6

The white keys on the piano have single letter names:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B

The black keys require a minimum of 2 letters to "spell" their names :

Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb

or

C#, D#, F#, G#, A#

Is anybody aware of any common single-letter names for the black notes? I have been playing around with using

H, I, J, K, L

But I don't love it and thought I'd see if anybody knew of a convention that already exists.

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  • 3
    Whilst it does not answer your question, be aware that there are good reasons for using the sharp/flat notation. Using different names will convey less information. And also mean that no one else understands you. – endorph Nov 29 '16 at 21:33
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    German nomenclature calls the B "H", and the B flat "B" - but that's only one of the five. – Kilian Foth Nov 30 '16 at 5:52
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    Actually, Shostakovich did the same when adopting his own musical sigil "D S C H": German for "E flat" is "Es", which has two letters but sounds exactly like "S". – Kilian Foth Nov 30 '16 at 12:48
  • 1
    Following what @endorph said it's also worth remembering that on many instruments these notes are not the same. F# is the same as Gb on a piano but not, for example, on a violin. – JimM Dec 1 '16 at 11:13
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    @freddyz Yes that's what I'm saying. – JimM Dec 2 '16 at 18:33
10

Not using letter names, but in set theory instead of giving out letter names to the 12 pitches they are just enumerated typically starting at C as such:

C  C#/Db  D  D#/Eb  E    F  F#/Gb  G  G#/Ab  A  A#/Bb  B
0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   11

This allows a much easier path to do calculations and look at reoccurring ideas in a 12-tone equal temperament system where enharmonic notes correspond to the exact same frequency.

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  • 1
    10 and 11 both are still made of two symbols (1 and 0, 1 and 1). OP is in search of common single-letter/symbol. If you count not in base 10, but in 16 (hexadecimal), it could be 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B, but I don't think its common. – Dancia Nov 30 '16 at 8:07
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    It is unfortunate that whoever invented this system called it "set theory," as it has just about nothing to do with mathematical Set Theory. – Carl Witthoft Nov 30 '16 at 12:48
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    @CarlWitthoft it kind of does when you actually look at analysis – Dom Nov 30 '16 at 12:54
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    Well, sorta... once you include operations it gets closer to a ring :-) – Carl Witthoft Nov 30 '16 at 14:05
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    @Dancia The notation you mention is very close to the standard, except that T and E are most typically used for 10 and 11, rather than A and B. – Aaron Apr 15 at 19:16
8

Perhaps the German names may be helpful. While not a single letter name, these are single syllable names and thus easy to sing. Using these is at least semi-standard.

https://www.library.yale.edu/cataloging/music/keylang.htm

There is the possibility of using a chromatic do-re-mi system. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solf%C3%A8ge

The latter two systems do map more than one name to a single note.

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  • +1 for the (chromatic) movable Do where one-syllable names are given to notes raised or lowered by a semitone – ChristopheLynch Nov 29 '16 at 19:58
  • Yale link is dead. – Aaron Apr 15 at 19:08
3

Not that I'm aware of. The whole point is that being called a # or b actually gives information out. If you know some theory, it can explain what is happening when accidentals are used, and if they were different letter names, then key sigs would be tricky, I think. There actually is already 'H', in Germany and other countries, used for B - Bb being called B. Now how confusing is that? And once you start adding Doh - both fixed and moveable- into the equation, it's possibly best to let sleeping dogs lie...

1
3

The closest thing to this was Boethius in the 6th century. He tried to use the system you mention and just went through the alphabet.

But his system didn't have sharps and flats, just the note names. When accidentals were first introduced, on the note B, they used a rounded "b" for the flat, and a boxed "b", (#) for the sharp.

So, no, the notes have always been referred to with the two characters.

1
  • Wouldn't that be a natural, not a sharp? – awe lotta Apr 16 at 14:41
1

As far as written systems go, the closest you'll get to a single-character notation for the entire chromatic scale is the numeric system in Dom's answer, generally notated as 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T E.

For spoken letter-names incorporating a single syllable, the most common system I've encountered is adding "-sh" for sharps and "-f" for flats. Thus:

C Ceesh D Deesh E (Eesh) F Feesh G Geesh A Aysh B (Beesh)
and
C (Ceef) B Beef A Ayf G Geef F (Feef) E Eef D Deef

0

I faced the same problem, was very frustrated, and thus created a new Musical Note - Voice System that is very simple to use, solving this problem without creating any confusion. The link to the full explanation is

. Key points are below:

New Musical Note – Voice System: Voices of accidental notes are based on their natural letter names for obvious associations, and have consistent, distinct, and fixed rhyming sounds for easy memory and communication:

  • Sharp Note voice: rhyming with Eye
  • Flat Note voice: rhyming with Too
  • Double Sharp Note voice: rhyming with Slang
  • Double Flat Note voice: rhyming with Ben

They are clearly different from the Solfege to preserve its integrity and to prevent confusion.

No more long names! No need to convert key signatures! You can learn it quickly and implement it right away!

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  • This is interesting. Out of curiosity: Why is there the need to sing a form of note names at all? I can see why someone want's to skip the lyrics of a song to focus on the melody only, but that can be achieved by singing random syllables (la-la-la, duh-duh). So, what is the gain in singing the name of the notes? – Arsak Apr 15 at 17:26
  • Singing note names along helps to develop pitch (for people who don't have them naturally) and to practice chords too. The reason that people sing random syllables to learn a melody, in my opinion, is because there has been NO easy method (until now) yet to sing the note names. – Dr. Z Cafe Apr 15 at 18:06
  • @Arsak It is a common teaching technique to have students sing the letter names of their music. It's often introduced in the context of learning note names or working toward memorization. – Aaron Apr 15 at 19:11
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    Solfeg already covers this. Movable Do already has different concepts for sharps and flats that are outside the key and in general movable Do is key agnostic. Also obligatory xkcd xkcd.com/927 – Dom Apr 15 at 19:14
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    German note naming does this. Mostly it ads "is" for sharps and "s" or "es" for flats. So Eb is "Es" and E# is "Eis" and E## is "Eisis." – ttw Apr 15 at 21:28

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