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    Musical Alphabet: Interactive Guide to Music Notes & Octaves

    πŸ”€ The musical alphabet is the set of letters that name the notes in music. In this mini interactive guide, we take a look at that alphabet.

    You can click the hexagons below to hear the sound of each note on the piano.

    To get a better understanding of the other core musical concepts, check out this guide to music theory.

    7 Letters in the Musical Alphabet

    The musical alphabet consists of just 7 letters, from A to G:

    A B C D E F G A

    Letters Repeat, Octaves Change

    You've probably noticed that the alphabet starts again once we run through it. The difference is that they start again on a higher octave.

    The same note letter on a different octave sounds like the same note, just on a higher register. To be able to name each note uniquely, we number the octaves.

    Here you can play the notes from A on the 4th octave (A4) to A on the 5th octave (A5)

    A 4 B 4 C 5 D 5 E 5 F 5 G 5 A 5

    Octaves Change on the Letter 'C'

    As you might have noticed, the octave number changes on the letter 'C'. Because of that, we often think of the musical alphabet in the order starting with C:

    C 4 D 4 E 4 F 4 G 4 A 4 B 4 C 5

    7 Natural Notes

    We call these 7 letters the natural notes. They are the white keys on a piano keyboard:

    Piano keyboard with natural notes

    Black Keys Have the Same Letters, Just Sharp or Flat

    There's more than 7 notes in any given octave, in fact there's actually 12. We call those 12 notes the chromatic scale.

    The remaining 5 notes use the same letter names, just with an extra character that makes them either sharp (β™―) or flat (β™­). Sometimes we just use a small 'b' for the flat symbol.

    That means two names that can be used to refer to the same note. Cβ™― is the same note as Dβ™­. We'll often call them as sharp when going up and flat when going down.

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

    And here they are as flat notes:

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

    These sharp or flat notes use the same convention with octave numbers (e.g: Cβ™―4, Cβ™―5,...).

    Sharps and Flats

    The sharp or flat notes are the black keys on a piano keyboard. Here they are on a piano keyboard:

    Piano keyboard with sharps or flat notes highlighted


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    Circle of fifths with major and minor keys