Chromatic pitch spelling

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Winspear, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    How does one go about spelling chromatic pitches in a given key?
    I'm writing in B minor
    B C# D E F# G A

    But coming across lots of chromatic notes...Should I be notating E, E# (accidental), F#, or E, F (natural accidental), F# etc..

    How would one write out the chromatic scale best in any given key?

    Thanks
     
  2. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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  3. Osorio

    Osorio SS.org Regular

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    EDIT:
    I got what you were asking TOTALLY wrong. Sorry.

    After reading some of the material on the link, my best bet as to why there is mixing of flats and sharps is to "facilitate reading" ("painting a more defined image of the music on paper"). On a Major chromatic you would want to stand out the Tonic, Major 3rd and Perfect 5th so you have to do:
    Tonic.
    Minor 2nd (b), Major 2nd (Natutal), Augmented 2nd (#)
    Major 3rd.
    Perfect 4th (Natural), Augmented 4th (#)
    Perfect 5th.
    Minor 6th (b), Major 6th (Natural)
    Minor 7th (b), Major 7th (Natural)

    This way you can have an very defined scale in all the notes, because you are always seeing a pure Tonic, 3rd and 5th.
    Seems to work just as well with the Minor scale.
     
  4. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    That's understood. I didn't know whether I should've been trying to use double flats and sharps etc and got a bit confused :D
    Makes sense like that!
    Thanks
     
  5. Osorio

    Osorio SS.org Regular

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    I would guess that whether or not you are going to need double flats or sharps depends largely on the tonic. Gb Minor, for instance, already has 2 double flats. Not a very practical key... Writing a Chromatic Gb would certainly wield some weird sheet music.
    I'm not sure I get where you are going with this, so I'm just going to stop here and let someone more qualified take over.

    Gotta say though, that page has some very interesting material. I love me some math on my music. There is an article there regarding the Pythagorean Comma which is mighty interesting, as well as the article on Pitch Circles, something I have fought about before but never developed. Thanks for linking!
     
  6. Dayn

    Dayn SS.org Regular

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    I like what's been said.

    To me, it's just about making it easy to read, and realising the functions of notes. In a major scale, there's 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. That leaves b2, b3, #4, b6, and b7. So C D E F G A B, with Db, Eb, F#, Ab, and Bb. That's how I always see scale degrees written.

    After all, if you're playing in C major, why write A, G#, G? That's 6, #5, 5. It makes more sense to write A, Ab, G; that is 6, b6, 5. It just makes so much more sense to me: if you see a flat, you know it's b2, b3, b6 or b7. If you see a sharp, it's a #4. And if you see a natural... well, that's self-explanatory.

    Or maybe I'm just a bit obsessive compulsive. I like consistent nomenclature, one note name per scale degree. Now that I know this, it bugs the hell out of me when people say their 8-string is in Gb standard. B is the augmented third of Gb... It makes more sense to be B as the perfect fourth of F#! *twitch*
     
  7. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    The way that I look at accidentals is that you have to think of where you're going from, and where you're going to. Not only do you have to relate a pitch to its tonality (if there is one), but also with its function (as a chord tone or non-chord tone), the pitches that surround it, and any pitch that it makes harmony with. A general rule is to use as few accidentals as possible, meaning that rather than trilling between C and C#...

    [​IMG]

    ... it would be better to write a trill between B# and C#.

    [​IMG]

    Or C and D♭. Whatever the situation calls for. Whatever the case, notice how repeating a pitch name and changing the accidental makes the music much busier to the eye. When you multiply that many times over a score, it looks very messy. I spend a lot of time with notation, I have a lot to say on the subject, but I don't really know where to begin, so I composed a short theme for this discussion.

    [​IMG]

    If you want to listen, the audio is here. I've been studying Brahms lately, so you'll have to forgive me for writing along those lines.

    Let's have a look at all those tasty accidentals. First, let's check our tonality. This theme is in B minor (to match the key in the OP), and we have a key signature that reflects this. I'll explain each accidental, measure by measure.

    2: A# - Leading tone. From the harmonic alteration of the minor scale. Part of an F#7 chord.

    4: A# again. Same story as before. There's also an E♭ in the bass. If you compare it to the tonic, B-E♭ is a diminished fourth. Not a desirable interval; better spelled as a major third, B-D#. However, the tonic can go fuck itself. That E♭ is part of an augmented sixth (E♭-C#) that is expanding chromatically in either direction to an octave D. The accidental is chosen to reflect the destination of the voice.

    8: E#. Yeah, don't call it F. E# is acting as a secondary leading tone to F#. We like to see motion in a line that resolves like that, so the upward motion of E#-F# is preferable to the static (and rather messy) appearance of F-F#. Also, E# is the third of a C# triad in this instance. A tertian spelling is required. Please don't spell it as C# F G#. This is how spellings for C triads work:

    C - C E G
    C# - C# E# G#
    C♭ - C♭ E♭ G♭
    C♭♭ - C♭♭ E♭♭ G♭♭

    Make sure to keep the correct intervallic relationship when chords are involved.

    9, 10, 11, 12: A# is from the V chord, and E# is a secondary leading tone to the F#. Nothing new. There is a minor violation in measure 12, though. Between E# and D is an augmented second. Not a nice interval to look at, and one that is generally avoided in the style that I am imitating. Nevertheless, I don't much care: it's part of an F# harmonic minor scale (F# G# A B C# D E#), pianists practice that stuff regularly and a few augmented seconds in a melody won't be a huge issue., so I'm not too worried.

    On that note, it's worthwhile to mention that a modulation is taking place. Well, a tonicization, really. F# is becoming the new pitch center.

    13: The E# has already been explained. Let's look at the B#. Don't write C! Look where this B# is going. It's a secondary leading tone to C# (the dominant of the new key). Refer to my comments on measure 8.

    14: E# and G#. Stick the C# on top and you have a first inversion V triad. No A♭'s or F's here, because that would screw up the spelling and it would no longer look like a C# triad.

    15: G#'s in the new key.

    16, 18: E# - Leading tone of F#.

    19, 20: A# - Leading tone of B. Going back to the tonic key.

    21: E♭ - Part of a E♭+ triad. The spelling is not that important, and this could easily be D#+. However, rather than making an diminished fourth with the voice right on top of it, I'm respelling it to get a major third, because those look so much nicer than diminished fourths. Also, it's going to D, and I don't want to have to iterate that the D is natural.

    22, 23, 24: E# and G# - tonicizing F# again.

    25: A# - The leading tone of B. Part of an F# triad. Soon followed by A, which is the spelling one would expect in an F#m triad. And, of course, the E# in the bass is a tonicizing that F#.

    I hope that sheds a bit of light onto the matter. There is no one way to do chromatic spellings, or to write a chromatic scale. Everything is contextual, as always.
     
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  8. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    That will take me a while to digest in detail but thanks a bunch! It's fantastic that you go to so much effort as to record and score a piece haha, brilliant. Great music too!
     
  9. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    EDIT: Wrong thread
     

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