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Notation Part 2

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We saw in the previous chapter that music notation was essential to communicate between musicians when you don't have a good ear.

If music notation wouldn't exist, some famous musicians like Michel Béroff, the Laebecke sisters, Barbara Hendrix, and many more would be obliged to devote themselves to another thing.

So, I said that a lapse of solfeggio shouldn't complex those who were suffer it. I know some people who master solfeggio but are unable to sing in rythm. Otherwise, a professional singer friend of mine has been dismissed from a hearing because she left one quaver in a Fauré's arts works. Debussy has been dismissed from the Music Academy of Paris after having the worse notes in harmony. Yes ! You have readen well, Debussy whom the famous " Après midi d'un faune " marked the beginning of the contemporary era in the story of music.

Now, if the score can make some miracles so that some "without-tripe-without-ears-and-proud-to-be- this" can live of music, we will however recover this magical crutch for the "handicapped ears" to go the farther as possible in the domain of all that vibrates between 20 and 20.000 cycles by second. And all of that through this fabulous tool of composition and learning that is Cubase which even the developers aren't aware of its reach and possibilities

First of all, music as we conceive it in our Occidental culture (there are many other ones, but I couldn't talk about them a long time) is composed of 120 notes, from the lowest earable note (about 20 Hz) to the higher one (about 20.000 Hz).

Each time the frequency doubles, we pass to the upper octava. That is to say that the note is the same one but with a more acute sonority. Knowing that there are 120 notes, we are able to calculate the number of octavas.

20 - 40 - 80 - 160 - 320 - 640 - 1280 - 2560 -5120 - 10240 - 20480

The ten octavas of the musical spectrum are divided in half-tones. A half-tone is the shortest distance between two notes perceived as perfect by our Occidental ear.

In a piano, an interval of one half-tone is materialized by the distance between a white key and a black key immediately upper or lower. On a guitar, a half-tone is materialized by the interval between two consecutive divisions.

Some instruments that don't have any divisions, like the violin, make it possible to do some intervals lower than one half-tone, but they aren't used in the Occidental music, they are perceived as to be notes out of tune.

If we play in an upward way on the piano, in order to play on the black and white keys (or on a guitar, division by division), we will hear what is called a "chromatic scale".

The chromatic scale contains all the notes (seven white keys and five black keys on a keyboard), that is represent twelve notes per octava.

Notes et Gammes

he first musicians who began to work with the first scales understood the interest to keep a few notes and to dismiss some other ones ; they were making a selection of certain notes in order to constitute a pallet of sounds of which they shouldn't extend beyond. Thus, the first musical scales were born.

To build a scale, you just need to take certain notes and to dismiss some other ones and to say to yourself "now, I will play by using the notes that I choose only, without considering (or exceptionally) the other ones".

The are hundred of musical scales. The best known is the C major scale. And due. Most of music instruments are builded so that the C major scale should be the easiest to be played.

On a piano, the notes of the C major scale are materialized by the white keys and they are called C-D- E-F-G-A-B. While the black keys are named by reference to the neighbour notes, C # (sharp) or D b (flat), etc.

A frequently asked question : why, in certain cases, we name a note C# and in other ones Db ?

It's the name given to a note according to the note which it replaces, we will talk about it in details when we will see the tonalities.

Imagine : in a firm, Mr Dupont is trained to replace either the treasurer, or the staff chief. Well ! In case of absence, Mr Dupont would be the treasurer or the staff chief !

This example is not so picturesque as it seems to be. In a firm, the person of Mr Dupond himself does'nt matter, but the part he plays : either as a treasurer, or as a staff chief.


That has just been said, everybody can notice it. We know very well that the same "C" has a different part in a song or in an other one. For example, if we play a song in the tonality of major C, all the C in the song will have a different meaning in comparison with the same C if we were playing the same song in F.

It's a very important concept in the work that we start. What is important is not the note but the "function" that it achieves in the song.

From now, each time that you'll play a song, notice how the same note sounds differently according to which tonality you play the song.

The discussion is opened and I'm here to answer to all your questions.

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Mario LITWIN, on the 18-10-1999

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