Beginner Music Theory tutorials
2. Naming and notating notes
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Can't really have music without notes. But what are notes exactly? And how do you know how to call them?

  1. Topics of discussion
  2. Understanding and naming notes

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we will be discussing notes, what they're called, how many of them are and we will also have a brief chat about pitches and frequencies. So, let's have some fun.

2. Understanding and naming notes

A note is the musical equivalent of a letter in a word, in that it is the base unit used to create music. There are a total of seven different base notes. These notes can be altered, thus creating new notes, by using what is known as accidentals, but more on that in a future tutorial. Notes have many names, but the following two naming conventions are the most common:

  • the first ones uses the first seven letters of the English alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G; in some cases you may also find a number after the letter
  • the second one uses a Neo-Latin set of names: La, Si, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol

Throughout this series and this blog in general, I will be using the letter notation instead of the Neo-Latin one since I am used to is more and generally speaking other tutorials you may have encountered also use this notation. And with regards to the number, it signals what octave the note is a part of. More on that in the next tutorial.

And since a picture speaks a thousand words, here is a graphic representation of the easiest musical scale out there, the C major (or Do major) scale:

C major scale

The notes of this scale are, in order, C (Do), D (Re), E (Mi), F (Fa), G (Sol), A (La), B (Si) and C (Do) once again.

You might be wondering why there are 2 C notes there. Well, this is usually how a scale is played when teaching in order to understand where it actually ends by providing a sense of closure. When composing or playing actual songs, you aren't really required to end on the first note (which is also known as the root note). Scales will be detailed in a future tutorial, so don't worry if things are a bit unclear now.

But if there are two notes with the same name, what exactly is the difference between them? The answer is their pitch. When it comes to music, the pitch of a note refers to how high or low the note is perceived by the human ear. The higher the pitch, the higher the note is perceived. Note pitch somewhat related to a property called frequency, but more on this in the next tutorial.

And that about covers it for this tutorial. In the next one, we're going to become a bit scientific in order to understand how sound is produced and represented. See you then.

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