Why Does Music Only Use 12 Different Notes?

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David Bennett Piano

9 ай мурун

Why does Western music divide the octave into 12 different notes? Why not 13, or 19 or 24 notes? For such a simple sounding question, the answer is actually a tangle of history, physics and human preference. Get ready for some serious music theory!
Thank you to Modartt for gifting me a copy of their amazing Pianoteq software. Find out more here: www.modartt.com/pianoteq
Gamelan Music: kgglobal.info/phone/jXqLe3u22qrYqIY/video.html
12Tone talking 12TET: kgglobal.info/phone/koSAiq7Ftbe3i4Y/video.html
Where does the 12-tone scale come from: kgglobal.info/phone/e3uWf2WbyruwfYo/video.html
Audio Spectrum (AdminOfThisSite): kgglobal.info/phone/qYOacabd29DJZKA/video.html
Perception of Octaves: www.quantamagazine.org/perceptions-of-musical-octaves-are-learned-not-wired-in-the-brain-20191030/
Playable Harmonic Series: alexanderchen.github.io/harmonics/
Octave circularity in the auditory brain: www.neuroscience-of-music.se/eng7.htm
An extra special thanks goes to Vidad Flowers, Austin Russell, Christopher Ryan, Bruce Mount, Toot & Paul Peijzel, the channel’s Patreon saints! 😇
SUPPORT ME ON PATREON: www.patreon.com/davidbennettpiano

David Bennett Piano
David Bennett Piano 9 ай мурун
❗ CORRECTION: At 5:41, it should read "For Major Sixth multiply by 1.666, and Minor Sixth multiply by 1.6" but I got them the wrong way around 😅 Thanks to Hans Bakker for spotting this 👍
Bloomy Fractal
Bloomy Fractal 4 күн мурун
@The Cosmic Melodies AMAZING !
SammyBlackChow95 7 күн мурун
@Anders Candell I miss the old cps.
SammyBlackChow95 7 күн мурун
@Teddy Dunn Most people don't know why a guitar or piano can't be in perfect tune.
Mohamed Haymour
Mohamed Haymour 18 күн мурун
a frickin american
a frickin american 25 күн мурун
Question, at 14:32 when you say "the beating disappears," are you referring to the fundamentals or the harmonics? Because I hear beating in the harmonics.
capstan99 6 саат мурун
I really like your composition in just temperament, can you share the score? Would like to learn it!
Khasab 9 саат мурун
a melody is not only a sequence of intervals but also a rhythmic pattern
The Lisa Lair
The Lisa Lair 13 саат мурун
Octave equivalent is how I learn music by ear
Nastro Adhesivo
Nastro Adhesivo 20 саат мурун
It is a pleasure to listen to your fine english - may I ask where it is spoken the way you do ?
SirSmurfalot 22 саат мурун
5:05 This is basically what my tinnitus sounds like.
Duke Dyer
Duke Dyer Күн мурун
Too oversimplified ))
Anthony Күн мурун
I love you
andreii parish
andreii parish Күн мурун
How you spell his name ? 08:38
Runnerskeeper Күн мурун
Ingenious! Eye opening and mindblowing! Liked and subscribed instantly. Keep up the good work :)
David Bennett Piano
David Bennett Piano Күн мурун
Thanks! 😃😃
R Littlefield
R Littlefield Күн мурун
Amazingly good video, thanks!
David Bennett Piano
David Bennett Piano Күн мурун
Thank you 😃
Noz Urbina
Noz Urbina Күн мурун
You keep referring to the fact that it's the Western 12-note system but then conclude that the Western system is "the best" (@9:50). A minority of the world lives in the West. So if you're thinking democratically then the Western system is not the best system. Because most people on Earth don't use it. So then to say it's the best is simply to say that the West is better than the rest of the world. That sounds more than a little racist.
Noz Urbina
Noz Urbina Күн мурун
I know you were really *trying* to be respectful. I'm just pointing out that it is really hard to not sound that way. Words like best and optimised need to also be contextualised
Mark Clason
Mark Clason 2 күн мурун
The Egyptian scale has more than 12 notes in an octave.
