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G sharp / A flat...which is it? #2198779
12/16/13 08:38 PM
12/16/13 08:38 PM
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Posts: 3
Central AL, USA
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cncwhiz1 Offline OP
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I've seen plenty of discussion on key names on the keyboard, but I'm confused about something.

Looking at the keyboard, let's say we are looking at a G sharp. Isn't A flat the same key?

Are these used interchangeably or are they stated as what they are based on the key the certain piece is in?

Thanks

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Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2198782
12/16/13 08:41 PM
12/16/13 08:41 PM
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Sweet06 Offline
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Technically they are the same. As far as notation i believe it follows how the key works. So if the key is G then its going to be called F# not G flat, because that key is written with 1 #. And the key of F will have a B flat not an A# for the same reason.

I'd like if someone can confirm what I'm saying tho as this is just my beginner understanding.


"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
"The joy is in the practicing. It's like relationships. Yeah, orgasms are awesome, but you can't make love to someone who you have no relationship with!"
Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2198783
12/16/13 08:43 PM
12/16/13 08:43 PM
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Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted by cncwhiz1
Looking at the keyboard, let's say we are looking at a G sharp. Isn't A flat the same key?

Yes.

Originally Posted by cncwhiz1
Are these used interchangeably?

No. Depending on the context of the accidental, one of them is right and the other one isn't. (And sometimes both of them are wrong.)


Regards,

Polyphonist
Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2198793
12/16/13 09:02 PM
12/16/13 09:02 PM
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Virginia, USA
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Andy Platt Offline
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The one word left to add to this discussion is: enharmonic.

It's the word that means the same physically sounding note can be notated different ways (Db, C# is another example.)

You can have enharmonic scales - F#/Gb major is F#/Gb, G#/Ab, A#/Bb, B/Cb, C#/Db, D#/Eb, E#/F, F#/Gb.

Prior to even temperament, G# and Ab wouldn't have sounded the same by the way.



  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

Kawai K3
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Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: Andy Platt] #2198815
12/16/13 09:45 PM
12/16/13 09:45 PM
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Info2011 Offline
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Originally Posted by Andy Platt


Prior to even temperament, G# and Ab wouldn't have sounded the same by the way.



Can you explain? I'm intrigued.

Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: Info2011] #2198821
12/16/13 10:09 PM
12/16/13 10:09 PM
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Andy Platt Offline
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Originally Posted by Info2011
Originally Posted by Andy Platt


Prior to even temperament, G# and Ab wouldn't have sounded the same by the way.



Can you explain? I'm intrigued.


Ugh, it's difficult to explain but basically it used to be common practice to tune instruments so that it was based around ratios of wavelength of 3:2 for perfect fifths. However, when you do that you end up with a slightly different note values for, what we have as enharmonic notes, because they don't divide evenly into an octave.

Perhaps best to just point to this: Pythagorean Tuning.


  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

Kawai K3
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Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2198829
12/16/13 10:28 PM
12/16/13 10:28 PM
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Sweet06 Offline
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i get intimidated when we start venturing into the aspects as technical as andy is trying to talk about lol


"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
"The joy is in the practicing. It's like relationships. Yeah, orgasms are awesome, but you can't make love to someone who you have no relationship with!"
Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2198841
12/16/13 10:55 PM
12/16/13 10:55 PM
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Calgary, Alberta
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Calgary Mike Offline
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It would be most common to use Ab if you are considering the note as the tonic of a scale. If you follow the circle of fifths... B major then Gb then Db then Ab. Ab major, as a scale, has four flats: Ab, Bb, Eb & Db.

If you are interpreting the scale as G# major, it has 8 sharps G#, A#,B#,C#,D#,E#,F##.

Otherwise the note is named in context of the key of the music you are playing or the accidental used...

Last edited by Calgary Mike; 12/16/13 10:58 PM.

Kawai K6 and Yamaha P85
Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: Andy Platt] #2198963
12/17/13 06:25 AM
12/17/13 06:25 AM
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wouter79 Offline
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Originally Posted by Andy Platt
The one word left to add to this discussion is: enharmonic.

It's the word that means the same physically sounding note can be notated different ways (Db, C# is another example.)

You can have enharmonic scales - F#/Gb major is F#/Gb, G#/Ab, A#/Bb, B/Cb, C#/Db, D#/Eb, E#/F, F#/Gb.

Prior to even temperament, G# and Ab wouldn't have sounded the same by the way.



+1. They are NOT the same note. But we have no choice on the piano since both notes use the same key. The piano key sounds probably somewhere between G# and Ab.



