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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".


Are you wondering:

  • Why we repeat the same letters for higher pitches (a more detailed reason)? The answer starts with Lesson 47: 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 17: Major Scale 1-8.

Next:
Practice these pitch names in Lesson 4: Letters Game.

Lessons

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

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