Why is there no B# or E# on the piano?

exists no black note in between B and C or between E and F? Well, this is a basic sounding concern with a not very simple answer. You'll need to be staying up in your seat for this one!

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12Tone – do have names?:.
The earliest playable organ on the planet:.
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Why is there no B# or E# on the ?

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  1. Hi David I was thinking there recently, if you’re in blues, you can pretty much play all 12 notes, except the the note immediately infront of the tonic or root note.

    Maybe you could do a video on the so called “12 tone technique”

    1. The note you’re referring to is the minor second, and you can absolutely use it in blues. It’s definitely a very dissonant sound. But used as an accent in the right context it can work. SRV himself liked to throw it in quite often in quick hammer on/pull off trills.

    2. I’m definitely curious about what Beatles track David would find for “10 Songs That Use 12 Tone Total Serialism”

    3. @Andrew Ates I don’t know what you mean with all twelve notes in blues. The Blues scale is just a minor or major scale with some added blue notes. Not all twelve.

      Also, you can’t just use what notes you want. There are 7 main notes and the extras come from using “passing” tones in between, mostly a flat 4 and 5

    4. @The Poofster You are most definatly Not restricted to only using the
      “7 main notes and the extras come from using “passing” tones in between, mostly a flat 4 and 5″ when playing Blues( or Country or Rock or Jazz or any other Named style

    5. @David GARNETT I didn’t say you were restricted. I’m saying the blues scale is not chromatic. The Blues scale is a major or minor with 2 main “blue notes” added. On top of that, blues progressions are usually centered around the I IV and V, meaning harmonically you are still encouraged to stay around those tonal centers.

  2. Well, I’m speechless! This video is one of the bests I ever saw! That’s why youtube was made for! Please keep up this kind of content and quality!
    Hello from Brazil!!

  3. Great explanation David, thanks. i personally am very happy with the lack of a black key between B-C and E-F, because I really use those spaces in orientating, while looking at the sheet music instead of at my hands.

    1. @KlaxonCow Little bumps? Where? Sorry, I’m lost now… and what is the J key??

    2. @AKO dutch klaxon meant a computer keyboard. But an instrument keyboard could do the same for certain keys like 2 dots for c and one for g but it probably wouldn’t be as obvious to the touch as having the standard gaps. I’d like to try playing it though, could reach wider intervals.

    3. All fair points. But there isn’t time to feel for little bumps sometimes when you’re playing and looking at sheet music. By the time you would move to feel for a bump, it’s too late, that motion should have been to hit the right key. You just missed that 16th note or whatever. The “little bumps” would be better than nothing, but not nearly as effective as the gaps in the layout as it is now.

    4. @Ken Kinnally Well maybe c, d, e would be wide white notes as now, and f# g# a# would be narrow white notes.
      C# d# would be narrow black notes as now and f g a b would be wide black notes.
      So the wide notes form the major scale, easy to teach. The difference in widths helps the player feel where they are. Maybe other tactile features could help too. The wide notes could all be on the lower level and the narrow notes raised like standard black notes.

  4. Great video, as usual!
    I use Do re mi etc because that’s what’s taught where I’m from but was wondering why in the A B C system, C is not the first note (i.e. referred to as A). Was the minor scale more important?

    1. @joshinitalics You’re welcome! Yeah, it was pretty random that A just so happened to be the lowest in the system. Actually, A was something of a later add-on–the original tetrachord, based apparently on the earliest lyres, was just E-F-G-A, then another tetrachord was added below it to make B-C-D-E-F-G-A, and adding on one note below that completed the octave. That happens to be the system that the letter names got added to. I know it’s a tempting thought that that has to do with preferring the minor scale, but actually when the letter names were added, they also added another G to the bottom, so A was never the lowest note during the time of using the letters–it was kind of just a reference to how the Greek system had been. Confusing, I know!

    2. @Leo of Red Keep That explanation would make lots of sense, but I don’t think that’s the rationale that the medieval authors gave. They were very into preserving the ancient Greek system at least as a shell, and called the notes by their Greek names right up until they attached letter names–and in a certain why, the letter names (with A as lowest) had already been attached by Boethius, though without reduplication at the octave.

    3. @Cherodar You are correct that the Greek system was a highly important justification – however, the other commenter is right as to why A was the lowest. The thing about the Greek system is that very little was actually known about it in medieval times and the music theory of the medieval era, although using the terminology of the ancient Greeks, was designed to describe the music of the era which was in most ways vastly different from ancient Greek music – the actual Gregorian modes have almost nothing to do with the actual ancient Greek modes even though they share their names.

    4. @JKComposerWolf Yes, that’s entirely true about the Greek system not having been well understood then, but the prestige that it held was still enough of a reason to want to name proslambanomenos after A–as you said, the terminology was used anyway, and that’s kind of all that mattered. While the medieval modes similarly have nothing to do with the Greek modes aside from their names, I’m not aware of any medieval author linking the medieval modes with the letter-name system. If you know of one though, I’d be really interested to see!

