• A Lesson On Chromatic Bass Notes And The Number System

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    Our focus in this lesson is on chromatic bass notes and the number system.

    The importance of the number system cannot be over-emphasized. The following chord progressions (and more):

    The 2-5-1 chord progression

    The 1-4-5 chord progression

    The 3-6-2 chord progression

    …are determined by the number system.

    If Jermaine Griggs is right when he said that,numbers rule the world of music“, then chromatic bass notes are not left out.

    Before we go any further let’s refresh our minds on chromatic bass notes and the number system.

    A Short Note On Chromatic Bass Notes

    In every major (or minor) key, there are seven unique tones which are classified as diatonic tones. In the key of C major:

    …the following tones (seven of them) are diatonic:

    C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C

    Beyond the diatonic tones are other tones that are foreign to the key — they are classified as chromatic tones. In the key of C major:

    …the following tones are foreign to the key (chromatic):

    C#, D#, F#, G#, and A#:

    Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, and Bb:

    Altogether, there are 10 chromatic bass notes: 5 are associated with the sharp symbol and the remainder 5 are associated with the flat symbol.

    Suggested Reading: Have You Discovered The Ten Chromatic Bass Notes Yet?

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The “Official Guide To Piano Playing.” Click here for more information.

    The Number System — Explained

    There are two key types in tonal music: the major and minor key. Every key type has a scale associated with it; which is known as its traditional scale.

    The traditional scale of the major key is the natural major scale (which is simply called the major scale). The major scale is an outline of the notes in the major key arranged in a step-wise progression (in ascending or descending order).

    The C major scale:

    …is an outline of the notes in the key of C major and assigning numbers to each of the tones of the major scale produces the number system.

    “Check It Out…”

    Assigning numbers to the tones of the C major scale produces the number system below:

    C  D  E  F  G  A  B

    1   2   3  4  5   6   7

    In the number system above, every tone of the C major scale is associated with a number.

    So, instead of F:

    …you can say “4”or “the 4”.

    Attention: The number system varies from key to key. Consequently, there is NO specific 1 or 2, etc. The 1 in the key of C is entirely different from the 1 in the key of Ab major.

    Using the Ab major scale:

    …here’s  its number system:

    Ab  Bb  C  Db  Eb  F  G

    1     2    3    4     5    6  7

    Alright!

    Now we’ve refreshed our minds on chromatic bass notes and the number system, let’s put everything into perspective.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The “Official Guide To Piano Playing.” Click here for more information.

    Chromatic Bass Notes And The Number System

    Every chromatic bass note has its place in the number system; which is described using pitch modifiers (the sharp and flat symbols). Consequently, there are two chromatic bass note types in the number system:

    Chromatic bass notes associated with the sharp symbol

    Chromatic bass notes associated with the flat symbol

    Let’s take a closer look.

    Chromatic Bass Notes Associated With The Sharp Symbol

    In the key of C major:

    …where C:

    …is associated with 1 in the number system, C#:

    …is considered as the “#1”.

    Still in the key of C major:

    …where D:

    …is associated with 2, D#:

    …is considered as the “#2”.

    F#:

    …is considered as the “#4” and this is because F (which is the fourth tone of the C major scale) is associated with 4 in the number system.

    G#:

    …is considered as the “#5” and this is because G (which is the fifth tone of the C major scale) is associated with 5 in the number system.

    A#:

    …is considered as the “#6” and this is because A (which is the sixth tone of the C major scale) is associated with 6 in the number system.

    Altogether, here are five chromatic bass notes associated with the sharp symbol in the key of C major:

    The #1:

    The #2:

    The #4:

    The #5:

    The #6:

    Chromatic Bass Notes Associated With The Flat Symbol

    In the key of C major:

    Here are the five chromatic bass notes associated with the flat symbol:

    Db:

    Eb:

    Gb:

    Ab:

    Bb:

    Let’s take a look at their place in the number system.

    Db:

    …is considered as the “b2” and this is because it is lower than D (which is associated with 2 in the number system) by a half-step.

    Eb:

    …is considered as the “b3” and this is because it is lower than E (which is associated with 3 in the number system) by a half-step.

    Gb:

    …is considered as the “b5” and this is because it is lower than G (which is associated with 5 in the number system) by a half-step.

    Ab:

    …is considered as the “b6” and this is because it is lower than A (which is associated with 6 in the number system) by a half-step.

    Bb:

    …is considered as the “b7” and this is because it is lower than B (which is associated with 7 in the number system) by a half-step.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The “Official Guide To Piano Playing.” Click here for more information.

    Final Words

    In the key of C major, here are the chromatic bass notes:

    The #1:

    The b2:

    The #2:

    The b3:

    The #4:

    The b5:

    The #5:

    The b6:

    The #6:

    The b7:

    When understood, these chromatic bass notes can also be determined in other keys as well.

    Keep up the great work.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 carolyn

    Thanks, great tips. May God continue to bless
    you to bless the musicians of God.

    Reply

    2 vibert

    thank you for your information it is helping me on a regular basis. i have always been looking for a music tutor that has a desire for the things that are godly . and i find it in your lessons. thank you again.

    Reply

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