I am working on a fantasy spoken language for a fantasy world ultimately (long ways away from that!). One thing I'm currently dealing with is the basic letters used to make the sounds/words, and musical notes. Currently I'm wondering why we have 7 letters and added sharps/flats to map the 7 to the 12 notes, and if there was a reason for that that is meaningful, or if it can be scrapped and we can just write 12 distinct symbols for the 12 notes.

What advantage does having 7 letters and sharps/flats, instead of 12 letters, provide? What disadvantages?

Wondering if you would start from scratch again, how you would represent the concept of the 12 notes (probably too broad for an SE question, so didn't ask that in the main question).


1 Answer 1


All of the comments your question has attracted lead you to the tradition and logic behind the 7 letter system and they are all valid. After all, in a nutshell, a typical scale is 7 notes and there is no symmetry or pattern to the way major or minor scales are constructed. If each note had a letter then scale steps would no longer be consecutive letters and chords wouldn’t be spelled using every other letter, like odd and even numbers. That is all well and good for most classical and contemporary music in our world.

Now in your fantasy world which has a language with different letters, words and probably even grammar, it is possible their music might be similar to ours since music here is basically built from the overtone series, which is a scientific principle.

Something to consider though, is their music might be completely different, just like their language. Perhaps an octave in the fantasy world is divided into 9 or 16 or any other number of segments which may or may not be equal to each other. Maybe melodies and chords have a completely different sound and structure that doesn’t resemble our music at all.

My point is music in that world might be a completely different entity with a unique language that you have the ability and freedom to create however you see fit. Now if it happens to be the case that the fantasy world music IS similar to the music of this world then there is a very good chance that the structure of that music would also be similar, in which case I suggest you stick with the 7 letter system.

  • Or maybe they don't have chords, in which case lining the melodies up with the overtone series ceases to be particularly important.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 25 at 12:10

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.