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The Musical Alphabet

The notes used in music are named with a system of letters and symbols called the musical alphabet. We need the musical alphabet so everyone can describe the exact same notes when talking about music. These musical note names are the same for bass, guitar, piano, violin and all other musical instruments.

12 Notes

There are only 12 notes. I know this may seem wrong or confusing. Surely you’ve seen more than 12 keys on a piano! But, its true. There are only twelve. The same 12 notes simply keep repeating over and over in what are called different octaves. (It’s not important for you to know what octaves are just yet. We'll get there.)

Natural Notes

To name the notes we use the first seven letters of the alphabet A through G — A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The notes named with these basic letters are called natural notes.

Sharps and Flats

Flat and Sharp SymbolsThe other 5 remaining notes fall in between the natural notes. They are named with what are called sharps and flats. Sharps and flats indicate if a note is above or below one of the natural notes.

A sharp (♯) looks like a pound, or hash, symbol. Sharp means to go up one note. For example, the note “A♯” (pronounced "A sharp") is one note above "A".

A flat (♭) looks like a lower case letter b. Flat means to go down one note. For example, the note “A♭” (pronounced "A flat") is one note below "A".

To help remember which is which, you can picture a sharp tack pointing up and a flat tire going down.

Now, let’s look at the entire musical alphabet in a visual way — on the piano! This will make understanding it and remembering it a piece of cake...

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