Reinhardt Simon
Reinhardt Simon 3 күн мурун
in certain ethnic music there are quarter-notes..which also do reflect human emotions..
The Apollo Pythian Experience
The Apollo Pythian Experience 3 күн мурун
Barroom Rambler
Barroom Rambler 3 күн мурун
Your videos are an amazing resource for understanding music.
Serenity Departed
Serenity Departed 3 күн мурун
I never thought tritone should be 7:5. Had a lesson
Bas Terwijn
Bas Terwijn 3 күн мурун
Great video, but I think it has a math error, "12sqrt(2)" should be times "2 to the power 1/12" at: kgglobal.info/phone/pKuhsp-52bzZiIY/video.html. Because 220 *2^(1/12) = 233.1 and 233.1 *2^(1/12) = 246.9 and 246.9 *2^(1/12) = 261.6 ... up to 440hz (here '^' means 'to the power' as youtube comments don't allow superscript).
Mythagoras 3 күн мурун
*Jacob Collier has entered the chat*
experi-MENTAL Productions
experi-MENTAL Productions 4 күн мурун
But what about E# and B#?
Tommi D
Tommi D 4 күн мурун
I'd love to hear more about the comparisons of different tunings around the world!
Hugo Pristauz
Hugo Pristauz 4 күн мурун
My hint: in addition to your patreon support link add a PayPal button link for one time donations. I personally do not sign up to patron-ship (even I am patron of 3 KGglobalrs) since it ties me up with future payments, but I frequently spend a small one time donation for good videos, if I can do it with PayPal, because it is simple and quick :-), and I would have done a donation for this video, if I would have found a link.
Hugo Pristauz
Hugo Pristauz 4 күн мурун
Excellent. I knew more or less about this, but never saw an excellent explanation like this.
mikeh auto99
mikeh auto99 4 күн мурун
David Bennett -- thank you you've just taught me something I've wondered about for close on 60 years. As a kid I loved music but - even though my first form master was the music teacher and our form room was the music room - grand piano included - and even though said music teacher was a great musician and steered us all to listening to (and performing in) a range of full-on musicals -- he never quite 'got' the science of scales and keys an intervals, to 'sink in' in my head and I never learned an instrument. Your video above made this finally "click" in my head. A beautifully clear explanation of *intervals* - how I wish I'd heard that decades ago. Thank you. Great work - keep it coming ! :)
cfwhitney 5 күн мурун
Jobs a goodun? I had to ask my UK 🇬🇧 wifey to double check that one. Then Bob's your uncle.
MuzikJunkyAES 5 күн мурун
Only WESTERN music has 12 notes. Carnatic music, for example, has 72! Peace.
Millo Ferreira
Millo Ferreira 5 күн мурун
I feel I should have paid for this video content. Great class. Thank you, brother.
wovokanarchy 5 күн мурун
A good explanation of corporate rock music, synchronize and Punk Rock, dissonance.
Jeewaranga Gunasekera
Jeewaranga Gunasekera 5 күн мурун
Thank you so much. I was always wondering why about this. BTW have you made that video about how different cultures tune differently?
John Malcolm
John Malcolm 6 күн мурун
Respect for this very clear presentation. Allow to me to point out that Blues is Western Music and uses other notes achieved by bending or using a slide. The minor third is almost always bent up a little, which I think brings it closer to just temperament.
Tarcisio Goes
Tarcisio Goes 6 күн мурун
Very enlightening!
Etothe2iPi 6 күн мурун
I like your explanations, I just have a little issue with your math. The frequencies are not equally spaced, they just sound like that, because our ear "calculates" the logarithms. It's a geometric progression, not an arithmetic one and the constant factor is 12th root of 2 (or 2^(1/12)), not 12 times root 2.
John Holmes
John Holmes 6 күн мурун
actually there are 72 notes in each octave using only semi-tones as Db is not the same note as C#; the relationship between D and E in C-maj is not the same as in D-maj
Jerry Callender
Jerry Callender 6 күн мурун
ALL MUSIC uses the same SEVEN notes.
