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View Full Version : Flats or sharps - does it matter?



jnorris235
06-20-2017, 10:22 AM
I do want to learn the necessary theory to understand scales, Modes, etc one day, but would it be acceptable to just use sharps instead of using both for now? C# instead of Db, for instance. I am having difficulty remembering all the scales and note positions on the fretboard without them having two names!

Croaky Keith
06-20-2017, 11:52 AM
It may confuse you later, but there is no reason why you shouldn't play them as sharps - as long as you remember that they are really flats, that is to say, they are flats in certain keys & sharps in others, & that is where you may get confused. :)

Personally, I'd get used to the correct nomenclature, it's hard to start, but you won't get confused when you try to relearn the proper terminology later. ;)

jnorris235
06-20-2017, 12:12 PM
I wondered if it was one of those anomalies and that in fact it made little difference was just convention. But you reckon it's worth the effort?

kypfer
06-20-2017, 08:23 PM
Everything that ubulele wrote!

I made the decision only to learn what I thought I needed at the time ... it certainly makes any "re-learning" more difficult once you've got into bad habits.

Good luck :music:

jnorris235
06-20-2017, 10:12 PM
Gulp, but thank you

Croaky Keith
06-20-2017, 10:36 PM
Don't worry, just take it slowly, & it will come. :)

Rllink
06-21-2017, 02:56 AM
I agree with all of the above. There will come a time when they do make a difference, and that is not the time that you want to be confused because you didn't learn the basics when you were there.

acmespaceship
06-21-2017, 09:08 AM
Music majors learn theory on piano, no matter what their primary instrument is. The black and white keys are a visual aid that makes it easier to see how the scales, modes and accidentals work. If something about theory isn't clicking for you on the uke fretboard, try working it out on a keyboard. If you don't have a keyboard instrument, go here: http://virtualpiano.net/

The point is not to learn how to play piano. It's to understand why this scale has an Eb and that scale has a D# and this other scale doesn't have either note.

Louis0815
06-21-2017, 10:13 AM
And to add some detail: in fact, there IS a difference between D# and Eb - not much, but still considerable somehow. Read here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_tuning#Tuning_systems) for a start.

Fortunately these differences are only relevant on fretless stringed instruments, so any ukulele player does not really need to worry about it. At least not about how to play, both notes are fretted equally.

PereBourik
06-21-2017, 11:59 AM
More generally, every shortcut you take now will have to be reversed later. It's usually more efficient to learn it the first time. I say this as one who has taken too many shortcuts.

Choirguy
06-21-2017, 06:12 PM
This has been pretty well covered. Simply put, enharmonic notes (notes that sound the same on a fixed length string instrument but spelled differently) do matter according to the key that you are playing in. I ran into this the other day when I wanted a D# chord, and the only chord available in the ukulele chord font was Eb. I used the Eb chord, but made a note about it (e.g. "Yes, I know this should be a D#...but pay the Eb chord that sounds the same on the ukulele).

In choral music, the worst situation I have ever seen was where a note was tied/slurred, switching from a held F to a held E#. The song changed keys at that point, meaning that "in theory" the F had to change...but it really didn't change. This was one of those rare situations that while there was a theoretically reason to change the note--for the singer--just leave it, and switch to the E# later in the song if necessary.

derbyhat
06-21-2017, 08:59 PM
I do want to learn the necessary theory to understand scales, Modes, etc one day, but would it be acceptable to just use sharps instead of using both for now? C# instead of Db, for instance. I am having difficulty remembering all the scales and note positions on the fretboard without them having two names!

My two cents is that you should learn both.

My third cent is that until you're comfortable, limit your songs to a small number of key signatures. That'll minimize the number of chords that you need to learn in the short term, which will help in the long term. :)

Barrytone
06-21-2017, 09:58 PM
I know this is simplistic, but for me I think # sharp going up a scale and b flat coming down.

dhbailey
06-22-2017, 12:21 AM
Apart from the fact that flats and sharps are different notes (especially in vocal and string music where the pitches can be adjusted properly for pure intonation) it's just as important to name the notes correctly as it is to spell words correctly. In English we learn four different spellings for the sound "too" - to, two, too, Tuesday and we can't simply write them all as "to" to make life simpler (much to the chagrin of all the elementary school students with their vocabulary lists and points off for spelling errors). None of it actually matters when we hear the sounds -- context makes the meaning clear with music just as it does with words. But when we discuss it with others or when we write it down or read someone else's writing, being precise is very important.

Choirguy
06-22-2017, 03:21 AM
I know this is simplistic, but for me I think # sharp going up a scale and b flat coming down.

This is the practice if you are playing a chromatic scale, with every note on a (Western-based) instrument.

However, the function of flats or sharps in the context of a scale/key is a different matter.

EDW
06-22-2017, 03:43 AM
Check out http://www.edly.com/mtfpp.html

Great book-lots of great info and believe it or not, makes theory kind of fun!

dhbailey
06-22-2017, 11:41 PM
Thanks for that link and suggestion, EDW. I'm going to order the book right now so that I can know better what it covers so I can recommend it to my private music students. His writing does provide a light and entertaining approach to the often dry and boring subject of music theory. Thanks!

Louis0815
06-23-2017, 03:30 AM
old players who move their fretting finger tip closer to one fret to get a G# or Ab
I would regard this some kind of urban myth - I cannot imagine this to work out at all.
The string vibrates between fret tip and bridge. This length does not change with finger position being closer to the fret or not. And even string tension will not change.

jnorris235
06-23-2017, 04:41 AM
Taken your advice, all, that Edly book and Ukulele Aerobics now being purchased (just as soon as she's left the room.....) - OK, done. Thanks.