  5. I always questioned this, and the answer I always got was, “Our tuning system is 12-tone equal temperament.” And my next question has always been, “Then why don’t we tune to 14-tone equal temperament?” I still don’t know what 14-tone equal temperament sounds like, but this video answered most my questions!!

    1. @neko nice, mocking someone who is hard at work trying to teach you how things came to be the way they are. If I were you I’d have my ears peeled to maybe learn something new. This was actually for your benefit believe it or not but you have clearly turned a blind eye to it. Otherwise what reason do you think I’d have for spending this amount of effort on something that very few people deal with from day to day? You think I’m not aware that no one will read these comments apart from you? I find it weird that you would, in the same sentence point that out and then the next second dismiss it as if it were nothing. Don’t you see how that’s contradictory? This is the same person that was calling me rude awhile back because I pointed out someone was wrong. My vehemence only stems from observing someone actually defending ignorance, instead of trying to understand where the other person was coming from. There is still time…

    2. @Chris Rosenkreuz yeah right, typical argument of close minded people who don’t listen: “go to study”. Ill definetly have a chat with you in my next life, maybe by that time you will have actually had the time to read

    3. ​ @Chris Rosenkreuz My personal impression as an outside observer to the argument between you and @Cosimo Baldi is that you haven’t said anything that ​Cosimo didn’t know already. The way you are trying to frame your idiosyncrasies over semantics as you teaching Cosimo comes across as tilting at windmills.

    4. @neko so denotation for you is idiosyncratic? you’re not an outside observer, you’re someone who continues to defend someone who has declared willful ignorance. You think you are helping him but he sees you going to bat for him and he presumes he is right just because there is someone equally as ignorant supporting him. You guys live in an echo chamber. Why don’t you do your buddy a solid and explain to him why he is wrong instead? The world will be a better place for it. Otherwise, if you are still not convinced yourself, it might do you good to read the entire discussion again because if you still have doubts at this point, then you just continue proving me right. Why is it so hard for you to admit you are wrong and learn from your mistakes? You think you’re saving face but all you’re doing is digging a deeper trench for yourself and everyone can see it (the ones in the know, ofc, not the ones like you – they will come and cheer for your ignorance like you’re doing for him). Let me be clear, it does not matter how it looks to you. I do not care how it looks to you. I did up til the last comment but you hold it so dear to your heart you won’t let it go. I thought I was talking to rational human beings who can change their mind upon being presented with evidence of which there is planty above. At this point I am baffled, it’s like that movie Dont look up. It’s right there, you just have to look. But you choose not to.

  6. Reminds me of that time I told my stepdad that “I can’t play this piece on the piano; it’s only got 5 black keys, and there are 6 sharps on the sheet!”, ha ha. Well done, as always!

  7. You are so easy to learn from. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older now, or have a music degree base to recall from but damn, I get so excited to remember and learn from the videos you post. Thank you for your knowledge!

    1. @thegothaunt It was not clear to me either. Going through plain song and trying to use a fifth: I had never heard this!

  8. I was asking myself this very question last week when I downloaded a piano simulator app on my phone. Thank you for answering it with this video! I’m impressed with how you were able to explain it so succinctly. I’m only beginning to understand music theory, and I followed along the whole way through.

    I was surprised when you mentioned the fact that B# is synonymous with C natural. That seems so paradoxical, and yet it actually makes sense!

  9. this is without a doubt the best explanation of this question I have ever heard. As a musician I have always wondered why this is, and looked up reasons why this may be but not until watching this video have I understood why.

  10. Really good video. Thanks for plugging Early Music Sources and using their videos as part of your research. It’s one of my absolute favorite channels on YouTube, and I got really excited when you mentioned the channel at the end. I hope it gets more people interested in Early Music because there is an incredible amount of wonderful music from that time period that doesn’t get heard often. Also enjoyed the Simpsons ‘B-Sharps’ clip, which was perfect.

  11. That was really well explained, but I think that it would have helped to mention that B-C and E-F are only semitones and unlike all the other white key intervals, so there’s “no room” for black notes in there. A non-specialist audience probably won’t realise that although it’s obvious to anyone who already understands music.

    1. i think the idea is not that there should be a note there just that F could be E# and thus could be a black note. he literally showed a set up with all the notes set up that way.

      so while your explanation is correct it doesnt actually answer the question. the answer was as he said the major scale.

      its the same answer as why the black notes are separate and not just all stretched to have all white notes.

    2. David’s viewpoint favours actual historical developments. The perspective of those with the wisdom of centuries of hindsight of musical developments say that the irregular black note keyboard pattern is unavoidable when the diatonic scale is explored in a chromatic context. What will those as far ahead as we are from the monks say of us?

    3. I never understood this as a kid when I played the accordion (same keyboard layout). When I learned to play the guitar a lot of years later it suddenly klicked and i understood that the standard keyboard layout is just a special case for C major. I would prefer a keyboard with 12 white notes and you have to learn where you have to place the larger and where the smaller gaps.

