How Many Notes Are In The Musical Alphabet?

Posted by Mike Schumacher

Music is a very large language that we can learn by listening to it and practicing it, or reading about it. A lot of music consists of notes!

Most people are familiar with the five main scales (also called modes), but there are actually nine other musical alphabets in this book. These additional eight alphabets each have several notes, but they are not used as frequently as the major scale or mode.

This article will discuss all eight of these alphabets and how many notes they contain. After you’ve learned this, you can begin exploring the songs within this music vocabulary!

Eight musical alphabets

The last alphabet introduced was the octave. This chapter will review what an octave is and then move onto your first new alphabet: the natural harmonic series.

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What is the natural harmonic series?

The natural harmonic series is simply the list of numbers that make up a note. For example, the second highest tone of the treble clef is one flat-one, two sharps–two, three flats–three, four sharps–four, etc.

These notes form a ladder that moves upwards towards the heavens. The number one is already part of the chord name, so it does not need to be counted here. We will not include the leading zero for simplicity.

There are twelve steps in total in this natural harmonic sequence.

Musical notes

how many notes in the musical alphabet

Music is a form of expression that comes down to one thing: notes!

Music theory focuses on studying the different notes, how to play them, and how they relate to each other. There are several types of music theories, such as diatonic (based on whole number ratios), chromatic (based on half or whole numbers not necessarily ratioed), tonal (focused on specific points within the spectrum), and modal (based on modes).

All songs contain at least one note, which we call the root note. The roots of many popular songs are either A, D, G, or E — all of these notes have names. These are called the fundamental notes of the song.

By spelling out the root note and then adding one more letter every time, you create a sequence of notes that make up the song. This process is called stepping forward by one pitch and is typically done twice for each line or verse.

For example, if your root note is B and you step up one full tone, you get C.

Identify each of the following musical notes

how many notes in the musical alphabet

The next step is to identify what note every instrument in music sounds like. This is done by knowing the range and position of the notes that your instrument plays. Most instruments have their lowest, or fundamental tone at the very bottom of the spectrum and an octave higher up the scale where they sing a song with eight notes per row.

Most strings (like those used for violin and viola) go all the way down to zero before rising again, making their first note the bass. For most brass instruments, such as trumpets and horns, there are no fundamentals- everything starts high and drops. Some woodwinds, like flutes and clarinets, have one open hole which produces a constant sound that people learn early on.

For pianos and other keyboards, the white key near the middle of the keyboard is the treble clef, while the black one is the bass clef. Both add extra lines to make reading easier because you know how many tones exist in a given position.

The final major group are the percussionists, who usually have a striking device or object they use to create rhythm.

Identify the location of each of the following musical notes

The next step is to identify what note every second sound or chord is. This is determined by the name given to it!
The first di-silben (DMI) note is the tonic, which is also referred to as the root. All music is made up of sequences of intervals, or distances between one pitch and another.

A sequence of two pitches is called an octave. Most people learn that the ratio of an octave is a whole number like 8:8=1:2 or 9:10=3:5. That means that whatever tone you are starting with, you will get twice as many tones in return for half the time.

Since a major third has a 1:2 ratio, a tonic is 2 times a minor third, or a minor 3rd. A natural 5th has a 1:4 ratio, so a tonic is 4 times a fifth, or a perfect 5th.

This process can be applied consistently to any key. If we take our example from before where D was the tonic, then the other notes would be a minor 3rd, a perfect 5th, and a 6th. These three notes make up the secondary dominant, or V7.

Identify the alphabet letter corresponding to each of the following notes

how many notes in the musical alphabet

The first note we will look at is called the scale degree tone, also known as the harmonic root. This note comes after the octave or second highest pitch possible and is one full step lower. For example, the second highest natural note is A, so the harmonic root is G.

The term “scale” applies to this type of note because it corresponds to the other half of the musical alphabet — scales. We use the word “scale” more broadly than just talking about chords, though. Technically speaking, any sequence of adjacent pitches is considered a scale.

For instance, the notes B, C, D are all part of the same scale due to their proximity within the music. Similarly, the notes F, G, A make up another set of three notes that form a scale. These two examples show how using intervals (the space between two notes) you can create new notes and therefore different scales.

Identify the location of each of the following notes

how many notes in the musical alphabet

The next step is to identify where each note is located within a piece. There are eight locations for major, minor, or dominant seventh chords. For example, the first chord we learned was a major second-chord (A–G). This contains one flat bar that is the root position, making it an inverted triad.

The other two positions contain no flats or sharps; they just have different lengths of strings. A natural third is a fully extended string, while a perfect fifth has a half-string length. Both of these add resonance to the chord.

There are also three additional locations for eighth, ninth, and tenth chords. An octave higher than a normal fourth is called a sharpened unison, and a semitone lower is a dimished trichord. These both create more tension in the music. An augmented sixth adds energy and anticipation.

All of these notes can be included either as whole numbers or fractions. For instance, a quarter tone is one quarter of a semi-tone away from a standard tonic. Half tones move down by only a full tone.

Identify the location of the notes between C and D

how many notes in the musical alphabet

The next step is to identify which notes are located within this interval! This can be tricky, as there are two different methods you can use to do so. You can either use the name of the note or the position of the note relative to another note.

The first method uses the names of the notes to determine where an interval begins and ends. For example, the beginning of the major third is called the tritone (also known as the augmented second) because it has a one tone higher than the starting note. The minor third has a one tone lower than its starting note, making the tritone a two-tone gap.

Similarly, the ending of a perfect fourth is a one tone lower than the final note, creating an octave jump. An octave means going up by eight tones. A perfect fifth is also one tone lower than the final note, creating a half ton drop. These are all examples of intervals that have their own name!

You will learn the exact meaning of these terms later in this article, but for now just know that they relate to the start and end of the given interval.

Using the location of the notes as your source material to define an interval makes sense since music works through relationships. When someone sings a few lines out of “Ode To Joy”, you get familiar melodies, rhythmic patterns, and chords. All of these components are structured around certain distances and relationships.

Identify the location of the notes between D and E

how many notes in the musical alphabet

The next step is to identify which note lies between your D and E chords. You can do this by counting how many semitones there are in the chord. A semitone is one half of a tone, such as the difference between a middle C and an octave higher voice or an A major chord and an A minor chord.

A common rule is that there should be two semitones between each pair of adjacent chords. For example, the D-E duo has two semitones because it is made up of a third (D) and a fifth (E). Similarly, the G-C duo also has two semitones because it is comprised of a fourth (G) and a sixth (Bb).

If you notice that some pairs of chords don’t have any semitones, those are probably the tritone (or “devil”) intervals. These occur when there is a complete circle of three tones — in other words, a full tone, a half tone, and a whole tone.

The tritone interval was discussed in the last section! Make sure to go back and review those ideas before moving onto the next concept.

Identify the location of the notes between E and F

how many notes in the musical alphabet

The next step is to identify the name or position of each note as it moves from the flat major scale to the natural minor scale. This information is determined by which letters of the alphabet they are!

The notes A, B, C, D, and G do not have any additional names so we will not discuss them here. These notes can be categorized together because they all begin with the letter “A” and thus get their own chapter.

Let us take a look at the remaining five notes; E, F, H, I, and J.

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