Note Naming Conventions

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Vulgano Brother, Nov 16, 2011.

  1. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    True story: J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, three trumpet parts in D and all three trumpet players playing on piccolo trumpets in a. A written c’’ is being discussed—the first trumpeter refers to it as the sounding pitch (d’’), the second as the written pitch (c’’), and the third as the note in relation to the key of the trumpet being played (f).

    I can see referencing the note as either the written or the sounding pitch. Personally, I prefer the following conventions: for situations that involve transposition (orchestral and chamber music and Jazz combo music using the Real Book in C) I prefer to refer to the sounding pitch; for band and big band, I prefer referring to the written pitch. No real convention that I know of for this.

    Regardless of the above, there are a number of conventions for designating pitches; I suggest we use the Musical Pitch Notation of Helmholtz with one variation. Helmholtz was one of the early acousticians, and his method is international. My variation is that rather than use the superscript i, iii, etc. we use ‘,’’’ etc. for notes from middle C and above. (Easier than using superscript.)

    Using this method, c’ designates middle c, one note above is d’, etc. An octave above c’ is c’’ (C in the staff) and c’’’ for the C above the staff. c’’’’ is an octave above that. An octave below c’ is c (what we call “pedal C”), and octave below that is C. A B below middle C (c’) is b; a B below c is B, a B below C is BB (a C an octave below C is CC, but we don’t venture there too much). An alternative to using apostrophes would be to use numbers: c’ would be c1, c’’ would be c2, etc.

    Adopting a convention for naming notes would save typing—it is easier to write b’’ (or b2) than “B below the C above the staff.” A convention such as Helmholtz’s eliminates the whole “high note, low note mentality, which can have some psychological benefit. An excellent source of music theory online can be found at Dolmetsch Online

    I’m curious what conventions our members use.
  2. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    I think we should start refering to notes by their frequency in hertz.
    Concert A = 440
    Normal High C = 932
    Trumpet Double C = 1865
  3. codyb226

    codyb226 Banned

    Mar 9, 2011
    Florida, US
    That is a very good and clear way to say what C you can play/are playing. I am using this from now on.
  4. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
    Is that where Double Bb came from? A tuba whose C is BbBb? Bb below C? or an octave below?
  5. SmoothOperator

    SmoothOperator Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 14, 2010
    I read A=440, so I am pretty sure that means my C is higher than yours ;-)
  6. kehaulani

    kehaulani Fortissimo User

    May 14, 2011
    Hawaian homey
    I use C in the middle of the grand staff as unadorned "C" because, well, it's in the middle of the grand staff.

    Going up is easy, C1, C2 etc. makes sense to me. But with that logic wouldn't the application going down in the opposite direction, then, be C-1, C-2 etc?
    That makes a lot of sense to me but it'll never be used because you can't budge the present system.

    The exceptions to what we are discussing are when people of like instruments are discussing the notes of their instruments. Written Bb1 on Sax would not be written Bb1 on flute, for example.
  7. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Hey Jiarby, we're trumpet players here--if A = 440, then a "Normal" High C would be around 1880!
  8. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    I don't necessarily disagree, however to some of the student trumpeteers here, and even some comebackers -- who didn't learn C,C1 or C, C' terminology - I think it is more clear to describe the notes such that everyone can understand them, even if that takes a few extra words. So the High C is that C above the C in the staff, and the double high C is the octave above the High C. And the C below the staff is - well it is the C below the staff. ROFL, ROFL
  9. nieuwguyski

    nieuwguyski Forte User

    Aug 9, 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA

    That's the weakness with any attempt at "universal terminology" -- there are always some annoying back-waters of the Universe that don't get your memos. I've thrown my hands up over the holy wars that erupt over correct "dubba" terminology, and use the wordy approach to identifying notes.
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I just play the notes and let the kiddies TALK about them. Very, very seldom are high notes the problem and many times a comma could have saved the day................

    When I work through a piece in a real lesson, I just pencil in what is necessary. During most lessons, we NEVER reference high or low - only pretty and not pretty.

    For internet discussions only the weak really talk about how high something is. Once a note is earned, we just shape it to fit the setting. I like Dolmetsch too!

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