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Theory - E Sharp - F Natural - What the.... ?!?!?!

TonyMoroney

Member
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94
Location
Richmond, VA, USA
Hi All,

Maybe I should ask my question of my teacher, but I thought I would ask here anyway.

So I'm reading a fairly challenging piece of music (okay, challenging for me), and I see my first E sharp. First my brain says, wait... B's and E's have no sharps, so how does that work? So I Google a bit and find that if I see an E sharp I should play an F natural because it's an "enharmonic" which seems a bit nuts to me... I mean .. why not just write an F natural on the stave??

Is there some other hocus pocus that I'm not getting here?

Cheers

T.
 

neil

Member
Messages
74
Location
Hull
it so musical boffins can confuse the hell out of us beginners...cant think of any other reason....I have a piece of music somewhere ( cant remember the name) and its shown to be in the key of G..all the fF`s should be sharp unless otherwise shown and guess what ..it doesnt have a bloody F in it anywhere...whats the pint of that...beats me

ps sorry if i`m not allowed to say `bloody` pete.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
Wait 'til you get to double sharps and double flats.....:w00t:

My wife says everyone asks that question. So I asked her why is it like that. Didn't get a straight answer, except somehting along the lines of that's the way it is. :confused:
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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Just north of Munich
Just told her what I said, and she said

"I told you before - It's because it doesn't fit with the harmonic structure"

I hope someone more knowledgable can enlighten us. Cos I'm on a hiding to nothing here;}
 
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Pee Dee

Member
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425
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Dorset
The B#/Cb E#/Fb thing threw me when I first started. As I have said before, man loves to complicate everything and turn it into a science. Confines the qualifications to the brainiest:(
 

Sloth

Member
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102
Location
The cheap end of Brighton
The good old circle of fifths, so neat with its sharps/flats going up & down by one with each step - especially if you cheat and stick an extra sharp in the F# major scale, otherwise it would have 4 sharps the same as B major.

'Pick a card..'
'Show it to me..'
'It's the six of diamonds..'
'Now that's magic!'

:D
 

Mikec

Member
Messages
201
Location
Buckinghamshire, UK
There are historical reasons for there being E# and F as separate notes. In the past instruments were tuned so that the twelve notes of the chromatic scale were not evenly spaced by their frequencies. This meant that some instruments could not modulate into some different keys during a piece. This was very awkward for piano players as the instrument became more important, so "even temperament" was invented, where the intervals between the twelve notes were standardized. I have not explained this well as I don't find it very easy; Wikipedia is very good on this, if you search under "just intonation" and "even temperament" you will find a much better explanation. And I'd say it's mostly JS Bach's fault...
 

Mikec

Member
Messages
201
Location
Buckinghamshire, UK
So Mike, you're saying that just temperament, and a few others are the guilty parties?
As OG says my JS Bach comment was light-hearted. The current equalisation of enharmonic notes is a consequence of the widespread use of even or equal temperament. It wasn't always so, it may not be so in the future...
 

Mikec

Member
Messages
201
Location
Buckinghamshire, UK
Mike,
Realise that your J.S. remark was light-hearted but the poor old sod was only writing for what already existed.
Sure, but he did heavily commit to it and promote it didn't he? And he's pretty famous, right? Down to him then, and don't talk to me about unreasonable...
Now back to Pythagorus.................>:)
Didn't he play with Mingus?
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
As poor old John-Seb had this great pipe organ in front of him and had to write a new piece every week, what was he supposed to promote, 12 pipe organs in matching major / minor couplings in every church in just temperament?
You should also lay blame on the natural trumpet and the woodwinds. With finger stopped holes and again not wishing to own twelve instruments or grow extra fingers to stop the extra holes, you should blame Monsieur Saxe's great great great great great great great Grandfather for not nipping over the border and punching Johnnie B. in the ear.

Sorry. Pythagorus never played with Mingus, he was tight head prop for the Athens Spartan 1st Fifteen.
 

Sloth

Member
Messages
102
Location
The cheap end of Brighton
I think I'm slightly satisfied now, I can see these things being handy to eliminate wolf tones and move from key to key more easily in times old. It makes me grateful that what I'm learning is only complicated, not devilishly complicated!

