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#952195 - 09/15/04 02:10 AM H vs. B in German musical alphabet
Deutsch Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 14
Loc: Germany
I am not a music major, but have taught piano for many years in the US. I am hoping somebody who studied this in school, or who has European experience, can help me with this question. We live in Germany now, and I am about to begin teaching a couple students here. In Germany, the musical alphabet uses H instead of B, I guess to avoid confusion with the flat sign. I am curious if anybody has any experience with this. I am so used to just teaching kids to learn the keyboard alphabetically and wonder how I should handle it here. Thanks!

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#952196 - 09/15/04 06:06 PM Re: H vs. B in German musical alphabet
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21289
Loc: Oakland
H is B-natural and B is B-flat in German. The earlier students learn that the letters are just arbitrary names applied to notes of the diatonic scale, the better. So tell them that in German you will see it one way, and in English you will see it the other, and that what is important is that it is a note of the scale, and the name varies in different languages.

The remarkable thing is that even though music is written in different languages, there isn't much that you need to learn to read it in those different languages.
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#952197 - 09/16/04 07:41 AM Re: H vs. B in German musical alphabet
Deutsch Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 14
Loc: Germany
Thanks. I went to the music store today, and had the salesperson write down the entire musical alphabet for me: AHCDEFG, sharps: AIS, HIS (C), DIS, EIS (F), FIS, GIS, and flats: AS, B, CES (H), DES, ES, FES (E), GES

The "is" and "es" endings sound so similar to me. I'm sure my lousy accent will make it even worse.

Fortunately these two young students already play recorder and know their note names. That will help. I'm sure they will have a fun time watching me make mistakes.

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#952198 - 10/02/04 12:27 AM Re: H vs. B in German musical alphabet
bachophile Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 742
An intersting use of the german system, in the last contrapunctus in art of the fugue by JSB, the last fugue he wrote, in the countersubject, he signs his name musically, B-A-C-H, or B-flat-A-C-B-natural. (noted in original manuscript by his son, CPE Bach, See Godel Escher Bach, by Hofstadter, 1979)
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#952199 - 10/02/04 09:21 AM Re: H vs. B in German musical alphabet
Mozart1969 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/04
Posts: 276
Loc: Stresa, Italy
Here in Italy the scale is:

Do
Re
Mi
Fa
Sol
La
Si
Do

Sharp is Diesis
Flat is Bemolle
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#952200 - 10/04/04 01:28 AM Re: H vs. B in German musical alphabet
Deutsch Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 14
Loc: Germany
Bachophile -- I think I had heard that once before, but had forgotten. (It probably didn't make any sense to me at the time.) Thanks for the reminder.

Mozart -- We were just discussing that the other day at a party. Somebody mentioned that Italy used Solfege, as do other European countries. (Is it really "Si" - not "Ti" in Italy, or was that a typo?) Unfortunately, I never learned it well enough to teach it. My son (who attends Juilliard) is having to learn it now. Said that everyone else in his ear-training class is working on their ear (his is already excellent) while he is working on his solfege, which he's never studied before.

Now I'm wondering if any place other than the US uses ABCDEFG.

Also curious if anyone knows the history of why the Germans use the H and B that way? (Why does the B-flat have a letter designation, when all the other flats have "-es"?)

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#952201 - 10/05/04 03:12 AM Re: H vs. B in German musical alphabet
Mozart1969 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/04
Posts: 276
Loc: Stresa, Italy
Deutsch - It is SI not TI. In English everyone calls the 7th note (b) TI but in Italian it is SI. How confusing!

Also curious if anyone knows the history of why the Germans use the H and B that way? (Why does the B-flat have a letter designation, when all the other flats have "-es"?)

From what I understand of German theory it is because: B= Bflat but Bflat=Bdouble flat. As the note B is already flatened it doesn't need an accidental and also because BFlat is actually a double flat. I think anyway!
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