Why the Notes E# B# Cb and Fb Really Do Exist - Music Theory

Music Matters
9 Jul 202017:08
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TLDRThe video explains why notes like B-sharp, E-sharp, C-flat, and F-flat exist in music. It first overviews the C major scale on piano to show the pattern of whole and half steps that makes up a major scale. It then explains how other major key signatures require using sharps or flats to maintain this pattern, providing the example of F-sharp being necessary in the G major scale. It discusses the logic and rules behind naming notes and how the same enharmonic note can have multiple names depending on context. It shows real musical examples from Bach and Chopin illustrating use cases of double-sharps, double-flats, and unconventional note names arising from modulations and harmonic progressions.

  • πŸ˜€ Major scales follow the pattern: tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone
  • πŸ‘πŸ» Notes can have multiple names (enharmonics) that sound the same but are written differently
  • πŸ’‘ Sharps raise a note by a semitone, flats lower a note by a semitone
  • 🎹 B can be called Cb, E can be called Fb to fit the key signature
  • πŸ”’ Double sharps raise a note by two semitones, double flats lower by two semitones
  • 🎼 Minor key 7th notes sometimes need to be raised a semitone using double sharps
  • 🀯 G#: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, F double sharp fits the minor key signature
  • πŸ‘€ Bach Fugue in G# minor shows real life examples of double sharps in key
  • 🎹 Chopin Polonaise in Gb Major modulated and used various double flats
  • βœ… So yes - notes like B#, E#, Cb, Fb do exist and are used in practice!
Q & A
  • Why do we need notes like B-sharp and E-sharp?

    -We need these enharmonic notes in order to properly build scales and stay within the rules of music theory. For example, in the key of G Major, we raise F to F-sharp to complete the major scale pattern. Similarly, in other keys we may need to use sharps or flats on other notes.

  • What is an enharmonic note?

    -Two notes that sound the same but have different letter names are called enharmonic equivalents. For example, F-sharp and G-flat sound the same on the piano, but have different roles in different keys and scales.

  • What is the difference between a sharp and a double sharp?

    -A sharp raises a note by one semitone while a double sharp raises it by two semitones or a whole tone. So an F double sharp would be the same pitch as a G.

  • Why do minor scales sometimes require a raised 7th degree?

    -The natural minor scale has a darker sound compared to the major scale. To brighten the sound, musicians often raise the 7th scale degree by a semitone when ascending. This creates a leading tone that resolves strongly to the tonic.

  • What causes us to need double flats or double sharps?

    -The use of double flats or double sharps is also related to properly building scales and chords within keys. For example, in the demonstration, Bach raises F-sharp to F double-sharp in order to have a G-sharp melodic minor scale with a leading tone resolving to the tonic G-sharp.

  • Why can't a scale have two G notes?

    -In a diatonic scale, we want only one instance of each letter name from A to G. Having two G notes would break this convention and create ambiguity in reading and understanding the music.

  • What's the difference between G Major and G-flat Major?

    -They are two different keys signatures - G Major has one sharp (F-sharp) in the key signature while G-flat Major has 6 flats (B-flat, E-flat, A-flat, D-flat, G-flat and C-flat). So F-sharp in the key of G would be called G-flat in the key of G-flat Major.

  • What are some examples of when a composer would modulated to another key?

    -Modulation adds interest and variety in a composition. For example, in the Chopin piece demonstrated, he starts in G-flat Major but modulates to C-flat Major by the end of the first line. This allows him to have an F-flat note that would not normally occur in the original G-flat Major key.

  • Are there any instruments that can play quarter-tones?

    -Yes, some instruments like the violin, trombone and fretless bass guitar can play notes in between the half-step intervals found on a piano. So they can manipulate pitches to create quarter-tones and other microtones beyond just the black and white key sounds.

  • Where can I learn more about keys, scales and harmony?

    -There are some great free online resources. The teacher recommends watching video tutorials on the circle of fifths, diatonic scales and intervals, harmony and chord progressions. A basic understanding of music theory will help gain more insight into why we need certain enharmonic pitches.

πŸ˜ƒ How scales use sharps and flats

This paragraph explains how major scales follow a tone-tone-semitone pattern and use sharps/flats to have one of each letter name, like how G Major uses an F sharp. Notes can have multiple letter names, like G flat or F sharp which are enharmonic equivalents.

