The notes in music or, The Musical Alphabet


Greetings fellow guitar eaters, sleepers and breathers! :D

You are here because you want to make sure that your theoretical concepts in music are as groomed as your well trained fingers. Well you’ve come to the right place because Bollywood Chords is going to ensure that you learn these concepts effortlessly and to perfection.

So let’s go back to school and open the colourful book of ‘The Musical Alphabet’ 

You very well know the English alphabet from A to Z,
In music however, the alphabets are only ‘seven’. They are ‘A, B, C, D, E, F, G’
That’s that!
These are the notes that form the basis for all western music and  the same are found on the guitar fretboard as well.

So once again, here’s your musical alphabet :


Alright then folks! So far so good? Well, it’s certainly hoped so.
Now, if you’re a beginner, the following two symbols might have befuddled you while reading music. These are the “#” (hash) sign and the ‘b’ (smaller case B). They are typically placed next to a note name, e.g. Ab or A#, Gb or G# and so on. Let’s just see what the fuss is all about.

Firstly you need to know that these symbols are called ‘The Accidentals” and they fall within the letters of the musical alphabet.
In music, these symbols have names distinct from the daily world.

‘#’ is not hash but ‘sharp’ in music and
‘b’ is not small case b but ‘flat’ in music. 

Every note in the musical alphabet (Apart from E and B) exists in three sounds: the root, the sharp and the flat. The root sounds normal, while the sharp is the higher pitch of that note, while flat (b) is the lower pitch of the same root note. Have a look here:

b(Flat)       Root Note      #(Sharp)
  Ab                   A                   A#
  Bb                   B                   n/a
  n/a*               C                    C#
  Db                  D                   D#
  Eb                  E                    n/a
  n/a*               F                    F#
  Gb                 G                    G#

*there is no Cb because Cb is another name for B#, hence no B# means no Cb. Smiliarly, there is no Fb since no such note as E# exists in music. So mainly it is E and B which lack the sharps. The absence of flats (b) from F and C respectively are the spill over effects of the absence of sharps of E and B.

Okay then, moving on. While introducing the accidentals, we discussed that these notes too fall within the musical alphabet. Question is how? Observe:
So what you get after adding the accidentals is this:
A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A

What happened to the flats you ask? Let’s unveil that mystery as well
Flats are nothing but sharps and sharps are nothing but flats! What, what what? :D
Yep, it’s true. So the breakdown is pretty much like this:

A# = Bb,
B# = yup, there is no B# in music, well done!
C# = Db
D# = Eb
E# = Good again! No E# in music as well!
F# = Gb
G# = Ab
and again, A# = Bb

So again, you can write the Musical Alphabet from the perspective of sharps or flats.
Have a look:

Using sharps:  A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F F#, G, G#
Conversely:     A, Bb,  B, C, Db, D, Eb, E,  F,Gb, G, Ab

So you can clearly establish that: A# = Bb, C# = Db, D# = Eb, F# = Gb and G# = Ab

Now let’s look at the chromatic/ musical alphabet considering both sharps and flats:
Although, in a single instance, you will consider the musical alphabet either from the perspective of sharps or from that of flats. The image immediately above is just to make things clearer.