Chords by notes

There are twelve different pitches or notes in music. In chord names, the root note is always written out; therefore, chords are often referred to as a C chord, a D chord and so on.

The letters: C, D, E, F, G, A and B

So, in music we are using the letters C, D, E, F, G, A and B. These are names of notes or pitches, as well as name of chords. It's not the same thing though, a C note is just a note, whereas C chord includes a couple of notes but with C as the root note.

Sharps (#) and flats (b)

sharp and flat symbolsIn chord names and in many other circumstances the flats and sharps are written in the symbols # and b, respectively. The flat means that a tone is flattened and the sharp means that a tone is raised.

So, in other words, a Db is a D that is flattened one semi-step (a whole step had made it to a C). And accordingly, a D# is a D that is raised one semi-step (a whole step had made it to a E).

Often confusing is the fact that b and # can occur in different chord names, but referring to identical chords. D# and Eb is actually the same tone or chord (if read as a chord symbol). The reason why two symbols are used for the same thing is that the musical context, in this case the key, change. For example, in the key of B major are D# used, whereas Eb is used for the same note in the key of Ab major.

If you're still confused, just remember that D# and Eb is, practically speaking, the same thing. These are all the cases of sharps and flats being the "same thing".

  • C# and Db
  • D# and Eb
  • F# and Gb
  • G# and Ab
  • A# and Bb

Does that mean that B#, Cb, E# and Fb don't exist? Concerning chords, yes, that's right. However, B# etcetera are sometimes used as an alternative reference to notes.