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How many notes in the musical scale?

  1. May 18, 2003 #1
    This is just to defer a discussion that began in the Religion forum concerning https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=429&perpage=15&pagenumber=3". It seems there are two approaches: the seven note diatonic scale, i.e., do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do, developed by Guido D'Arezzo around 1,000 years ago in tribute to Saint John; then there's the twelve note chromatic scale, which is apparently more common and currently in use today.

    Anyone care to put their two cents worth in here? .. It's a big debate over in the other forum.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 20, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2003 #2

    One of a few templates can be used, applying it OVER TOP of the 12 notes to select a certain series of notes with an interval properties. THESE ARE CALLED KEYS.

    Such as the Key of C, or the key of A minor.

    THE 12 NOTE scale, is what defines western music.

    END of STORY.
  4. May 18, 2003 #3
    "do re mi" is an arbitrary template system that can be played OVER THE 12 NOTE scale.

    "do re mi" utilized the template known is MAJOR.

    the interval of the major over the 12 note scale goes like thus:

    1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13

    Where "1" is ANY note on the 12 note scale, which is the musicians choice. And 13 is this same note one octave higher.

    The number inbetween define the intervals in the MAJOR key.

    "do re mi" defines a template in a SCALE. Called a KEY. IT DOES NOT DEFINE A SCALE AT ALL WHATSOEVER.

    END of STORY!
  5. May 18, 2003 #4
    A key is defined by two properties.

    1. the template being used

    2. the first note set down on the template.

    So the MAJOR template used with the first not being F is the F MAJOR KEY...

    End of STORY
  6. May 18, 2003 #5
    Am only posting this to show that there's another side to the story. Thanks!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  7. May 18, 2003 #6
    Yes, let's examine this misinformation:

    No, "do re mi" is a major key template used WITHIN the confines of the 12 note scale. Here you have made a very serious error.
    So we have a scale we call a 12 note scale, and yet it has 7 notes?
    Anyone here can see that a 6 pound cat weighs 13 pounds, right? I thought so.

    "do re mi" is a template. as I stated above it uses the pattern of "1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13". Do, being 1, can begin on ANY 12 of the 12 notes in the western scale. It is NOT tied to these certain 7 notes. Thus, "do re mi" can be sung in 12 keys. Each one starting with a different of the 12 notes in western scale, and using the identical template.

    Furthermore, there are no such "fundamental" notes in the 12. They're all absolutely equal and are part of an equal interval system called the 12 note western scale. You are desperately wrong here.

    No. "music as we know it" would be western music. Gregorian chants were not in western 12 note scale at all. They used quite a different arrangments of notes.

    The amount of misinformation that is spread by Hazzy is puzzling. If you're doing it on purpose, please stop. If you're doing it on accident, speak not on subjects you are not knowledgable on. You only hurt humanity when doing so.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2003
  8. May 18, 2003 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 20, 2017
  9. May 18, 2003 #8
    You're right. YOU do. Whose going to back up your meaning of a scale from some random personal website (probably your own) in comparison to someone with over nine years of musical training, education, recording, and 3 years of professional teaching?

    The only scale in western music, I repeat, is the 12 note scale. There are templates used on top of this scale to determin various KEYS. The only other scales exist OUTSIDE of western music.
  10. May 18, 2003 #9
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  11. May 18, 2003 #10


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    You might try learning something about a subject before you speak with such arrogance.

    The only instruments in a modern orchestra that play on a 12 tone scale are those that are physically restricted to play exactly those pitches, such as a piano (and even then they may be tuned differently).

    All wind and string instruments have some freedom of pitch. In any sort of tonal music, the players will use that freedom to play pitches on a pure scale, not an equal-tempered scale. Why? Because a pure "do re mi" sounds better than the corresponding pitches on a 12 tone scale.

    The reason the 12 tone equal temperament scale exists is because it was a compromise for keyboard instruments, allowing them to sound good (though slightly out of tune) in every key. Before the acceptance of this standard, some keyboards even had two seperate keys for F# and Gb, because an augmented fourth and a diminished fifth really are different pitches, though they're combined into one in equal temperament.

