#105–Why are there no E-Sharp/F-Flat or B-Sharp/C-Flat keys on the piano?

I have to admit, the repetitive pattern of two black three black two black, etc makes it easier to find one’s place on the piano (especially when starting somewhere NOT middle C for us beginners). But I always wondered about those gaps.

When you look at the keyboard, where you might expect to find a black key (if it was meant to be totally symmetrical) would be where B-sharp/C-Flat and E-Sharp/F-Flat notes.

And if you remember music class at all, or band, or orchestra, whatever…did we ever have a B-sharp or F-flat in music?

Thankfully, there were a ton of answers out there, and they all have to do with the thousand year old development of music, tradition, tonality, physics, and eventually the invention of the piano.

Time to open another music theory book and really research this.

The biggest thing is the tonal scale which was developed long before any keyboard instrument. This Yahoo Answers page actually has some great info on this bit.

And then there’s that “circle of Fifths” that I’ve been seeing off and on, but really haven’t had a chance to learn much about.

Note to self: get a good copy and check it out more in full with my piano teacher on Sunday.

The short answer to all this is when you listen to the notes (and look at where the positioning is on the keyboard), you realize that B-sharp is essentially C natural, and E-sharp is essentially F-natural. They’re the same thing, so why add another key if the sound will be the same?

I just find it strange how that works. Why doesn’t it work for the other keys, then? But apparently, according to this answer-writer on Quora, that’s only something that applies to piano, because the notes exist elsewhere, but they’re considered “close enough” on the piano that they didn’t put the keys (my quick summation).

I really wanna research the beginnings of the keyboard-type instruments now. Hmm…

It all has to go back to music theory, tonality, frequencies and generally some physics, I suppose, as well as the development of music theory thousands of years ago.

It occurred to me just now why I might not have really heard of those missing keys’ notes in school–most of my teachers in elementary taught alongside the piano, and if the piano doesn’t have those notes, how can they teach us about what they sound like?

Or maybe it was that music class was 20 minutes a pop, maybe 30 in some grades, and there just wasn’t time or interest at that age and the teachers knew it. And then when you get to band or orchestra, let’s just make sure you don’t screw up on stage.

I would’ve liked more music theory in school, but you can only do so much when you have tons of instruments and at least a hundred students you have to ensure don’t screw up the song on stage. Theory took a backseat in my learning… no wonder I have a thousand questions.

Oh well–I’ll keep researching. I just had to ask it, because I am definitely sure I’m not the only person who’s wondered why that pattern on the keyboard exists.

Definitely time to bring out the music theory book again and get a better grasp on what I’m doing and want to do.

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