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4: Pitch Names


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Lesson 4: Pitch Names

You learned how the low-to-high sequence of pitches is organized on the piano keyboard in Lesson 3: Pitch & Keyboard; now it's time to learn the pitches' names.

The white-key pitches are named after the 7 letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Let's start with letter A. Here's a section of keyboard with the A's labeled:

A A A

Here are some things you should understand about the keyboard above:

Several pitches share each letter-name. There are three A's in just this short section of keyboard; on a whole piano, there are eight A's.

Why do different pitches share a letter? There is a complex scientific answer, but a simple musical answer is that they sound like higher or lower versions of the same pitch. To understand this, you should hear it. Try this:
  1. Click the 3 A's above.
  2. Then click a few other keys (not the A's).
  3. Finally, click the 3 A's again.
  4. See if you can hear how the 3 A's sound like each other, in a way that the other pitches don't.

You can find any A (or any other letter) from its place in the pattern of black keys. Do this 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

Here are a couple of things to notice about this A-B keyboard:

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.

Hear how A's and B's sound different:
  1. Click the 3 A's above.
  2. Then, click the 3 B's.
  3. See if you can hear how the 3 A's sound like each other, but different from the B's; and the 3 B's sound like each other, but different from the A's.

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

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 5: 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 32: 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 19: Major Scale 1-8.

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Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Teaching Yourself
3: Pitch & Keyboard
4: Pitch Names
5: Letters Game
6: Sharps & Flats
7: Half-Steps
8: Whole-Steps
9: Steps Game
10: Scales
11: Major Scale 1-2-3
12: Major 1-2-3 Games
13: Major Scale 1-5
14: Major 1-5 Games
15: Chords: Major Triads
16: Major Triad Games
17: Minor Triads
18: Minor Triad Games
19: Major Scale 1-8
20: Major Scale Games
21: Scales Above 8
22: What Next
23: Keys
24: Roman Numeral Chords
25: Diatonic Triads
26: Using Diatonics
27: 7th Chords
28: 7ths Games
29: Treble Staff
30: Treble Staff Game
31: Melody: Chord Tones
32: Pitch & Frequency

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