially if you're confused by the different terms, names of notes and so on. However a word of warning - he assumes good musical and english knowledge and the pages make heavy use of obscure musical terminology.
 

Jellybabybex

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Put simply, Doh is always the first note (tonic) of a major scale, no matter what key you're in, so if you're playing C major then C is Doh, but if you're playing F# major then F# is Doh.

The rest of the notes then follow accordingly - Ray is the second note of the scale, Mi is the third, etc.

Hope that makes a little more sense now?
 

kevgermany

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Put simply, Doh is always the first note (tonic) of a major scale, no matter what key you're in, so if you're playing C major then C is Doh, but if you're playing F# major then F# is Doh.

The rest of the notes then follow accordingly - Ray is the second note of the scale, Mi is the third, etc.

Hope that makes a little more sense now?
Sorry, but not always - there are two uses - one where Do is always C - known as fixed Do and the method you refer to, known as movable Do.

There's a good explanation in teh Wikipedia article above.
 

Jellybabybex

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Sorry, but not always - there are two uses - one where Do is always C - known as fixed Do and the method you refer to, known as movable Do.

There's a good explanation in teh Wikipedia article above.
I have never come across fixed do before, and I've done a top level academic music degree, but I will bow to Wiki's superior knowledge! :)
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Go back to the time when the only music was Church Music. As fixed pitches were not established, the simple tonic so fa scale gave the scale and the choirmaster gave a starting pitch. Strangely, the same system is still used the in the American shape note system and was widely used in Welsh Male Voice Parties or choirs, as you know them.

You only need a specific names for notes when you have specific frequencies for those notes. Imagine playing a piano with 88 notes, now when you said Do, which Do were you referring as there are 88, all Dos in their own right.

Now dive into Band in a Box and you'll find that the tonic system is used in some Italian writings for musical instruments and that makes it complicated.

BTW Although the Dolmetsch family were/are talented, they made horrible brown plastic recorders.
 
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RiceBag

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Hi and thanks for the responses..
I have found similar explanations on the web, and it seems to me that the Arabic origin of the notes naming seems to make more sense: Their alphabet letters as used are like: mim fa sad lam, etc., and their use is one of the oldest.

HOWEVER, my question is not quite as this replies, but more on WHY "Do" actually was not assigned "A" but the A note (La) is actually the SIXTH note in our major scale.

My question kind of has to do with whether the actual note "La" as we have it is a more likely "first" note, due pehaps to frequencies and human voice.

I know for instance that the note La (A) is the reference or our current tuning of pianos. I also remember when as a kid, I had a guitar, and I asked an old musician which key to play in I should first start to learn and he said "The key of La (A)". But I failed to ask him why. In fact, that was about the extent of our relationship musicwise.

My question also has to do since they are just names, why wouldn't they assign the letter 'A' to the note "Do"?

Now, as to the mention of relative and fixed systems, I did find that it realy applies to Solfege (voice training for singers) and they just shift the names of notes because it's convenient for practice. It's like those name are easier to sing in that order, regardless of the scale. It seems logical to me, since it's easier for the mind to shift "sound" which is more real, than it is to use fixed names in a shifted scale.:shocked:
 

SteveK

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Isn't the issue here not why Do ra me etc etc starts at C (as mentioned in previous posts - it's relative) but rather why is C not called A.
In concert pitch A is most commonly tuned to 440 Hz so why don't we start the scale of C on A?
Or has it just been a long day and I just misinterpreted the original post?

By the way a really good read on the origins of this stuff is the book 'The Five Big Bangs of Music' - it was also a BBC television series some year back
Steve
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Three points:-
1) Do is A in the scale of A.

2) Voices do not have a slightly faulty mechanical interface between the brain and the sound. Even systems like Jim Schmidt's semitone flute and saxophone would suffer the same problem but possibly to a lesser degree.

3) Some Continental countries do not admit that B exists and it should be referred to as H, so maybe you could think of the tonic so fa system by adding the letter name of the scale to the tonic name. e.g. Dog, Fab, Sod etc., etc. ;}
 

Pete Thomas

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Isn't the issue here not why Do ra me etc etc starts at C (as mentioned in previous posts - it's relative) but rather why is C not called A.
I also think this is more the point.

