I do not see the need for a g-note. It seems like a lot of confusion could be avoided by just including a b# and e#. Why remove these 2 logical notes and replace them with a wholly unnecessary and ill fitting note? We don't measure things in cubits anymore, why keep the g-note?

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    Interesting suggestion, but I don't understand what's wrong with the g-note based on your question. What's so "ill fitting" about it? – MeanGreen Sep 11 '19 at 14:07
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    Highly related: music.stackexchange.com/questions/23945/… – Dom Sep 11 '19 at 15:52
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    Keep in mind that e# does not equal f. It only does in equal tempered tuning and not all western music follows that. So what seems logical to you is simply not based on logic. – ggcg Sep 11 '19 at 16:07
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    @Tim, the question is muddy. – ggcg Sep 11 '19 at 17:00
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    What is a “g-note”? Do you mean the note G? If so, what would E# or B# have to do with that? Wouldn’t you be suggesting not having an F or C? – Todd Wilcox Sep 11 '19 at 17:01

The frequencies would not change, just the names. I may be missing something here but since I'm not advocating changing any physical instruments, just the symbology, are you saying functionality would be lost?

Well, the functionality of the naming system would be lost!

The basic assumption of the naming system is that while at any time there are 12 possible notes in an octave, we want to only use 7 of them at a time - and according to that assumption, we want 7 unique names - no more, no less.

You might say that that basic assumption doesn't always hold - and you'd be right! That's why in musical situations that aren't in line with 'common practice' norms, people do use other ways of indicating notes, such as pitch classes.


One of the biggest reasons, in terms of practicality, is that literally hundreds of years of theory and notation is built upon the existing system. By changing it we invalidate all of this and require tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of accomplished musicians to relearn just about everything. Furthermore, many (if not most) musicians would simply refuse to change, resulting in two independent, but very similar systems, making things way more confusing than they already are for new musicians.

In terms of playing, the asymmetry of the current system is actually VERY beneficial. Splitting the octave into two unequal groups (C-C#-D-Eb-E and F-F#-G-Ab-A-Bb-B) makes it a lot easier to keep track of where you are at and not get lost. The pattern repeats exactly once per octave, giving each note a distinct place. By having some variation in the "landscape" we are given "landmarks" to help us keep track of our location. Imagine trying to figure out your location with nothing but a black and white checkered tile floor!

In the end, the existing system was not just made up by some guy a few hundred years ago and everyone just kinda went with it. It developed organically over a long period of time. Many other systems were suggested, but were inferior for one reason or another. If there were a vastly superior system it likely would have floated to the top early on and would subsequently be what we use today.

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    Your second para. is significant for pianos, but doesn't really stand when most other instruments are considered. – Tim Sep 11 '19 at 16:22
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    @Tim I don't have much experience with other instruments, but I tend to think of the pattern more theoretically than physically anyway. It's probably because piano is my main instrument, but I tend to think of the notes grouped in this way regardless of what I am playing. That said, the piano has had a massive role in deciding how music is structured throughout history, so it may not be applicable to how other instruments are played, but it certainly had a role in shaping the way we structure music in general. – WillRoss1 Sep 11 '19 at 16:35

We haven't got rid of G because it plays its part in giving separate letter names to the degrees of the 7-degree scale, also known as the heptatonic scale. This scale is useful because melodies and harmonies have been built upon this scale as a basis for centuries.

There is also a long tradition of melodies based on 5-note or pentatonic scales. Now it might appear that, just on the basis of counting letter names, that your ABCDEF system would at least suit pentatonic scales (with one letter not used), but it doesn't even suit that. To see why, let's look at a pentatonic scale of a well-used kind, in the key of C:

C --- D --- E --- G --- A --- c

The interval of the perfect fifth is important in this scale: the scale has perfect fifths on four of its five degrees: C-G, D-A, G-d and A-e (where lower-case letters denote pitches in a higher octave).

By contrast, your 6-note scale uses the letter names A B C D E F to denote the pitches we at present denote by G# A# C D E F#. There are no perfect fifths there at all. It suits the whole-tone scale, and yes, that has seen some use by e.g. Debussy and Ravel, but in the grand scheme of things the whole-tone scale is much less important than the 7-note scale.

  • A Rose by any other name... or in this case note. The frequencies would not change, just the names. I may be missing something here but since I'm not advocating changing any physical instruments, just the symbology, are you saying functionality would be lost? – Scott Sep 11 '19 at 15:24
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    @Scott This is more theory based than functional. Intervals as they currently exist are based on the letter names. A third up from C is always an E: dim 3rd = Ebb, min 3rd = Eb, Maj 3rd = E and Aug 3rd = E#. A fifth up from C is always a G: dim 5th = Gb, perfect 5th = G and Aug 5th = G#. This classification is extremely important in music theory and helps keep everything consistent. In a 6 letter system this would not be possible. A fifth up from C would not be an F#, that is an Aug 4th. It would be an A (former G#) with a 25:16 ratio instead of the 3:2 that a 5th should be. – WillRoss1 Sep 11 '19 at 16:01

All fine and dandy - until we come to write out the music. Then it starts to fall apart.

I appreciate a lot of guitarists don't write or read music, thus have no great interest in that side of things. But some do, along with a myriad of other players.

The way things stand now, sheet music wise, is as it has been for many centuries. There's this grid of five lines and the four spaces between them (as well as other lines/spaces enabled by the use of ledger lines).

The notes we now use all have names - namely (!) A B C D E F and G. Those lines and spaces (staves) are used to depict those letter names sequentially. That way it's fairly straightforward and easy to play what's written.

The same reasoning is used for notes that belong to a particular key. Diatonic in the trade. That means that each note playable has its particular place on the stave. There won't be two different notes (say F and F♯) vying for one position. Or, one line which needs to be used for E and F. Makes life so much easier.

Also we've all got used, over centuries, to key signatures. They're impregnated into muso's minds. Your idea, good as it may seem, means all that will have to change and be re-learned. You appear to appreciate phrases. If it ain't broke... comes to mind..!


The usual scales are diatonic. You can play a scale and accompany it with the third above. Major or minor third? That actually changes in sort of a haphazard pattern because diatonic scales are ingrained into Western music. Just play it on the white keys: works very well. On a chromatic button accordion (or a piano with Jankó keyboard, look it up), semitones are arranged regularly. Playing a scale and its third is a real load of work (but not really depending a lot on the starting note). In contrast, transposing stuff is comparatively easy. It's give and take. Spontaneous transposition on a piano keyboard is a skill that takes a lot of practice. In contrast, on a chromatic keyboard with some redundant rows, it's usually just a matter of shifting your starting position.

The only instrument with a separate keyboard where a chromatic keyboard actually survived in the main stream is the accordion. The reason is not so much that is more logical but that it facilitates cramming so many more notes into a handheld instrument (a large piano accordion has 45 notes in the right hand, a large chromatic button accordion has 64). Also it helps that it's a "folk" instrument. Playing those chromatic keyboard by ear tends to work more organically than by playing them from score sheets.

For some reason, the kind of execution-focused notation that tablature provides to guitar never made it for chromatic button accordions.

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