Musical notes

When talking about music, every sound has a note: even your voice. I speak in sol; my friend, in mi; even the drums sound different because they are tuned in different tensions. That being said, the first thing you must know about the musical notes is that they are not seven but twelve. Here you have the list of seven you sure know...

Do – Re – Mi – Fa – Sol – La – Ti

...and here are the other five, named after them...

Sharp do – Sharp re – Sharp fa – Sharp sol – Sharp la


Flat re – Flat mi – Flat sol – Flat la – Flat ti

...depending on how you are writing or reading a song.

Together, the twelve musical notes form what musicians know as the chromatic scale, which might be read as...

do – sharp do – re – sharp re – mi – fa – sharp fa – sol – sharp sol – la – sharp la – ti


do – flat re – re – flat mi – mi – fa – flat sol – sol – flat la – la – flat ti - ti

...again, depending on how you are reading or writing a song.


To prevent the need or writing all those words once and again, musicians replace the notes with symbols on a score or letters —though letters are preferably used when abbreviating chords.

Thus, you have that...

+ la is replaced with the letter A
+ ti with B
+ do with C
+ re with D
+ mi with E
+ fa with F, and
+ sol with G

...leaving the # and b symbols for sharp and flat notes, respectively, both on scores and in chords.

So in theory you could write the twelve notes of the chromatic scale like this...

C – C# – D – D# - E – F – F# – G – G# – A – A# – B – C

...or like this...

C – Db – D – Eb – E – F – Gb – G – Ab – A – Bb – B – C

...yet this is not very usual.

These twelve sounds, the chromatic scale, are the grounds of all Western music (I say Western music because other civilizations developed other musical arrangements, a few with even more musical notes). We still respect the old-school definition of seven musical notes to say the difference between a do and the next one (either in a higher or lower pitch) is an octave (the eighth sound); but it will be easier for you to understand if I explain it in terms of tones and half-tones, something I will do in the next article.

A few final facts

+ All musical instruments can play the whole musical notes. I would say only drums cannot.
+ Musical notes and chords are not the same.
+ The names of the musical notes come from a poem in Latin named "Ut queant laxis"

Continue with... Tones, half-tones and intervals

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