Paul Duncan
Paul Duncan 6 күн мурун
Disagree with your maths. An octive is twice the root so each note is not 1/12 x the previous note but 2 to power 1/12 times previous note. I. E. One and one sixteenth times previous note. So, take 1 + 1/16 times itself 12 times and... It is becomes 2. This is just like compound interest at 10%... 100 - 110 - 121 - 133.1 - 146.41 - 161 - 177 - 194 will not take 10 years to double but just over 7. So not 1/12 but 1/16 note to note. Love all of your videos.
Sandy Herman
Sandy Herman 6 күн мурун
A very impressive and informative presentation.....you are obviously a very very smart young man
Ozymandias PBS
Ozymandias PBS 7 күн мурун
I had to laugh when seeing "Pythagorean" as a system of tonality. I used the book "The Music of Pythagoras" (Kitty Ferguson) in 1 of my courses, as 1 of my students decided to do his project on Pythagoras. He talked about the Pythagorean music system, showing that Pythagoras was known for more than just his Theorem. That was an excellent project which helped that student earn an 'A' in Honours Geometry. Pythagoras was a fascinating man!
Timothy Brittain
Timothy Brittain 7 күн мурун
For goodness sake, David, learn where to put the word "only" in a sentence. Western music uses only 12 notes! It doesn't only use them.
Garry Murphy
Garry Murphy 7 күн мурун
Explains a lot
Stuart White
Stuart White 7 күн мурун
David, I love your knowledge, but your accent/pronunciation really puts me off. Sorry.
Burkhard Stackelberg
Burkhard Stackelberg 7 күн мурун
The best compromise? Microtonalists would not agree ;-) But a practical one we happen to be acquainted to, yes.
Penfold8 7 күн мурун
If westerners use 12 notes, how many notes do easterners use?
Toutou-Kleenex Dumouchoir
Toutou-Kleenex Dumouchoir 8 күн мурун
12:56 DNA
Toutou-Kleenex Dumouchoir
Toutou-Kleenex Dumouchoir 8 күн мурун
I never understood why P4 is ‘’as satisfying’’ as P5, because the E3 equal 330, which is a round number. But the perfect fourth isn’t a round number🧐
Toutou-Kleenex Dumouchoir
Toutou-Kleenex Dumouchoir 8 күн мурун
A4-446 was awesome
Patrick Bodine
Patrick Bodine 8 күн мурун
I play the jaw harp.
REME 9 күн мурун
Congratulations on producing an excellent video. Very interesting and educational. You have talent explaining topics and excellent narration.
Melinda Green
Melinda Green 9 күн мурун
Now that we're in the digital age, we can dispense with the compromises we needed to deal with temperament, exactly like your piano software allows. The only downside comes when playing live music with poorly matched instruments. For that, we only need to fall back on our current equal temperament tunings, but for everything else, we have the technology so we can improve our recorded music.
Enrico Bocchio
Enrico Bocchio 9 күн мурун
wow fantastic video, it's very interesting!
David Bennett Piano
David Bennett Piano 9 күн мурун
Thank you 😃
Mike M
Mike M 9 күн мурун
Cent? what is Cent?
Mike M
Mike M 8 күн мурун
@David Bennett Piano Thank you! Another confusing thing about music. So 200 cent per tone? If there are 12 'notes' in an octave (great name...) equally spaced (although I note they are not equal in terms of Hz) then any scale can start from any point- so why not just number (or letter) them sequentially, instead of this sharp and flat stuff? Try as I might, I cannot find a text that explains music and its notation. Plenty on 'what', little on 'why'. It seems arcane and impenetrable- ripe for rationalization. Or am I missing something? And how can I find it?
David Bennett Piano
David Bennett Piano 9 күн мурун
There are 100 cent in a semitone 😃
Andy 9 күн мурун
Looking forward to your video on other cultural music - one suggestion: Native American. I have a Native American flute and some of their music and always wondered about their limited scale (or whatever you would call it in music theory).
