Wild Blue Pixel
TIP OF THE DAY
Friday, January 19, 2007
Last week we talked about the lack of standard scales in Europe in the Middle Ages and that some ingenious person figured out a solution to this problem at the end of the 16th century.
So what did they figure out? They figured out a consistent way to tune the 12-tone scale.
You know "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do", right? Well, that is an 8-note scale. Oops, it's not 8--we counted Do twice! Well, alright then, it has 7 unique tones. But how do we get 12 from that scale?
If you've ever played piano, you know two facts: you don't play every note when you play a scale, you skip some notes, and the distance between some notes is larger than others. When you skip a note, such as when you go from Do to Re, this is called a whole step. From Mi to Fa, where there is no skipped note, that is called a half step.
I will use the symbol ^ to represent a skipped note. Now the above scale becomes
Do ^ Re ^ Mi Fa ^ So ^ La ^ Ti Do
Count how many notes you see there, either named notes or skipped notes which are designated by a "^". You get... 13. Ah, but don't count the top Do. OK, so now that makes 12 unique notes in the western scale.
Well, so what? More next week!