Music notation help please

(27 Posts)
traviata Tue 20-Sep-16 22:27:30

I thought this might be a good place to ask...

DD has music homework. She has been given the note letter names, and has to write them on the stave, eg A, C, G E etc. No problem with this.

However, some of the note letter names have a small mark by them, like an apostrophe. What does this mean?
E'
B'
and so on.

I have never come across this, and I can't find anything online.

Mistigri Tue 20-Sep-16 22:44:08

It designates pitch - c' is an octave above c.

IIRC, c' is middle C (on the piano).

There are various systems of designating pitch - has your daughter not had any explanation at all?!

traviata Tue 20-Sep-16 22:55:03

Thanks Mistigri.

No, she didn't recall any explanation. I'll ask her about it again tomorrow.

It's a bit strange - the notes are all to be written on the treble clef stave. Presumably E' is the E above middle C, so the 'plain' E will have to be on a massively low ledger line.

HerculesMulligan Tue 20-Sep-16 23:00:40

The E above middle C is scored through by the bottom line of the stave. (EGBDF) The E two above middle C is in the space immediate below the highest line of the stave (FACE).

bluehippo Tue 20-Sep-16 23:01:14

Asked my husband, who is a pro musician, he doesn't recognise this at all. Could the teacher have used apostrophes instead of commas to seperate the note letters?

traviata Tue 20-Sep-16 23:19:57

Thanks hercules.

Bluehippo, no, they are definitely marks that go with the letters.

I did some googling after Mistigri's post, and I think it's helmholtz pitch notation. Maybe DD wasn't listening to that part of the lesson.

bluehippo Tue 20-Sep-16 23:24:36

Yes, I see what you mean! Well, he is an old fart but now he is googling with interest! Hope you work it out. smile

conkerpods Tue 20-Sep-16 23:25:22

I'm a pro musician and have also never seen this!

traviata Tue 20-Sep-16 23:28:50

Actually it's even more odd than I first thought.

The note letters are all given in capitals.

So according to the Helmholtz system, they would normally appear below the (piano) bass clef on ledger lines or in the stave from lower G downwards.

The homework says:
Write E' on the stave

The stave given has the treble clef on it.
So by my calculation it's 7 ledger lines below the treble stave.

Very grateful to Mistigri for pointing me in the right direction.

storynanny Tue 20-Sep-16 23:31:55

It is indicating pitch of a higher octave as other posters have said.
It has been in common usage for ever, how could a trained musician never have encountered it? Not being critical or rude just curious.
I did a music degree in the seventies and encountered the symbol often during practical and theoretical lessons as a child.
Poor of the teacher not to explain what it meant insteading of assuming

Couchpotato3 Tue 20-Sep-16 23:36:34

I suspect the apostrophes are a red herring in this context - it's very unlikely a school music homework would be requiring a child to know about this complex notation - is it possible the teacher has cut and pasted from somewhere else, and failed to delete the apostrophes?

I'd stick with straightforward writing of notes within the staff (i.e. not masses of ledger lines). Surely good enough for basic note reading practice, which it sound like this is.

storynanny Tue 20-Sep-16 23:37:44

Couch, that is probably what has happened

conkerpods Tue 20-Sep-16 23:38:17

Well I haven't studied any academic music since 1999 so there is a lot I have forgotten.
I'm a violinist,and we just read the ledger lines to tell the relevant octave.
I definitely haven't seen it though. Maybe someone more academic than me has though.

traviata Tue 20-Sep-16 23:41:33

It is a bit rubbish, actually. Day 1 of GCSE music. The class has done some musical notation in lessons before now, but they aren't advanced. To understand this homework, they have to master both the stave and the pitch notation. It's like trying to teach French by setting questions in German.

traviata Tue 20-Sep-16 23:47:14

Couch that is exactly what i thought at first, but it isn't that.

DD has pages from a workbook. Each page has 3 treble staves on it. At the top of the page it says "write these notes on the stave as crotchets'. Underneath the stave, going across the page it says:
E E' B C'

Next line:
F F' G D'

In very small print at the foot of the workbook it says something like KS4 Music (i haven't got the page here now). The teacher hasn't copied it from anywhere else and it looks like a dedicated GCSE level workbook.

Ptarmigandancinginthegloaming Tue 20-Sep-16 23:59:50

It can mean that u should take a breath too, so maybe she just has to write E twice, without breathing while she does it :-D?
(Sorry, not very helpful...)

IrenetheQuaint Wed 21-Sep-16 00:03:28

Surely E' is on the top of the ledger lines, and E is on the bottom line.

WaitingInTheSky Wed 21-Sep-16 00:04:18

I would read it like this. It was how I was taught to play recorder many moons ago.

LockedOutOfMN Wed 21-Sep-16 00:08:32

It's what Mistigri says. I have come across this notation quite frequently before.

It's also explained on the second page of the GCSE music textbook our students use (not sure if OP's daughter's photocopy is from the same one, possibly excluding the explanation).

Balletgirlmum Wed 21-Sep-16 00:10:51

This is GCSE?

Ds did this sort of thing in year 7.

I would write C as middle C & C' as the octave above (3rd space)

mawbroon Wed 21-Sep-16 00:11:53

It's yonks since I've done any serious music theory and i mostly play by ear these days, but ds1 plays bagpipes and they use the apostrophe system to indicate that it's the octave above. However on the pipe scale, there are only 2 notes that can be played in the upper octave, so it's pretty obvious when you see it.

I agree with Waitingin the sky's interpretation of the instructions FWIW

GreenAndYellow Wed 21-Sep-16 00:15:04

I am kind of giggling at this, while being very confused. I haven't got the tiniest clue what any of this is about - and I have earned money with music.

If your dd is enjoying music, and has even the faintest clue what you are about, then she's doing good. In fact, even if she hasn't the tiniest clue what you're on about, she's probably still doing good.

If she's got through this much of musical theory, trust her. Either she is talented, or she isn't. I'm presuming you will love her whichever is the case m

Mistigri Wed 21-Sep-16 04:39:31

It doesn't completely surprise me that trained musicians haven't come across this as there are different systems for describing pitch. My musically trained daughter would use "C4" to describe middle C, "C5" the C an octave above, etc.

OP it's weird that there's only a treble clef and no explanation ... IIRC, in German notation, middle c (C4) is designated c', the octave below (C3) is c, and the octave below that is C (written in upper case) - C' (uppercase) doesn't exist!

Crappy teaching methods in any case.

LooseAtTheSeams Wed 21-Sep-16 11:08:12

I read it the same way as Waiting but agree it sounds very confusing. DS1 is doing GCSE music, I'll ask him when he comes home if he's done it yet and if it was explained any better (although he was grumbling that the start of GCSE syllabus goes right back to basic theory so I will try not to start him off on another rant about it!)

NotCitrus Wed 21-Sep-16 11:52:17

I'm surprised so many people haven't heard of this notation - back when we learnt recorder in primary school, and bits of percussion, we mastered treble clef and recorder notes by age 8!
C is the lowest note on a descant recorder and usually represented as middle C even though descants actually play an octave up, C' would be the second space down, C'' on the second leger line above a treble stave.

Maybe it's specific to recorders?

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