Why does the music scale start on C?

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by ChrisGSP, Aug 10, 2020.

  1. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    Just sittin' here, musing.

    The first seven letters of the alphabet are A B C D E F G, so why is the scale with no sharps or flats C? Shouldn't it be A?

    Some might say it's because the middle note on the piano is C, but it's easy to change the name of that note to A. And build the Major scale A tone B tone C semi-tone D tone E tone F tone G semi-tone A.

    Ok, that was fun. Griff is a trained touch-typist, so he probably knows this - you type all seven letters of the scale with your left hand.

    Still musing....
     
  2. Paleo

    Paleo Theory, Solos, Licks

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    It is A.

    A Minor.

    At the time of giving the notes the letter names we current'y use the minor "sound" was still in vogue and the new scale was given the letter names A B C D E F G in order.

    They weren't really very "happy" times.:sneaky:
     
    #2 Paleo, Aug 10, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2020
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  3. ronico

    ronico rainyislandblues

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    Is that relative so to speak?
     
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  4. Jalapeno

    Jalapeno Student Of The Blues

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    To get your answer you'll need a bunch of time and a trip down European music history :LOL:

    In a nutshell note names predate the relatively modern equal temperament tuning system and you'll have to go back to the medieval system of hexachords. Basically, and completely oversimplified here :LOL:, there were 3 hexachords in vocal music back then, C-D-E-F-G-A, G-A-B-C-D-E and F-G-A-Bb-C-D. A hexachord consists of two whole steps, a half step in the center, and then two whole steps. It has to do with Pythagorean math. To get a hexachord in the mode that begins with A you have to go up to the C. The C-A hexachord was considered the "natural" hexachord because it was the first hexachord in the system of modes used back then. The C and G hexachords have none of what we consider accidentals today. The B flat was introduced into the F hexachord to avoid a tritone, which was considered the "devils" interval.

    Look up Hexachord, Ut queant laxis, Musica ficta, Guidonian hand, Guido of Arezzo, tuning systems, chord systems, scale systems and just about every other piece of musicology :LOL: to find what you're looking for. It is a long and wonderful journey, if you're into music theory, music history and musicology like me :Beer:

    Eric
     
  5. blackcoffeeblues

    blackcoffeeblues Student Of The Blues

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    WOW ----I can't even pronounce half the words.----
     
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  6. BigMike

    BigMike Blues Oldie

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    Think I'll stick to the minor pentatonic, that sounds complex enough :(
     
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  7. david moon

    david moon Attempting the Blues

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    So all the hexachords were major with a sixth. No dom7?
     
  8. Jalapeno

    Jalapeno Student Of The Blues

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    Hexachords are note sequences (think scale, but scale wasn't invented yet, we're still modal during this time). In the 800's and 900's formal European music (sacred music) was still monophonic, polyphony was still about 400 years in the future. Think of Gregorian chants. No chords, no harmony, everyone sings unison melody. A hexachord is not a chord as we would think of one today, but, yes a sixth is as far as you went from the root. If you are writing in a C hexachord (so to speak, I don't think they thought about it as such in a formal way) and you are on an A note, the 6th of the hexachord, but your melodic idea needed to go to B or Bb rather than up to C you'd "mutate" to a new hexachord just prior (mutation at that time is similar to a modulation today), a mutation to a hard hexachord G would give you access to the B natural, a mutation to the soft hexachord F would give you access to the B flat. Like I said above, this is a complete oversimplification as there is more complexity to the analysis/process/usage.

    Interesting note, the flat sign in modern notation comes from the soft hexachord (the ♭ character is from the soft b) and the natural sign in modern notation comes from the hard hexachord (the ♮character is from the hard b).

    Eric
     
    #8 Jalapeno, Aug 15, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  9. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    I'm really pleased that this thread has turned into a bit of a theory-nerd discussion. This is what I was hoping for, and I've certainly learned a thing or three. That's not a "closing statement" by any means - I'd love to find out more, if anybody has more to contribute.
     
  10. Silicon Valley Tom

    Silicon Valley Tom It makes me happpy to play The Blues!

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    Music scales, modes, history etc.

    http://vaczy.dk/htm/scales2.htm

    I can recall reading a book on this subject 54 years ago, right after Katy and I were married. It was fascinating, as it described an individual who worked for Pope Gregory, mixed up the order of modes and notes of the Greeks. In fact, he used "C" when it should have been "A". The Pope agreed to the final work and thus we have what we call Western Music! :) What would Pope Gregory think of his impact upon modern society? ;)

    Say three Our Fathers, five Hail Mary's and make a good Act Of Contrition! For those of you who may not be Catholic as I am, that is what the Priest will tell you after you have had your confession, regardless of what sins you may have confessed. :cry::eek: :rolleyes:

    Tom
     
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  11. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    Oh jeez Tom, I didn't need to be reminded of the confessional. Thanks for that - NOT.
     
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  12. Silicon Valley Tom

    Silicon Valley Tom It makes me happpy to play The Blues!

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    This too shall pass my son. :) Standard answer given by a Priest for any given question.

    Monsignor Lyons of Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco, thought that I was going to be a Priest. I do have a famous Priest in my family. Father Peter Christopher Yorke. He was famous for helping the poor, working class, and those in need. He knew how to get things done to help others. The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco is located on a street named after him. He died in 1925, and they celebrate a mass for him each Palm Sunday, with a parade afterward. We have at least one event with family members from Ireland, England, Canada, the United States, and Oz, each year at Christmas, to honor father Yorke.

    Tom
     
  13. ChrisGSP

    ChrisGSP Blues Journeyman

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    I've got to say I'm sorry for this ... didn't realise at the time that it could be read differently to how it was written (tongue-in-cheek). I see that you "Liked" my post, but please accept my apologies Tom, mea culpa.

    Some of my Catholic school memories are not so happy, but I got a bloody good education from them, and I have no regrets about that.:LOL:(y)
     
    #13 ChrisGSP, Aug 16, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2020
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  14. Jalapeno

    Jalapeno Student Of The Blues

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    Most likely you learned about Guido of Arezzo and his "mixed up" hexachords! :Beer:

    Thanks for the link, it was an "interesting" summary taking me back to my music theory and history classes. Though as with all summaries sometimes what needs to be left out is nearly as important as what is put in :LOL: as he glossed over a few things that contradicted his summary (because then his summary would have been 4 times longer :LOL:). I know the feeling.

    He could have put in more about Zhu Zaiyu and equal temperment and Chinese music. (Yikes, I just re-read the wikipedia article about Zhu Zaiyu and someone has edited out about 90% of what used to be there. I hate that about wikipedia. I wonder if it was the PRC government that edited it? :whistle:)

    Eric
     
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  15. Silicon Valley Tom

    Silicon Valley Tom It makes me happpy to play The Blues!

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    Anyone who can survive a Catholic School education has done very well! :) I am speaking from experience! :cry:

    Tom
     
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