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Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

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Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pippynip on Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:31 pm

In D major, the third degree of the scale cannot be Gb, as there's a G in the scale. So it has to be F#. Same for all other keys; Bb major is not called A# major because there's an A in the scale. Same for the third degree of F major. And so on, and so forth; that's what I've been told.

Makes sense, but it seems incomplete. What's missing? Is that it? Is that the only reason? If that's the only reason behind whether a note is sharp or flat, I don't see how, musically, there can be any difference between an F# and a Gb. Seems like the only difference is its name. Ab minor has a Cb...

Then again, I'm ignorant. Enlighten me!

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Stryfer on Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:12 pm

From what I understand it's more of a theory thing, rather than a practical thing.
There might be SOME differences in other uncharted instruments.

That's all I've gathered from hearing around... it's all speculation really. Wait for someone who knows their thing...

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pastichio on Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:46 pm

Think of how chords are built. The 3rd of a Major chord is flattened to give us a minor chord.

Example

C Major chord = C E G
C minor chord = C Eb G

Its the quality the note provides that makes it sharp or flat, in that sense it matters what the note is called. The circle of fifths is a good place to start for trying to understand this.




As you can see on this example, the key of C Major has no sharps or flats. Clockwise we have sharps, anti-clockwise we have flats. Make chords from these scales and you will get the idea of why something is raised or flattened.
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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Stryfer on Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:00 pm

Yea, that's the theory aspect.

Are there any instruments that make a difference between a sharp and flat note though?

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pastichio on Sat Dec 17, 2011 12:01 am

Stryfer wrote:Yea, that's the theory aspect.

Are there any instruments that make a difference between a sharp and flat note though?

Eh all of them? I dont really get your question sorry
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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pastichio on Sat Dec 17, 2011 12:22 am

Let me explain it a different way. When you play a major scale, lets say C Major, doe ray me fa so law tee doe, that sounds the same no matter what major scale you play right? When you play that scale in the next key up G major which is a fifth up from C (Circle of Fifths) its the same sounding scale just in a different key. You are raising the 7th note GABCDEF#, thats why its a F sharp and not a G flat, the note itself is sharp not flat. Does that make sense?
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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pippynip on Sat Dec 17, 2011 12:51 am

That makes sense, yeah. I already understood that whether the note is sharpened or flattened dictates whether the note is sharp or flat; I was mainly wondering what makes an F# actually sound different to a Gb.

I think I get it. It's not the note itself, it's the effect it has on the other notes. Is that right?

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  MetalJacob on Sat Dec 17, 2011 5:51 am

That circle picture just made this the best thread ever.

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Stryfer on Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:01 am

Pip clarified my question. So, it may be stupid, but I'm a bit ignorant:
Is there an instrument (let's say non fretted, like a flute or saxophone) where you would hold something or do something to create a F# and something different to create a Gb?

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:18 am

Well, sharps and flats are the same on a bass and most other instruments because those instruments don't use the exact ratio's for music notes.
As you may know, a note has a certain frequency. All intervals are defined in terms of frequency ratio's, which for octaves is 2:1. So for example, take the A with a frequency of 440 Hz. The A an octave above that has 880 Hz, and the one below 220 Hz. Still with me?
A perfect fifth has ratio 3:2. If we were to construct a perfect fifth on the same A (440 Hz), then we'd end up with a frequency of 660 Hz. As you should know, this corresponds to an E.
However, instruments are tuned using something called 'Equal Temperament', which is a fancy way of saying that they just take the double rule for octaves and then chop up the interval in piece of equal size. The math is a bit annoying, but it turns out that an E on an instrument will be just over 659 Hz!

Now, what has this to do with flats and sharps? Well, simple. A sharp is defined by a ratio as well (it's 16:15, I believe). To get a flat, you just 'subtract' a sharp (it actually corresponds to dividing and multiplying). Taking again A (440 Hz), a perfect B would be 488.9 Hz. If we now take A#, that would be 469.3 Hz. If we take Bb, that would be 458.3 Hz. I think you see that an A# is not the same as a Bb. In theory, at least, since instruments circumvent this problem by using equal temperament tuning.

I hope that was clear.


EDIT: Stryfe, that is possible. Two classmates made a piano tuned in equal temperament, but with 30 tones instead of the usual 12. They had different keys for the Gb and F#. Wink

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Stryfer on Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:49 am

That's the explanation I was asking for in terms of sound!

I thought there had to be a reason why theory began to distinguish between the two. Otherwise it just seemed to just needlessly complicate things.

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pippynip on Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:14 pm

It's going to take me a while to understand that properly, but I have a grasp on it.

Could you explain the frequency ratios a bit more? I've forgotten most of what I learned at school about ratios...

I also don't really get...

Well, simple. A sharp is defined by a ratio as well (it's 16:15, I believe). To get a flat, you just 'subtract' a sharp (it actually corresponds to dividing and multiplying).

I highly doubt your explanation is the problem, it's my brain that's the problem Razz

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:28 pm

A frequency ratio of 2:1 means that multiplying the frequency of the first note by 2 is the same as multiplying the frequency of by 1.
So for an octave on 440 Hz (ratio 2:1): 2*440=880, and 880*1=880, hence an octave on 440 Hz has frequency 880 Hz.

A frequency ration of 3:2 means that multiplying the frequency of the first note by 3 yields the same answer as multiplying the frequency of the second note by 2.
So for a perfect fifth on 440 Hz: 440*3=1320, and 660*2=1320, hence a perfect fifth on 440 Hz has frequency 660 Hz.

Now for a semitone (16:15) on 440 Hz: 440*16=7040, and 412.5*15=7040, hence a semitone above 440 Hz has frequency 412.5 Hz.

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pippynip on Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:16 am

Got it.

What about the 'subtracting a sharp to get a flat' business?

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:32 am

Well, to get a flat on a bass, you just go down one fret. This means that the distance between the flat and the actual note equals one semitone, or one sharp, so that's why I said 'subtracting a sharp'. Should've subtracting a semitone, since a sharp is adding a semitone.

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pippynip on Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:17 pm

Ah right, and subtracting a semitone from A does not give the same frequency as adding a semitone to G. That right?

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:20 pm

Exactemundo.

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Re: Differences between Sharp and Flat notes

Post  Pippynip on Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:39 pm

I'm gonna have to write all this down so I remember it better... Razz

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