Notes and notation

The notes are named with letters from the alphabet: C, D, E, F, G, A, B and than repeat. After the tone B goes tone C in a higher octave.

Notes are written on a set of 5 horizontal lines called staff. The pitch of notes written on staff depends on used clef. The most common clef is treble clef. Basic tones in treble clef:

Notes are places on lines or in spaces. If there is no space left for the note, it can be placed on ledger lines.

To better ilustrate the relationship between tones we use piano keyboard. Basic tones represent white keys on piano.

Tones and semitones

The smallest distance between two different tones is semitone. It is a distance between two adjacent keys on piano. It may be two adjacent white keys or a white key and a black key.

Among basic tones only E-F and B-C are a semitone apart. All other adjacent basic tones (white keys) are two semitones apart. Two semitones make up one whole tone.


Accidentals are used to raise or lower the pitch of a basic tone.

  • # - sharp - raises the note by one semitone
  • b - flat - lowers the note by one semitone

Tones with the same pitch but different names are called enharmonic equivalent. These are e.g. C# and Db, E# and F (remember the distance between E and F is only a semitone). Enharmonic tones are summarized in next table. In the first column is distance from tone C. Tones in one row are all enharmonic equivalent.

0 B# C
1 C# Db
2 D
3 D# Eb
4 E Fb
5 E# F
6 F# Gb
7 G
8 G# Ab
9 A
10 A# Bb
11 B Cb

Enharmonic tones on piano:

Practice notes in our online
Note identification exercises.

More music theory exercises in our apps.


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