#1
I've always wondered that. Almost everybody is taught that music theory centers around the C major scale. I realize that the C major scale has all natural notes, but so does A minor. And I don't know about you, but MY alphabet starts with A. More of a pet peeve than anything, but I find it kinda funny. So, why did they start the piano with C?

P.S. This is a fun, curious thread. Loosen up
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#2
Well A is before C but Major over Minor I guess.
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#3
C has no sharps or flats.

I dunno, every formulas are based on the major scale... it's just the way it is.
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#4
maybe cause of middle c on a piano
but then that brings the question of why is the c in the middle
i also wonder why they chose the letters they did for each note
and the sharps and flats instead of adding another note i have many questions im to lazy to research
#6
Quote by FlyinHigh26
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#7
On most pianos the lowest note is an A.
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#8
Because C major is the only major scale with no accidentals (C D E F G A B C), and I guess they just can't be f*cked with A Minor.

Or the guy was from the Cripz.
#9
Quote by FlyinHigh26
Why is anything anything?


That reminds me of Louis CK


"Because something that isn't can't be!"
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#10
no sharps or flats,

that way whenever you want to start talking about added them theres no confusion.

Aminor also has no sharps or flats. its much easier to explain

because Am is the relative minor to C essentially they are the scale starting on a different note. because they have the same key signature
#11
Quote by supersac
maybe cause of middle c on a piano
but then that brings the question of why is the c in the middle
i also wonder why they chose the letters they did for each note
and the sharps and flats instead of adding another note i have many questions im to lazy to research


Before the stave was split in to Treble and Bass clef, music was written on an 11 line stave, and the line in the middle was the note C; Therefore we call it middle C ^^.
#12
Quote by Lateralus13
Before the stave was split in to Treble and Bass clef, music was written on an 11 line stave, and the line in the middle was the note C; Therefore we call it middle C ^^.


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#13
C major is not the "basis of theory". who said something like that?

that being said, C major is the easiest key to show examples in, because all notes are natural. therefore when displaying examples - such as scale alterations or chord alterations, it's easiest for a beginner to understand. it's easier to demonstrate a french augmented sixth chord by saying that it consists of the notes Ab C D F# built off of C, rather than saying it consists of D F# G# B# built off of F#. the intervals become much easier to understand, because it's clear what the original notes of C major are. it may not be as clear to the beginning student what the notes of F# major are.

it's just easier for beginners who haven't completely internalized intervals and the whole sharp/flat system.
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#14
C major is used because it has no sharps or flats and it's the first of the different modes. Also Major scales are more used then Minor modes. And there's probably something to do with middle C
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#15
Quote by bingeandletgo
I've always wondered that. Almost everybody is taught that music theory centers around the C major scale. I realize that the C major scale has all natural notes, but so does A minor. And I don't know about you, but MY alphabet starts with A. More of a pet peeve than anything, but I find it kinda funny. So, why did they start the piano with C?

P.S. This is a fun, curious thread. Loosen up


So far you've got C Ionion and A Aeolian, all natural. And why stop there? How about D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, etc... they're technically all natural!

Jokes aside, probably back in the classical era, Ionion was preferred over the rest? because it was hard and stressful back then? so they needed to lighten the mood and have their emotions cheered up (think Bach music)? Did Christian music have something to do with it? I noticed how Christian music has a lot of songs in the key of major and back then, religion had a lot of influence.

There's one thing I don't understand though. Why is 261.625hz called middle "C"? Why can't 261.625hz be called "middle "A"? But! 440hz is called "Concert A" in which everyone tunes it to that. Wait now that I've mentioned it, shouldn't 440hz be chosen as middle A instead? Wouldn't it look better if we transpose the keyboard 3 half steps up or 9 half steps down so that A is where C is. An A major scale would then have all white keys rather than having 3 sharps in it and C major would be like Eb major. I'm confused...

In case no one knew, the "5" line stave came from the number of fingers we have. We have 10 fingers total. One hand represented the treble staff and the other hand represented the bass staff. Musicians would either point at their fingers (line) or the space in between their fingers (space). This was how the 5 line staff was formed. Theoretically, if humans had 6 fingers instead, we would expect to see a 6 line staff. If humans had a total of 4 arms and 8 fingers each, you would expect to see a four 8-line stave Just imagine how many lines and stave there would be if you were an octopus
#16
Quote by Lateralus13
Before the stave was split in to Treble and Bass clef, music was written on an 11 line stave, and the line in the middle was the note C; Therefore we call it middle C ^^.