πŸ˜‰ Enharmonic notes can have different names

This paragraph continues discussing enharmonic equivalents - notes that sound the same but have different names. For example, E can be called F flat and F can be called E sharp since they are a semitone apart.

🎹 Seeing double sharps and flats in music

This paragraph shows examples of double sharps and flats in actual pieces of music, like the Fugue in G sharp minor by Bach which has an F double sharp. These help fit the melody into the scale and key.

β™­ Chopin piece uses flats and double flats

This final paragraph examines Chopin's Polonaise in G flat Major, showing instances of F flat instead of E and C flat instead of B to fit the key signature. It even has a B double flat to lower the note two semitones.

Enharmonics refer to two notes that sound the same pitch but have different letter names. For example, F-sharp and G-flat are enharmonic equivalents. This concept is key to understanding why notes like B-sharp and E-sharp exist. As the narrator explains, every note has more than one possible letter name depending on the musical context and harmony.
πŸ’‘Scale degree
The scale degree refers to the position of a note within a scale. For example, in the C major scale, E is the third scale degree. Knowing the scale degree gives important harmonic context for why a note may need an accidental like a sharp or flat. As the video explains, in minor keys the seventh scale degree is often raised, which can require double sharps or flats.
Accidentals refer to sharps, flats, double sharps and double flats that alter the pitch of a note. As the video demonstrates, accidentals are often required to properly define scale patterns like the major scale's whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half step pattern within different key signatures and harmonic contexts.
πŸ’‘Major and minor scales
The video contrasts major and minor scales and how their patterns affect accidentals. Major scales follow a whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half pattern, while minor scales have a different pattern and sometimes raise the 6th or 7th scale degrees, requiring accidentals like double sharps.
πŸ’‘Key signature
The key signature defines the main key and scale a piece is in, which determines the default accidentals at the beginning of each staff. As keys change throughout a piece, additional accidentals are added or canceled to fit with the harmony.
πŸ’‘Circle of fifths
The circle of fifths shows the order of sharps and flats in key signatures, useful for understanding how many sharps or flats a key will have. For example, G-sharp minor key has 5 sharps by its position on the circle of fifths.
Pitch refers to the perceived frequency or musical "height" of a note. While notes with different letter names (like F-sharp and G-flat) have different notation, their pitch is the same, which is why they sound identical despite having different letter names.
Harmony refers to the vertical aspect of music created by notes sounding simultaneously in chords or contrapuntal textures. As the video shows, harmony is key in determining what letter name makes the most sense for notes with accidentals.
Melody refers to the horizontally unfolding musical line created by single notes played sequentially. In the examples, melody notes with accidentals are chosen to fit the harmonic patterns of the underlying key or scale.
A fugue is a type of contrapuntal composition that opens with a melody called the fugue subject, which is then imitated and developed as the piece unfolds. The video analyzes a fugue in G-sharp minor, illustrating the need for double sharps and other accidentals in the melodic lines.

Explains the existence and reasons behind using notes like B-sharp and E-sharp, and C-flat and F-flat.

Introduction to the concept of semitones and tones in a major scale, using the C Major scale as an example.

Demonstrates how the pattern of tones and semitones varies between different scales, leading to the use of sharps and flats.

Explains why G Major uses F-sharp instead of G-flat to maintain the pattern of having one of each letter note.

Introduction to the concept of enharmonic equivalents, such as F-sharp being the same as G-flat.

Clarifies why notes like C-flat and F-flat are necessary in certain scales to maintain the consistency of having one of each letter.

Explains the use of double-sharps and double-flats for maintaining scale integrity and note differentiation.

Describes the difference in scale patterns between major and minor keys.

Uses the example of G-sharp Minor to illustrate the need for double-sharps in certain minor scales.

Discusses the practical application of enharmonic equivalents and unusual notes in Bach's "Fugue in G-sharp Minor".

Shows how Chopin's "Polonaise in G-flat Major" utilizes flats and the concept of enharmonics to navigate key changes.

Highlights the importance of enharmonics in composition and scale construction, using real music pieces as examples.

Addresses common misconceptions about the existence of notes like B-sharp and C-flat, providing a theoretical explanation.

Explains the rationale behind the use of seemingly redundant notes for the sake of musical clarity and scale integrity.

Invites further questions and comments to clarify any confusion regarding music theory concepts discussed in the video.

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