There are even keyboards that have two keys to fix this problem

split sharp wiki

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Note, there are also keyboards having such keys but for a different purpose - two different tunings on the same instrument.


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Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2198964
12/17/13 06:27 AM
12/17/13 06:27 AM
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wouter79 Offline
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Note, they even have a special key for b# smile

And it all stays an approximation, there is always another problem around the corner. For example, this keyboard does not have a separate key for F##



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Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: cncwhiz1] #2200011
12/19/13 07:23 AM
12/19/13 07:23 AM
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ZBGM0 Offline
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Originally Posted by cncwhiz1
I've seen plenty of discussion on key names on the keyboard, but I'm confused about something.

Looking at the keyboard, let's say we are looking at a G sharp. Isn't A flat the same key?

Are these used interchangeably or are they stated as what they are based on the key the certain piece is in?

Thanks


Yes , it is the same. But G# major/E# minor key exists only in theory. Why would you like to write something that has 8 sharps (one double sharp). It is easier to use Ab major with 4 flats.

They are so called theoretical keys (impossible keys), similar is with Db minor key, which is relative key to Fb major key, which has 8 flats (one double). It is easier to use C# minor/E major key. Although I heard some composer used Db minor key.

Theoretically you can use any key, you can compose something in Cx major and you will have a mess with sharps. Why not simply use D major.



But if you are asking just for a single key on the keyboard or a single tone (not the key signature), then it depends on which key you are in. for instance in B major you will name this key G#, if you play something in Eb major then this key will be Ab.

Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: ZBGM0] #2200042
12/19/13 09:04 AM
12/19/13 09:04 AM
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TimR Offline
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Originally Posted by ZBGM0
They are so called theoretical keys (impossible keys), similar is with Db minor key, which is relative key to Fb major key, which has 8 flats (one double). It is easier to use C# minor/E major key. Although I heard some composer used Db minor key.


Yes. I do run into Bbb in the key signature in wind ensemble music, and there is one famous example in the orchestral literature. I've forgotten the piece, but IIRC on the repeat the bassoon solo is actually notated in E major.

Notation is an imperfect way of describing the intent. While it is true that in musical context an Ab and a G# will usually be slightly different pitches, it is not necessary to notate them differently. It is up to the skilled professional to play them correctly. (given an instrument that can - most of the wind and string instruments can shade the pitch enough, while keyboard and tuned percussion can't)

On the other hand, the editor should know the intended players and notate in the least confusing manner, even if it is not the most correct way by the theory. G# might be the correct way to spell the chord, but if writing for middle school band you're probably better off using Ab. The purist will sneer but that's better than putting up with hearing the wrong note. That's even more true with double sharps and double flats. At a gig where the music is sightread you'd probably want to minimize those, unless some professor is going to grade you.


gotta go practice
Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: ZBGM0] #2200053
12/19/13 09:34 AM
12/19/13 09:34 AM
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Andy Platt Offline
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Originally Posted by ZBGM0
Originally Posted by cncwhiz1
I've seen plenty of discussion on key names on the keyboard, but I'm confused about something.

Looking at the keyboard, let's say we are looking at a G sharp. Isn't A flat the same key?

Are these used interchangeably or are they stated as what they are based on the key the certain piece is in?

Thanks


Yes , it is the same. But G# major/E# minor key exists only in theory. Why would you like to write something that has 8 sharps (one double sharp). It is easier to use Ab major with 4 flats.


I love to play in B# major, it means I get to use just the white keys! wink


  • Debussy - Le Petit Nègre, L. 114
  • Haydn - Sonata in Gm, Hob. XVI/44

Kawai K3
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Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: Andy Platt] #2200078
12/19/13 10:41 AM
12/19/13 10:41 AM
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TimR Offline
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Originally Posted by Andy Platt
Originally Posted by ZBGM0
Originally Posted by cncwhiz1
I've seen plenty of discussion on key names on the keyboard, but I'm confused about something.

Looking at the keyboard, let's say we are looking at a G sharp. Isn't A flat the same key?

Are these used interchangeably or are they stated as what they are based on the key the certain piece is in?

Thanks


Yes , it is the same. But G# major/E# minor key exists only in theory. Why would you like to write something that has 8 sharps (one double sharp). It is easier to use Ab major with 4 flats.


I love to play in B# major, it means I get to use just the white keys! wink


So you spell your I chord B#, xD, xF? Makes my head hurt! Good example though.


gotta go practice
Re: G sharp / A flat...which is it? [Re: TimR] #2200080
12/19/13 10:44 AM
12/19/13 10:44 AM
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ZBGM0 Offline
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Try to play/write in A triple sharp major. very intereseing key:)

Ax# major:)



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