Music Classroom

The Western Music System

By: Jonatan Arriaga

The study of the music theory is a must for those who want to understand the structures, formulas and the reasoning behind a musical composition.

We will start with a very simple yet important topic; understanding the western music system.

The Western music system consists of 12 sounds. Each one of these twelve sounds is known as 'note' and has specific characteristics. In the western music system there are 7 different names for the notes. Although there are twelve different sounds, only seven receive a specific note name that corresponds to the DIATONIC SCALE that we will analyze later. These 7 notes are:

The notes contain certain tonal characteristics; one of these characteristics is the tonal distance between one note and another. This feature gives us the semi-tones.

The tone is the unit in which a scale is divided. A semi-tone represents half tone and receives the name of ‘accidental’. From the accidentals we obtain the other five sounds that complete the 12 sounds.

There are 5 kinds of accidentals and are represented by the following symbols:

Sharp #

Sharp symbol tells us that the following note will be raised half step (semitone).

Flat b

Indicates that the following note will be lowered half step (or a semitone).

Double Sharp x

Indicates that the note will be raised a whole tone (two semitones).

Double Flat bb

The note will be lowered a whole tone (two semitones).


Cancels any received accidental in a note.

The semitones that originate from accidents in a note complete the whole 12 sounds of the western music system. These twelve sounds give birth to what it is known as CROMATIC SCALE.

The chromatic scale is the representation of those twelve sounds in ascending or descending order.

Every single semitone is included in the chromatic scale. You might be wondering why from E to F and from B to C there are no sharps, the reason is because the tonal distance from E to F and from B to C is only half-step.

I am not saying that accidentals cannot be applied to those notes or that there should be 5 different sounds to each note because there are 5 kinds of accidentals.

The rules for their application and more will be seen soon in our next class!

Leave us a comment or contact us at if you have any question in regards to any topic from our online classroom.


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