    4. Some accordions have chromatic buttons instead of a piano style keyboard. They can apparently be played very fast. Similar have been added to pianos. One was demonstrated to Liszt and he was certain it would surpass the standard keyboard but it has yet to do this

    5. @Jon James – the first accordions used buttons instead of piano style keys.

  12. Great explanation on a fascinating topic as always.
    I have a different perspective on the “b sharp” part at the end though. If we’re actually thinking in perfect intonation then b sharp doesn’t equal c. Sure we round it off to be “the same” in equal temperament but whether we use b sharp or c should really refer to what that notes relationship is to the root note based on the key that we’re in.

    So if we were to play the piece of music on a perfect intonation instrument it will actually only be perfectly in key and “correct” if we actually play the b sharp instead of the c.

  13. You are a FANTASTIC teacher. I learn more about theory, modes, etc from you than I do from anyone else. Thank you!!

  14. Fantastic video. As a non-schooled musician of 40 years you have piqued my interest in learning more about what is ‘under the bonnet’ of the music I love and play.

  15. The big question! But I guess from this the question becomes actually: how did they decide to start with those 7 notes? You have there two (now) semitone intervals. They really just filled in the gaps in the end.

    1. His explanation is wrong. We didn’t start with 7 diatonic notes.

      Western music had a 12-tone scale many millenia before Gregorian chant. The 12-tone scale is based on harmonious intervals that have simple integer ratios between the frequencies of their notes.

      You start with a 2:1 ratio, notes whose frequencies are in ratio 2:1 are heard by the ear as two versions of the same note, because their enharmonic spectra are actually identical, just with a slightly shifted amplitude curve along the spectra.

      Then you take the next most consonant interval, which is the 3:2 ratio, and you add in all the notes that you can obtain using the 3:2 ratio. As you obtain new notes this way, you use those as new starting points and keep adding in the extra notes you get using the 3:2 ratio and the 2:1 ratio.

      Once you’re done with this process, you end up having 12 notes. The scale so obtained is called the 12-tone chromatic scale tuned in Pythagorean temperament. The intervals between two adjacent notes in this temperament don’t sound very consonant, but the intervals two away from each other sound very good, and we call them “tones”. Intervals made up of adjacent notes are then called “semitones”.

      A very beautiful sounding scale filled with nice consonant intervals can be obtained by using a chain of six perfect fifths, obtaining seven notes that we call “diatonic”. If you shift each of these seven notes by octaves so the seven notes are grouped together, you get a scale which is made up of a sequence of intervals as follows: tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone. We call this the major scale.

      On the piano, the white notes are laid out so they play the seven notes of the C major scale, and the black notes fill in the missing semitones to complete the 12-tone scale.

      We don’t actually use Pythagorean temperment anymore however, because using the major scale formula starting at different tonic notes sounds bad, instead we adjust the ratios slightly so that you can choose any note as tonic and the major scale formula will sound about equally good. This allows for more variety and freedom while playing, while still sounding pretty good.

    2. @Fennec Besixdouze Wonderful answer. It has a lot to do with two mathematical concepts, frequency and fractions(ratios), a a brain physiology, that certain frequencies and patterns are perceived as pleasurable.
      Music is life.

  16. Thank you! That was absolutely amazing. 👏👏👏👏👏

  17. Okay David, another question every musician has asked at some point (at least I think they should have asked):
    Why was the note we know and love as C, given *that* letter name? It would seem more logical to name it A, right? Then the notes of the major scale with all white keys would start at the beginning of the alphabet.

    1. I believe the modes he talked about had something to do with it. It may have been more common early on to use the mode starting with what we now call A. That would be the Aeolian or, more commonly named, natural minor scale. So, what we would call A-minor would also use only white keys. I think most religious music during the time notation was invented (and, come to think of it, a lot of ancient music) was essentially, in minor rather than major. Or, in other words, Major was originally just another of 7 modes of the root minor. Hence why the natural minor scale starts with A.

    2. “A” is special in some way, though. That’s the most commonly used reference pitch so it makes sense to call that A. Tuning forks are most commonly A. But then, you might ask, why do we choose our standard octaves to run from C to C?! 😀

    3. I’ve always wondered that too. There has to be some sort of historical significance, probably something to do with A minor, but I couldn’t tell you what it is!

  18. I’m still learning about music theory and this was really interesting to me. This is a very well put together video with concise explanations.

    Thank you for sharing 😊👍

  19. This was amazing. No background music. Just a clear articulate voice to gave us exactly what we needed.👍

  20. My favourite thing about the keyboard(that I wish someone taught me instead of learning it myself) is that the blueprint to the major scale exists in front of you as long as you let the black keys represent a 2 and the spaces between the clusters representing 1. The same applies to the pentatonic with some minor tweaking. It’s right there. This doesn’t help advanced players of course but I think beginner players can really benefit from that

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