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#968513 - 01/02/05 01:18 PM Most confusing piano notation
Gurra Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/19/04
Posts: 12
On one of my piano sheets it says b sharp, what does this mean, obviously I can't find any b sharp on my piano, or can i? \:\)
Another thing I've been thinking about, sometimes it's a symbol that tells me to raise the note two half-notes. Well, to me that means raise it one note so why not place the note right in the first place. What's up with that? \:\)

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#968514 - 01/02/05 01:28 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
BlingBling Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/04
Posts: 77
Loc: NJ
That would be C no?

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#968515 - 01/02/05 01:35 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Hen3ry Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/04
Posts: 43
Loc: Longmont, Colorado
I'll give this one a shot!

Think of sharps and flats as modifiers to the notes for which they apply. So a B# (b sharp) is simply a "C". So you might ask, "Why not just say "C" then?". Well, it depends on the "key" in which the piece is written. I know this is all confusing at first, but a foray into music "theory" will begin to shed some light on why this is true.

A good start (in my opinion), is the study of the "Circle-of-Fifths" and an understanding of all 12 of the Major (and Minor) scales. Once you understand, for example, that the C-Major scale is NOT simply all the white keys in order, you'll begin to appreciate the complexity on music.

See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths

Hope this helps,

Kevin

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#968516 - 01/02/05 01:38 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
If C wasn't called B#, then you'd have two Cs. C and C#. That just wouldn't be right. So, you have B# and C# which should be thought of as B and C in that key.

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#968517 - 01/02/05 01:44 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Gurra Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/19/04
Posts: 12
Thanks, all of you!

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#968518 - 01/02/05 02:57 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
You're welcome.

What I was always told by my teacher was that it was just the way the notes were "spelled". Which kind of made sense, but if you don't know the rules, then it doesn't make sense. Kind of like 'i' before 'e', except after 'c'.

In the key of F#-major, you have F#-G#-A#-B-C#-D#-E#. Of course, on the keyboard, it would be F#-G#-A#-B-C#-D#-F. But then you'd have two F's. Of course you can try to flip it around and call F#, Gb, but you run into the same thing. That would be Gb-major (which is the same scale as F#-major, it's just spelled differently) and you get B called Cb because B is already taken by Bb.

When I realized that all the keys had exactly one of each of the seven letters in them, then it made so much more sense. So, as I started learning my keys, I started thinking that the modified letter was really just the letter in that key.

For example, in the key of G-major, you have F#. But when I'm in that key, I really want to think of F# as just F. So I have G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G. In the key of F-major, there's Bb. But if I'm in the key of F, then I really want to think of Bb as B; so you have F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F instead of F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F.

I don't mean to belabor the point, but I think this is an extremely importing concept. If we can nail this concept while we learn the scales, then we don't have to constantly referring back to the key signature while playing the notes. If we're in F and we see B, we automatically reach for the Bb key. We don't have to see B and then have to remember that B is flatted in this key.

With this concept nailed, then we lose all fear of keys with lots of sharps and flats. In fact, the more the merrier because it can be easier to play with lots of black keys.

I know a very, very good pianist who can sight read like mad, but she doesn't like to play anything with more than 3 sharps or flats because she forgets which notes are modified. She sees a B and internally, she has to think, "ok, that's flatted, so I need to hit Bb". If her teacher had had her learn the scales like I mentioned, then I don't think she'd have a problem at all.

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#968519 - 01/02/05 03:42 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
SusieQ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 301
Loc: Bellevue, Washington
Great insight - thanks

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#968520 - 01/02/05 11:40 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3512
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Bob, why do you think that it can be easier to play with more black keys?

I learned scales on the piano mainly by working through them in the back of Hanon, but also when I played clarinet in junior and senior high school, I had memorized those silly sentences to help you remember the order that the sharps and flats appear (you know the one that, for the sharps, starts: Father Charles Goes Down And etc)

When I play, I tend to have in my head "this song is in the key of..." and don't usually have trouble remembering that something is sharp or flat.

However, this only holds true for reading and understanding the music on the page. When it comes to actual playing, because the black keys are physically smaller than the white keys, I feel it's harder to play something with lots of sharps or flats, esp if it's very fast. Does this just mean I am still too clumsy? A good likelihood \:\( Or do you know something that I don't (another good likelihood! \:\)
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#968521 - 01/03/05 06:36 AM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Jerry Luke Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 969
Loc: Tillamook, Oregon
I have to circle every sharp or flat on the page (excluding accidentals), or I forget to play them as indicated in the key signature. Is this a crutch, or an acceptable step to learning the key signatures?
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#968522 - 01/03/05 07:07 AM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"Does this just mean I am still too clumsy?"

I think it just means you haven't had lots of practice playing the black keys. ;\) Like anything, the more you do it, the more your fingers will feel comfortable with them.

"Is this a crutch, or an acceptable step to learning the key signatures?"

Well, it depends on how long you continue doing this. I would recommend practicing the scale of the piece you're working on. When you reach the accented note, for example F#, then tell yourself that it's F. I say the letters out loud in the scale.

Before you begin playing the piece, play the scale with full concentration several times. Note the letters of the scale and then note the 3rd, 5th, and diminished 7th of the scale. As you progress, you'll later want to also play the I, IV, and V cadences in their inversions.

When you do this, you not only hammer home the accents, but you also can become aware of how the piece uses the intervals to achieve harmony.

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#968523 - 01/03/05 06:30 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
ShiroKuro Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3512
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Jerry, re writing on the music and whether or not it's a crutch, I write a lot on my music, esp fingerings so that I can quickly get into the habit of playing with the same fingering everytime, because I find this helps speed the process towards playability.

However, I try not to write those things out for the entire song. So I write the fingerings once when the passage first appears, but not the second time it appears etc.

How about trying to rely on circling the sharps/flats only in the first few measures and not in the remaining?

Do you use a pencil? (I always do, although I know some teachers recommend using a red pen, which I really dislike.) Another idea is to gradually erase your marks so that you rely less and less on those hints and more and more only on the music.

Bob, you're right of course, only playing songs with at most three sharps/flats (but usually no more than 2) is not going to make it any easier. Since I choose all my own pieces (not my teacher), I am going to have to push myself to choose more so-called "difficult" music if I want to make pieces in those keys easier to play... sigh
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#968524 - 01/03/05 08:55 PM Re: Most confusing piano notation
Jerry Luke Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/15/04
Posts: 969
Loc: Tillamook, Oregon
 Quote:
Originally posted by ShiroKuro:
How about trying to rely on circling the sharps/flats only in the first few measures and not in the remaining?[/b]
Excellent! I will give it a shot. I've marked the first 14 measures, and I always stop playing after measure 14, so as not to stray into the "unmarked" land of doom. You've given me some courage. Thanks.

Oh, and yes, I use a pencil. \:\)
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