Shame all the music now is technically out of tune though :D
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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Once you start learning theory of harmony, then the E# etc start to make sense.

When learning chords and intervals, you need to know which degree of a scale any chord note is relative to the root and to each other. To do this we count in numbers, so:

C D E F G A B =
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 based on C.

The notes of a basic chord (triad) are 1 3 and 5

In every key you just learn the numbers, so each note has a number relative to the root. This way you know quickly that the F triad is F A C because you count:

F G A Bb C D E
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

So each letter of the alphabet has its own number.

Now when you get to C#, it's actually easier to know that the 3rd is E# rather than F:

C# D# E# F# G# A# B#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

It's actually less confusing not to have F and F#

Also when writing keysigs on a staff, as has been pointed outed out, as you go round the cycle of 5ths, you add a # to the key sig. In C#, because we have an E# there is no need to make spme of the fs F# and some F natural. So it is actually clearer and more logical in the end.
 
OP
TonyMoroney

TonyMoroney

Member
Messages
94
Location
Richmond, VA, USA
Thanks Pete

OK, this explaination makes sense to my bird-brain, but in that case, the piece of music that I was reading that prompted this question, was written in AMaj (3 sharps) so in that case why would the score have not simply used F with a natural modifier.

Or to put it another way, what would the benefit have been using an E sharp for this score over an F natural?

Sorry for all the Q's...

Cheers

T>
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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Thanks Pete

OK, this explaination makes sense to my bird-brain, but in that case, the piece of music that I was reading that prompted this question, was written in AMaj (3 sharps) so in that case why would the score have not simply used F with a natural modifier.
Although many tunes just use notes form the key they are in as indicated by the key signature, there are also many that are more complex, especially in jazz and old standards.

Often music goes through various keys temporarily without changing the key signature (These are called key centres). So often there are chords you see in a piece of music in one key (e.g. A) that are made up of notes from another key (e.g. F# or C#).

Have a look at the beginners jazz theory on the main site.
 

Mikec

Member
Messages
201
Location
Buckinghamshire, UK
As poor old John-Seb had this great pipe organ in front of him and had to write a new piece every week, what was he supposed to promote, 12 pipe organs in matching major / minor couplings in every church in just temperament?
Well he could have followed the example of the famous Brothers of St. Kilda, who because of the colour of their habits were universally known as "The Blue Brothers" (contemporary chroniclers referred to them as "the B.B." for short). In 1538 they built a pipe organ with adjustable pipes, so that it could modulate into any key. The smaller ones could be moved by hand, lubricated by goose grease, but the larger ones need all manner of mechanical contrivances and whole teams of monks to move them. Each pipe had a monk dedicated to its tuning, so in order to preserve their highly-tuned ears they were a silent order.
There was one, known as the "Blind Bro" who conceived the idea of changing the pitch of the pipes during the playing of a piece. He drilled the teams of monks using sign language with such authority that he became known as the "B.B. King" amongst outsiders. He wrote a piece specially to show off this pitch-changing idea and during rehearsals, because of the posture of the monks, the movable notes became known as "Bent Notes". Many dignitaries were invited to the concert, and all went well until they came to a short passage of a dozen bars or so involving the tonic, sub-dominant and dominant chords when the pipes for the third and seventh notes became stuck down. The music came out in a strange new and unsettling manner.There was also a build-up of pressure which in turn caused a rupture in the system. The air in the organ expanded rapidly causing a noticeable drop in temperature in the room. The more conservative members of the audience, especially the ecclesiastical hierarchy were horrified by this believing it to be "Devil's Music" , but the younger brothers liked the way the music made them feel cool.
The organ was shut down immediately and fell into disuse. In fact it fell into the sea in a violent Atlantic storm. Blind Bro and his young followers were expelled from the monastery and left St. Kilda eventually finding a place where they could continue to play their new kind of music. It is believed they settled on what we now call the "Mississippi Delta". They didn't have an organ, of course, so played what instruments came to hand. The music was known loaclly as "The Blues' Music". The possessive case apostrophe was soon dropped, of course.
Blind Bro outlived all his companions and continued to live alone playing his own innovative style of music. He abandoned his indiviual identity and was simply known as "The Loneliest Monk". You may have heard of him under that name.
 
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