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3: Pitch Names

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Lesson 3: Pitch Names

This lesson teaches:
  • the names of the white-key pitches (also called the natural pitches)
  • how to find them on the keyboard

The names of the white-key pitches are the letters A through G:

    A   B   C   D   E   F   G

These 7 letters are reused over and over as we go up/down the pitch range. So, the white keys on a piano are named like this:

C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

Different pitches with the same letter-name sound like higher or lower versions of the same pitch. You should hear this:
  1. Click 3 different A's above.
  2. Then, click 3 different B's.
  3. See if you can hear how the 3 A's sound like "low or high versions of the same pitch", and the same for the 3 B's.


Finding the Pitches on the Keyboard


Let's start with letter A. Here's a keyboard with just the A's labeled:

A A A


You can find any A (or any other letter) from its place in the pattern of black keys. To find any A:
  1. Find one of the groups of three (not two) black keys.
  2. In those three black keys, the white key just to the right of the middle black key is an A.

Next, let's add the B's to the keyboard:

A B A B A B

There are two ways to find any B:
  1. Using the black keys. B is "just to the right of the 3 black keys".
  2. Using another letter that you already know. For example, if you know where A is, then you can say "A, B" while you touch A, then B.

Finally, here's the keyboard with all the letters labeled again:

C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

By looking at this keyboard, we can come up with a "black-key position rule" to find any letter:
  • A is "to the right of the middle black key".
  • B is "to the right of the 3 black keys".
  • C is "to the left of the 2 black keys".
  • D is "between the 2 black keys".
  • E is "to the right of the 2 black keys".
  • F is "to the left of the 3 black keys".
  • G is "to the left of the middle black key".

Study the pattern of letters and black keys above; then go on to Lesson 4: Letters Game and play the letters game until it's easy for you.

Are you wondering:

  • Why we repeat the same letters for higher pitches (a more detailed reason)? The answer starts with Lesson 44: Pitch & Frequency.
  • Why we use seven different letters, A-B-C-D-E-F-G (instead of, say, six or eight letters)? A simple answer is, because we need seven letters for the seven degrees of a major scale. To understand that, continue through Lesson 18: Major Scale 1-8.

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Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps
7: Whole-Steps
8: Steps Game
9: Scales
10: Major Scale 1-2-3
11: Major 1-2-3 Games
12: Major Scale 1-5
13: Major 1-5 Games
14: Chords: Major Triads
15: Major Triad Games
16: Minor Triads
17: Minor Triad Games
18: Major Scale 1-8
19: Major Scale Games
20: Keys
21: Roman Numeral Chords
22: Scales Above 8
23: Diatonic Triads
24: Using Diatonics
25: Tonic Function
26: Subdominant & Dominant
27: Diatonic Function Analysis
28: Natural Minor Scale
29: Natural Minor Games
30: Minor Key Triads
31: 7th Chords
32: 7ths Games
33: Melody: Chord Tones
34: Treble Staff
35: Treble Staff Game
36: Time: Beats & Measures
37: Note Lengths
38: Tied & Dotted Notes
39: Rhythm: Rests
40: Non-Root-Bass Chords
41: Major Pentatonic Scale
42: Embellishing Tones
43: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone
44: Pitch & Frequency

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