Where does this information come from? I'm a bit hesitant to believe it.
#17
Quote by Slayertplsko
Where does this information come from? I'm a bit hesitant to believe it.


why did you think middle C was called middle C? music was, in fact, notated on one staff of eleven lines at one point. naturally, it was the two staves we know today on the grand staff, except the center staff wasn't notated by ledger line. at some point, probably for clarity, the middle line was done away with, and we have what we know now as the grand staff. that middle line was C (given that the two clefs were treble on the top and bass on the bottom, of course), and that particular note has come to be known as middle C.

i'm afraid that's all i can give you off the top of my head. i honestly have no clue when this 11-line staff was in use, or when the center line was removed, but i'm sure if you look it up, you'll find more information.
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#18
Quote by Brncao
So far you've got C Ionion and A Aeolian, all natural. And why stop there? How about D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, etc... they're technically all natural!

Jokes aside, probably back in the classical era, Ionion was preferred over the rest? because it was hard and stressful back then? so they needed to lighten the mood and have their emotions cheered up (think Bach music)? Did Christian music have something to do with it? I noticed how Christian music has a lot of songs in the key of major and back then, religion had a lot of influence.


well in the classical era they didnt think of modes as parts of the major scale, ionian and aeolian were nothing special, just more modes/scales. for example, they wouldnt go from C ionian to D dorian, they'd just choose 1 with no thought of the other. and if they needed a happy scale there's still mixolydian and lydian. sory if i just set back the entire conversation by bringing this up haha i raised more questions than answers.
#19
major scale is probably preffered over minor scales as the basis for explaining everything else because the intervals in a major triad are closer to naturally consonant intervals than the the intervals in a minor triad. before equal temperament, they were the same.
#21
^ First instrument I played (before guitar) was a keyboard/piano back in 2001. And it allowed to me memorize all the notes. It just makes sense to base everything around CDEFGAB

Also, I have a great automatic tuner by First Act (only good product they ever made) and it goes in that order as well. Although, it does have sharps/flats as well. Thankfully.
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#22
1) contains no sharps or flats. Sharps and flats often cause unnecessary confusion for beginners.
2) major scales are more consonant than their relative minor and its easier to create functional harmony with a major scale than a minor scale due to the b7.
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Last edited by mergapoot at Jul 14, 2010,
#23
The basis of most music theory is based off the Major scale. C is the only Major scale that has no sharps and flats. Granted, yes, A minor has no sharps or flats, but if you give the scale A B C D E F G, and are a beginner, and don't know that the minor scale already has a B3, b6, and b7, and you give the formula for a minorchord, they may think A minor is A Cb E *and extending the 7th, Gb*, seeing as the minor chord formula is 1 b3 5. Its easier to base it off the major scale, because, well ,thats what most theory is based off of
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#24
Quote by bingeandletgo
That reminds me of Louis CK


"Because something that isn't can't be!"

Why?
#25
First the greeks had the modes. Ionian being one of them.

Over time a bunch of white dudes from Europe started using complex harmonies.

Just so happes that the Ionian mode is tonally very stable, because of the leading tone, and half step relationship from the 4th scale degree to the third.

While this was going on people invented ways to notate what they were singing or playing. Some used lots of lines, some don't have lines. Every pitch has lots of different names depending on where you are, when you are, and what the context is.

In the west it just so happens that piano is a big part of how people approach learning music. The Ionian scale just happens to occur naturally in our key of C.

There were other good reasons posted earlier, too.
#26
Quote by bingeandletgo
I've always wondered that. Almost everybody is taught that music theory centers around the C major scale. I realize that the C major scale has all natural notes, but so does A minor. And I don't know about you, but MY alphabet starts with A. More of a pet peeve than anything, but I find it kinda funny. So, why did they start the piano with C?

P.S. This is a fun, curious thread. Loosen up


Whole and half steps.