Andy 9 күн мурун
I never had any instruction on music theory and I found this fascinating and it answered many questions I have always had. However, there were a couple of things I was confused about by your presentation and had to go back and watch it again to figure it out. At 5:27 you talk about the Major Third, minor Third, Major Sixth" etc and play the notes but I didn't understand what the relationship was between the two notes - I had to go back to 4:05 to understand it was in relation to the "root" note. It's obvious now in retrospect but to someone starting from zero, it's not. I would suggest in the graphic you visually show that relationship like at 4:05 (that only flashed up for two seconds). The other question you sort of address at the beginning discussing the name of notes (C, D, E etc. and how they can represent pretty much any frequency on the interval) but I was still left wondering why we use those letters in that way.
Brian Gaona
Brian Gaona 9 күн мурун
That original at the end sounds radiant in that tuning!
dizzywow 10 күн мурун
I'm not a musician, but I knew that they were all equal distance (in ratios) from each other. A very good, informative video. It seems that another way that this could have evolved is to start-off with the assumption that the notes needed to be equally spaced, and then figure out how many notes were needed to enable pleasing combinations.
Dennys Schmid
Dennys Schmid 10 күн мурун
Thanks for this great explanation! Didn't know this before and it's really interesting. I once saw a video about the duodecimal system being the best way to count (instead decimal system). It would allow us to display high or small numbers with much less digits after the comma. However, I would still be interested to learn more about what we are missing by using only 12 notes.
zxKAOS1 10 күн мурун
Huh... I always suspected that there were half sharps and half flats. This was the first time seeing those symbols, and hearing them! I'm guessing trombones should easily be able to play them, while others would need some "on-the-fly" tuning.
Bruno Bernardo
Bruno Bernardo 10 күн мурун
One other explanation for the 12 notes is that most of the intervals happen in nature in the form of harmonics, e.g., harmonic tube or any embouchure instrument, guitar string, etc. There remaining notes fit "naturally" in the gaps.
Ramesh Venugopal
Ramesh Venugopal 10 күн мурун
In classic South Indian Carnatic music not only the intervals matter but the way one approaches, glides, reverberates, dances around and finally lands on the end notes, is what makes it unique and challenging. Making it impossible to describe using any mathematical formula. It is all about improvisation , intuition and the unique 'connection' of the day.
Adolph Jr. Bravo
Adolph Jr. Bravo 10 күн мурун
Amazing! Thank you for this!
nyctilia 10 күн мурун
That was really well explained! Motivates me to get into music theory again :)
d e austin
d e austin 10 күн мурун
I guess this is why I chose the trumpet - one note at a time, let the composer worry about all the rest
Arthur Perez
Arthur Perez 11 күн мурун
Totally interesting thanks for this info!
Mike C
Mike C 11 күн мурун
You sound like Mumbo jumbo
kindlin 11 күн мурун
Another important note on the number 12 itself, is that it's the first, non-trivial, highly composite number (depending on your definition of non-trivial). Fun fact: 60 is another famous highly composite number used in a number of places, and so is 360. EDIT2: 12 is actually a _superior highly composite number. 2 and 6 are also SHCN's, but they aren't as cool as 12.
cfurku 11 күн мурун
great thoughts on temperament, and great work on reviving the music 'science' of that era. theory in help of practice.. just stay tuned
zwartestralen 11 күн мурун
A violin and a trombone are "optimized" to play 12 tones??? What a pile of Bull*! The reason to divide an octave in 12 parts has a completely different basis than to get "easy access to the nice intervalls"!
Dennis Tracy
Dennis Tracy 11 күн мурун
poor explanation.
Pablo Vega
Pablo Vega 11 күн мурун
Great video!