C has become a sort of reference scale (simple music theory examples are more often than not in C), because there are no sharps or flats, plus its the middle note between the two staves (treble and bass) and it's often the fist note people are taught to find on the piano.
 
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RiceBag

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Isn't the issue here not why Do ra me etc etc starts at C (as mentioned in previous posts - it's relative) but rather why is C not called A.
In concert pitch A is most commonly tuned to 440 Hz so why don't we start the scale of C on A?
Or has it just been a long day and I just misinterpreted the original post?

By the way a really good read on the origins of this stuff is the book 'The Five Big Bangs of Music' - it was also a BBC television series some year back
Steve
Hi, and thanks for all replies.

And, yes the question is how come the actual C-Note was not named A. Then D would have the name B, and so forth.

As Pete says, C is the first note we are taught to identify in a piano, so by kid's logic, that shold have been called "A", but it was not.

And since the discrepancy is rather drastic, I still feel that there must have been a reason, perhaps valid enough, to deviate from that "kid's" logic.

Since this is an issue of naming, it wouldn't actually affect sounds themselves.

I still hope maybe there's an explanation somewhere, just for curiosity's sake, even.:confused:
 
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RiceBag

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Well, I did find out some information on the web that checks with some of what people said here, and satisfies my curiosity, as follows:

1. The use of alphabet letters to identify musical tones PREDATES the use of do-re-mi terminology, by far. I was under the wrong understanding.

2. This makes complete sense, as the alphabet is often used as an ordinal numbering system.

3. There's a thought that the lowest comfortable sound of a male voice was assigned the letter "A" (or alfa, or whatever). That frequency is close, but for sure not exactly, the lower note "A" as we know it.

4. At that time, the concept of "Key" did not exist, and they played and sang in "modes". They used white keys only (or no sharps or flats).

5. The Major scale came WAY LATER on time, and the letters for some tones were kept.

6. The Key of C as we know it is not really a begining of music, but, as Pete says, is a convenient starting point for teaching and learning because it uses no sharps or flats.

7. I gather now that "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti" is more like the WORDS of a song, and songs can be sung in any key, of course.

8. Some countries do use those words to mean the actual FIXED tones of music. That was part of my confusion.

Here's the link where these things are rather well explained:
http://forum.emusictheory.com/read.php?5,1686

Thanks for all replies again, which mean more to me now.

P.S.: As part of my search, I played the Do-Re-Mi song in YouTube, from Sound of Music, and playing in my keyboard along, I find it's not in the key of "C" but in B-flat!!!...In disbelief, I even checked my synths with a guitar tuner but it was OK...Then I was confirmed by some webpage that that song was changed to B-flat to make it easier to transition from the sung words to spoken words... I do notice that B-flat is only a black key away from "A". The Do-Re-Mi song, though, is originally written in the key of "C".
 

kevgermany

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When I tried to learn the piano, many years ago, the first book I was given to play was "TheoSound of Music" - and we started with Do Re Mi (Let's start at the very beginning - apt), in C :)

Interesting that it's in Bb in the film, never noticed.
 

kevgermany

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You've just blown your hard image Kev, I am still avoiding all forms of contact with. "The Sound of Music". ;}
lol - I was about 9 at the time, and didn't stick to it for long - but I was a choirboy for long enough to learn the keys...

Then I had to watch it again a few times as we got it on video for the kids....:w00t: It's not too bad, and Julie Andrews is wonderful. :) Makes up for a lot of things....

I shouldn't admit to this, but when I first got the sax and learnt the C scale, I started picking out Do Re Mi by ear. According to my wife it was recognisable (but I feel damned by faint praise...).
 

Mikec

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You've just blown your hard image Kev, I am still avoiding all forms of contact with. "The Sound of Music". ;}
I have, so far, managed to avoid seeing the film all the way through, though I have seen bits of it. The songs, unfortunately, have burned themselves into my brain.
"Mamma Mia" is the current equivalent film. I was forced at (metaphorical) gunpoint to see it. The only redeeming feature is the performance of Meryl Streep who is wonderful.
If anyone should accuse me of musical snobbery, I must point out that I love ABBA, and one of the low points of my life was when my LP of "Waterloo" was broken in The Great Shelving Disaster of '02 when a bracket collapsed.
 
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