Absolute and Relative Pitch

Absolute pitch is represented by the musical letters A B C D E F G. Absolute pitch never changes. As related to Auditory perception, Absolute pitch is the ability of a person to identify a musical tone without the aid of an external reference but as it relates to the rudiments of music it identifies the individual pitches. Of course these pitches change from octave to octave to octave and can be modified by the flat and sharp degree modifiers but the pitches themselves are independent of any other pitch. The standard for the pitch of A is 440 Hz. You no doubt have heard this referenced in relation to piano tuning as A 440. A440 is the musical tone A above middle C. It is notated on the Treble Clef as the second space (from the bottom). the American music industry set this as the standard in 1926 and recommended that A above middle C be tuned to 440 Hz. There is a long technical definition of Hz which is short for Hertz but for our purposes simply understand that the Absolute pitch names of A B C D E F G do not change. An A on the piano is the same as an A on the Acoustic Guitar.

Relative pitch names are Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti and the Roman numerals I II III IV V VI VII as well as the numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. They are called Relative pitch because they are relative or dependent upon other pitches. This is also referred to as a movable do.

For instance, The C scale is C D E F G A B C. Using the names Do Re Mi for the pitches, C would be the Do, D would be the Re, E would be the Mi, F would be the Fa, G would be the Sol, A would be the La and B would be the Ti. By the same token, if you were using the numbers to represent pitch then C would be represented by 1, D would be 2, E would be 3, F would be 4, G would be 5 A would be 6, and B would be 7.

Now if you were to change to the scale of G, which is G A B C D E F# then G would become the Do or the 1. This would hold true no matter what key you are in. Whatever the root (the first pitch of the scale) that becomes the Do or the I or the 1, thus, the moveable Do.

The Chords in the key of G would be

G 1
A 2
B 3
C 4
D 5
E 6
F# 7

The three main chords in any key are the 1, the 4 and the 5. In most cases, the 2, 3 and 6 chords are played as minor chords and the 7 chord of the scale is usually played either as a diminished chord or sometimes lowered a half step also referred to as flatted.

In Nashville Numbering System notation most of the time when you see the seven chord (not to be confused with a seventh chord) it is usually referring to it as being flatted. For instance if you were playing the Chord progression G - F - C (notice F not F#) this could be notated as a 1 - 7 - 4 progression instead of a 1 - 7b - 4 progression.

Minor chords are notated with a super scripted m, seventh chords are notated with a super scripted 7. A seventh chord is formed with a major triad (the 1, 3 and 5 tones of the scale) and adding the minor (flatted) seventh tone above the root chord's tone. This is also referred to as a dominant seventh chord. There are a variety of other chords that can be formed by modifying the major triad (1 3 5).

The great thing about using the Nashville Numbering System to notate the chord progression of a song is that it is applicable to the Piano, mandolin, Bass guitar as well as the Acoustic Guitar.

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