Question by Sketchy Skeptic: Musical Half and Whole Steps with Respect to Frequency (Hz) [10 points!]?
I’m somewhat new to music theory and would like to truly understand it, not just memorize, so I can use it properly. I’m looking for a little more of an explanation that “because that’s the way Western music is”.
I would like to know why in a major scale we call E->F a half step and B->C a half step. An octave is a doubling of the frequency of a note, and I assume the notes A->G are spaced by some relationship of frequency (I would appreciate this relationship if you know). What I really want to know is, does this relationship of frequency actually change between E->F relative to D->E (i.e. is the expected jump in frequency between notes halved or something?) and if so, why does it sound good (do they sound like a half an interval the trained ear?), and why would they bother giving them major letter names- just laziness when making major scales?
I know that’s a lot of questions, but if you can answer them, you will have probably changed my entire outlook on music. Thanks in advance!
Answer by YahooUser
I’ll just answer one, see if you can figure out the rest.
One octave=doubling of frequency
There are 12 notes in one octave (never mind what they are called, 12 is the relevant number).
Each note differs from the previous ( and consequently the next one) by the 12th root of 2 which is about 1.0596. So the frequency of D is 1.0596x frequency of the (preceding) C and so on.
Note that this spacing makes the notes belong to a geometric, rather than arithmetic, progression.
Now, let’s introduce the notes’ names: A, B, C etc. We stop at G: that is seven names and we have 12 notes, so we add # (or ♭if you go backward … :-)) to each name. Problem: we now have 14 names for 12 notes! 2 have to go and you know which ones went.
Now,why 12 notes, why flats and sharps and so on: search the net, it is a long story. You may want to read why Bach composed the Preludes for the Well Tempered Clavier.
Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!