    And the 12 tone scale scale, while popular, is not used in everything. Quartertones have been played for hundreds of years (this would be a 24 tone scale); some piano (and similar instrument) makers would make instruments with quartertone keys, and there are quartertone fingering charts for woodwind instruments, though all winds can manage quartertones by playing semitones out of tune.
  12. May 18, 2003 #11
    Hazzy - you're completely out of line, out of context, and out of your element. The phrase "scale" is being grossly misinterpreted here.

    As Alex has backed me up, the terminology of those completely UNCREDIBLE sites is incorrect. I'm sure most intelligent people here would know of plenty of websites with incorrect information.

    Hurkyl - All instruments in an orchestra are on a 12 note scale. I should know as I do orchestral direction. And BTW, I've eplayed the flute for 5 years. It can only play the 12 notes of western music.

    Your further attempts at misinformation won't get by me.

    Piano, flute, tuba, trumpet, trombone, guitar, all these instruments are on a 12 note scale. THE 12 note scale, as they're all 12 note instruments.

    I speak with arrogance because I will not sit back and allow people here to be taught misinformation, so that in the future they go spreading it around and get HIT IN THE FACE because they believed someone such as yourself.

    Every orchestra, every orchestral piece, every rock piece, all written using a given KEY TEMPLATE within the 12 note scale.

    SIMPLE AS THAT. You cannot debate this and let it get by me. I refuse to allow people to recieve false information when I can so easily correct it.
  13. May 18, 2003 #12
    Try learning about a subject?

    I played flute for 5 years, drums for 7, guitar for nine, piano for 3, trumpet for 2, conducted for 1, written orchestral pieces for 4. Taught music for 3. Written two musical instruction publications.

    Last year I wrote a piece used for CNN television, as I live here in CNN hometown of ATLANTA.

    I speak with arrogance because I have the knowledge to back it up, and the disdain for people spreading misinformation to others.
  14. May 18, 2003 #13


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    I'm practically speechless. I knew people could practice a subject without actually learning about it, but to have spent 34 years in music and have never heard of quarter tones or alternate temperaments is borderline ignorance. (and I'm being generous)

    Doing a few minutes of searching on the internet, I've found a fingering chart that includes quarter tone fingerings for a french model flute at

    http://musita.pspt.fi/~hlindholm/peruskuviot4.pdf [Broken]

    although I came across plenty of references to fingering charts, and even a 1760 composition involving quartertones mentioned at:


    and quartertone fingering charts for other instruments, such as the saxophone one at


    And do a google search for "equal temperament" and you should be able to find at least a basic introduction to alternate tuning systems. (I'm too lazy, atm, to put together a nice presentation of it)

    You may have been in music for 34 years, but it's clear you either have only a working knowledge of the subject or you're so blinded by your arrogance that while you know of these things, you refuse to accept them because they're outside your world-view.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  15. May 18, 2003 #14
    Actually, there are instruments, particularly some specialist guitars that are capable of what is dubbed 'microtonal' playing, whereby the semitone is divided into two. It's quite an interesting effect.

    If you actually look before you leap, the question was how many notes in the musical scale. You've just catered for western music, no, sorry, WESTERN MUSIC!!! 'Eastern' music is filled with so-called 'microtonal' playing that does not fit in to the 12 note chromatic scale of WESTERN MUSIC!!! In theory there are infinitely many possible 'notes' which could be played on an unfretted string instrument. It just comes down to what is defined as a distinct note, as has been done one way in WESTERN MUSIC!!!

    Regardless of your ACHIEVEMENTS, such as LEARNING the flute for a WHOLE three YEARS, you still sound like a frightful loser.

    Just in CASE you get conFUSED, I'm not saying there are MORE than twelve notes in the musical SCALE! Merely that the definition of a scale is ARBITRARY, and in THEORY, there could be more or LESS than twelve, as their ARE in other CULTURES. Which anyone with even a slight and fleeting KNOWLEDGE of music THEORY would know.

    Sorry if I sound ARROGANT, but if I DO it's because I'm particularly POMPOUS and have to rely on aggresively REPLYING to posts I disagree with to make out I'M some kind of madcap CRUSADER for TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  16. May 18, 2003 #15
    I've spent some time looking for sites which you may find CREDIBLE.

    encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/s1/scale2.asp [Broken]

    encyclopedia britannica: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=40940&tocid=0&query=musical%20scale&ct= [Broken]

    columbia encyclopedia: http://www.bartleby.com/65/sc/scale2.html
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  17. May 18, 2003 #16
    DJ - I reported your post. Tata for ever!

