#1
Why is it that we use use both flats and sharps to name a scale? Why not just use one. For example why do we called it the Ab major scale and not the G# major scale if they're both the same? When learning scales, should we be thinking in terms of sharps or flats?
#2
Quote by Darkn3ss99
Why is it that we use use both flats and sharps to name a scale? Why not just use one. For example why do we called it the Ab major scale and not the G# major scale if they're both the same? When learning scales, should we be thinking in terms of sharps or flats?


Because they only want to use each letter once. If you stuck to sharp or flat you'd have to use the same letter twice in some cases. There are also situations where you could get double flats for this reason.

For me, personally it never comes up. On piano, it's just which black notes I am using and which white notes that's replacing, (which I guess is also why some would be sharp or flat) and on guitar, it's just what the tonic is, and then the pattern. I never really bother with details like that. I don't need them for playing, just for being technically correct if I write stuff down.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Mar 14, 2015,
#3
It's more convenient. The Ab major scale has 4 flats and the G# major scale has 8 sharps. Which is easier to read or think about? If you're a guitarist who doesn't read and thinks in terms of frets and not notes then it doesn't really matter to you so you can think in either one. But some people might be tripped up for a second if you say A# major instead of Bb major or something like that.
#4
^ Yeah. It makes a lot more sense if you read sheet music. G# major does technically exist, but nobody uses it because it would require using double sharps in the key signature. Why not just use Ab major that has only 4 flats? It's easier to read, and you don't need to use funky note names like F double sharp.

When you are in a key, let's say B major, you need to have all of the seven note names in the key scale. So the scale has B C D E F G A in it. Then you need to figure out where the sharps/flats are. Use the major scale pattern - root, M2, M3, p4, p5, M6, M7. Another way of thinking is in whole/half steps. There's a half step between the 3rd and 4th note and the 7th and 8th (=1st) note of the scale, and a whole step between all the other notes. So now we just need to add the sharps and flats. It becomes B C# D# E F# G# A#.

Let's take another scale. Why do we use Ab major and not G# major? Well, here's why. First, let's write out the seven note names - G A B C D E F. We use the same major scale pattern we used for B major. If we start from G#, there's a half step between G# and A so the A needs to be sharpened. Same with A# and B. Now B# and C are enharmonically the same notes, but B# is the third note of the scale and C is the fourth note. We need to sharpen the C to make the interval between the 3rd and 4th note a minor 2nd. We also need to sharpen D and E. E sharp is enharmonically the same as F. But there should be a whole step between the 6th and 7th notes. Just sharpening the F doesn't give us a whole step - it only gives us a half step. So we need to double sharpen it. The scale we get is G# A# B# C# D# E# Fx.

We can't replace Fx with G because the scale already has a G# in it - and then the scale wouldn't have an F in it. But we can use flats instead of sharps. That way we get Ab Bb C Db Eb F G. Looks a lot simpler, doesn't it?

Remember that every note name needs to appear in the scale.
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#6
Because you only want one of each note in a scale, that determines it.

For example, if your root note is G and you have a small second, You'd call it Ab and not G#, since you already have a G, then, assuming the next step would be a fullstep, it would be a Bb and not an A# - since you already have an A in the Ab.

As far as i know (I am no professor), that is the sole deciding factor of deciding wether to call it an X-flat or an X-sharp.
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