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#27
Quote by illmatic2594
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Because if it was then it wouldn't isn't be.
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#28
I always thought the thing that separated Ionian and Aeolian (tonal vs Modal), was that their harmonic potential was built off a 'stronger' structure of intervals, thus general composition became easier.

As for the difference between C Major and A minor I really don't know what they were thinking, obviously the 'happy' sounding scale would be more popular so you would think they would instead make it A Major and F minor for the sake of simplicity.

In my fantasy world of musical history I'd like to think that there was some sort of compromise made because musicians who favored the minor scale (like myself) didn't want it to be considered inferior to the Major (as if calling it minor wasn't bad enough) so they let the clean minor start on A.

But I don't know lol. That story is unlikely, I wonder if anyone will just rewrite musical theory one day.
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#29
I guess because C Major has no sharps or flats of any kind whatsoever while the A minor scale when written out has a G# accidental.
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#30
Quote by guitarnoob_100
I guess because C Major has no sharps or flats of any kind whatsoever while the A minor scale when written out has a G# accidental.

Erm no it doesn't, that would make it A harmonic minor
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#31
Quote by Serpentarius
Erm no it doesn't, that would make it A harmonic minor


Ahh, right how the hell did I forget that? Lol How did I get an A* in IGCSE Music.
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#32
easy.

major scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
minor scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

that's why C major > A minor
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#33
There are more minor scales than major ones, and the minor are trickier to understand for a beginner.
#34
Quote by primusfan
easy.

major scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
minor scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

that's why C major > A minor


This is your answer.

And I quote because out of all these posts only two people have said this, and it took 23 posts for it to be said the first time.

Nearly everything in music relates back to the major scale.

For example
A minor is an A major scale with a b3 a b6 and a b7
A Dorian is an A major scale with a b3 and a b7
A Phrygian is an A major scale with a b2 b3 b6 b7
and so on and so forth.
#35
Quote by primusfan
easy.

major scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
minor scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7

that's why C major > A minor


I think the question has more to do with why the C major scale isn't instead labeled A major. It would seem to some people that the major scale with the strongest bias attached to it by standard notation and the keyboard layout would be named from the beginning of the alphabet.
Last edited by Dodeka at Jul 15, 2010,
#36
Because Minor is more complicated than Major.
Minor can have a raised 7th to make it a leading tone. Therefore better resolutions. And to compensate for that the 6th has to raised to get a whole tone jump rather than 1 and 1/2 jump. (Harmonic minor and Melodic minor.)

Thats why C major is easier to start and learn with.

Problem solved???
#37
Quote by bingeandletgo
I've always wondered that. Almost everybody is taught that music theory centers around the C major scale. I realize that the C major scale has all natural notes, but so does A minor. And I don't know about you, but MY alphabet starts with A. More of a pet peeve than anything, but I find it kinda funny. So, why did they start the piano with C?

P.S. This is a fun, curious thread. Loosen up


I've never wondered about this. I think its more useful to just accept it for what it is, and get to making music.
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#38
Quote by GuitarMunky
I've never wondered about this. I think its more useful to just accept it for what it is, and get to making music.


True this, there's no point splitting hairs, no one actually knows why 'they decided to call that note C' and even if they did allocate it to A, it would only make a marginal difference.

The prevalence of the C Major scale is logical. It's labeling is not, but rather trivial really.
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#39
Quote by AeolianWolf
C major is not the "basis of theory". who said something like that?

that being said, C major is the easiest key to show examples in, because all notes are natural. therefore when displaying examples - such as scale alterations or chord alterations, it's easiest for a beginner to understand. it's easier to demonstrate a french augmented sixth chord by saying that it consists of the notes Ab C D F# built off of C, rather than saying it consists of D F# G# B# built off of F#. the intervals become much easier to understand, because it's clear what the original notes of C major are. it may not be as clear to the beginning student what the notes of F# major are.

it's just easier for beginners who haven't completely internalized intervals and the whole sharp/flat system.


true. C is no more the basis of theory than A sharp or any other note. C is the 'example' often used to explain interval relationshiops...but even 'C' as an example is certainly less so today than 50 years ago.

The demise of the piano and rise of the guitar has shifted much theory to more practical progressions around E and A keys. With millions more playing guitar than 'orchestral' instuments...theory surrounding blues and rock guitar is prevalent in the western world. E and A are often the notes used.