    Secondly, I'm still correct. This H guy needs to get off himself. I'm no longer argueing with idiocy. I won't be appearing here again. Say what you will. Don't spread idiocy.
  18. May 18, 2003 #17
    this entire argument started when you came to the conclusion (god knows how) that a 7-note scale never existed. arguing with you is pointless only because no matter how much proof is shown you're still always correct. as they say, ignorance is bliss.
  19. May 19, 2003 #18


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    I think it is interesting that the 12 tone Western scale has some unusual mathematical properties. These properties contribute to its acceptance, rather than there being - for example - an 11 tone scale.

    The frequency of each half tone is such that after 12 steps, the frequency has doubled. Each half tone is therefore higher than the next by a factor of 2^(1/12) or approximately 1.059 (i.e. about 6% higher than the previous. The "coincidence" is that an interval of 7 such tones is almost exactly a half (perfect fifth, or 49.2%), 5 such tones is nearly a third (perfect fourth, or 33.1%) and 4 such tones is nearly a quarter (major third, or 25.7%), and 3 such tones is pretty close to a fifth (minor third, or 18.7%).

    The human hear somehow hears these relationships easily, but music wouldn't be so beautiful were it not for the somewhat coincidental relationships.

    (Maybe we can get back on topic.)
  20. May 19, 2003 #19
    DrChinese - The intervals you've described are the fundamentals behind harmonics.

    Thus performing a harmonic on the same note can produce different harmonic intervals based on the location on the string where the harmonic is plucked.

    Yes, assuming Hazzy doesn't continue spamming misinformation, hopefully we can get back on topic. And yet, since the topic began with a factual statement, and I have since provided the only factual answer. There isn't really a topic here anymore.

    Perhaps a moderator lock would be more appropriate to prevent further idiocy. Good comment DrChinese.

  21. May 19, 2003 #20


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    Not just harmonics (which, technically, are based on a slightly different fundamental principle), but the tonality of Western music is, for the most part, based on these simple ratios. For example, medieval vocal music was often sung in parallel open fifths because the perfect 3:2 ratio was so consonant.

    But as composers demanded more complex harmonies, the limitations of perfect intervals became apparent. One notorious example was the D-A chord in a typical tuning in C. D was typically tuned to be a perfect major second above C (9/8 ratio), and A was typically tuned to be a perfect major third above F (5/4) which was a perfect fourth over C (4/3).

    Putting that together, the ratio of the frequencies of D and A is 40/27 = 1.48148... when it should be 3/2 = 1.5; a very large difference (21 and a half cents) which makes the interval sound awful. Because of this, music of that era tended to avoid modulations that would force these chords.

    Musicians worked on more sophisticated tuning methods, and musical tastes leaned more towards having better sounding major third intervals rather than trying to keep the other intervals pure (the major fifth in particular), and tuning systems developed that could have good sounding thirds in many keys, and while the fifth may not have sounded that great, blending it into the major triad smoothed it over.

    Different keys sounded different, an effect used to good effect by composers, but there were still restrictions that certain chords simply couldn't work in certain keys, and some keys simply didn't exist (such as Ab major)

    (Of course, keep in mind that all of this applies only to keyboard-type instruments and fretted instruments; other strings and all winds have always had the ability to modify their pitch to play with whatever tuning their ear demanded)

    This last fact led J.S. Bach to demand a tuning system that allowed him to play in all keys, and he had a system developed that allowed all keys to sound good enough, as evidenced by the well-tempered clavier. However, still not all keys sounded the same; different keys had different qualities which Bach used to good effect, such as using brief hints sharp major thirds to add a brightness to music played in some keys while settling into the highly consonant chords of other keys for a more melodic sound.

    Tuning systems continued to develop, each having varying degrees of success and persistence. A true equal tempered scale (modern "12 tone" music) is fairly recent over the course of music history. The simplicity of having every key sound reasonably good has allowed it to become predominant, but even still it is not accepted universally, as some keyboard performers keep their instruments tuned to alternate scales, and wind/string performers continue, as always, to employ their freedom of pitch to alter the harmonies to give them different qualities.

    To keep this post from getting too long (too late?), I've omitted some things, like microtones and the fact some intervals (like the minor third) didn't have a standardized frequency ratio.
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