Rachel Harris
Rachel Harris 11 күн мурун
First, let me just apologize for my geekiness... I‘m SO glad you mentioned temperament! Videos on tuning so often leave that bit out. Although as a baroque musician I have to say that I find equal temperament nondescript and bland. Baroque composers used the different „flavours“ of keys, or they knew what sounded „out of tune“ and used that as a special effect, or to horrify! I wonder though, I thought you could have added something about the harmonic series: isn‘t THAT the basis for our music? The earliest instruments we know of were wind instruments with their natural harmonic series. The note preferences you talked about occur naturally there... Otherwise: beautifully explained! Here‘s a nice example of „baroque spice“ kgglobal.info/phone/oXZ5n5C12q_EZoI/video.html.
Marah Wolsfeld
Marah Wolsfeld 11 күн мурун
Wawa-sound? More like blrlr-sound
Tony Stortini
Tony Stortini 12 күн мурун
For years I though my ears (regarding pitch, tuning etc) were off. Then about 10 years ago I realized that the sounds I was hearing were accurate. This video helped me understand even better what was going on. Thanks for the lesson.
Nunya Bizness
Nunya Bizness 12 күн мурун
The just intonation, IMO, makes the song composition at the end of the video 'just dissonant enough' to make it interesting to listen. Sort of 'makes' one pay attention.
Filip Sande
Filip Sande 12 күн мурун
Ryan Bass
Ryan Bass 12 күн мурун
Great video!
French 12 күн мурун
WOW! Never learned that in my younger days, now I understand. EXCELLENT!
Abhay Karnataki
Abhay Karnataki 12 күн мурун
It is also to do with how these sounds are generated using our own vocal chords. In Indian classical, there is higher and lower note to all except "pa". For that reason there are only 12 notes. By singing pa we can see there is no high pa and low pa.
white shadow
white shadow 12 күн мурун
Interesting. But why then does a piano not have a keyboard that is a multiple of 12?
FunkMan53 12 күн мурун
Well done, David!
Nathan O
Nathan O 13 күн мурун
It's because science
almosTalented 13 күн мурун
that was a absolutely great and detailed explanation 💪🏼 with graphs, numbers, history. every aspect i wanted to know. i leave satisfied and with no more question 😊👌🏼.... except microtonality...and off i go to the next video
DANTHETUBEMAN 13 күн мурун
I have remove 3 notes down to give 5 note blues scale. It just sounds right. I also tune flat to 432 hz.
DANTHETUBEMAN 13 күн мурун
I only use 1 4 5 chords, keep it simple.
Larn Regis
Larn Regis 13 күн мурун
One wonders why we don't use a base 12 system for our daily counting? It's often stated that a base12 system would be much more convenient, since it allows more simple fractions. And with that matching the musical system, i probably wouldn't have found music such hard topic to grasp in school.
Mario X
Mario X 13 күн мурун
The only thing that might be confusing to a non-technical audience is the use of the word "spacing", which actually means that frequencies are chosen in geometric (rather than arithmetic) order, or simpler put that the differece between notes is not constant in frequency, but the ratio beteen adjacent notes is constant (being 12-th root of 2). Since we want octaves (which are in geometric sequence) then all other notes in between must also be in geometric order in order to keep harmony accross the keyboard. The interesting question is why our brain works in geometric progresion, or why do we percieve tones spaced in octaves as being "the same".
Rodrigo da Rocha Nogueira
Rodrigo da Rocha Nogueira 13 күн мурун
Great class! Amazing teacher!
DylanNotBob 13 күн мурун
I just wanna hear Elmer Fudd give the same description....
DemonGuysaysHi 14 күн мурун
"you'd probably want to avoid dissonance, right?" Me, a metal guitarist: nope, actually it and the phrygian dominant is the only music theory I use
u2mister1 14 күн мурун
You got me thinking. A piano or saxophone has a digital output where a bugle or violin is analog.
Alexandre José
Alexandre José 15 күн мурун
could subtitles translated into Portuguese in the videos to facilitate understanding? hugs from Brazil 🇧🇷❤
Craig Butterfield
Craig Butterfield 10 күн мурун
May help me, and I do not speak a word of Portuguese
Frank Henry
Frank Henry 15 күн мурун
WOW who knew . So that's why the use a tuning fork!
Faramarz Shayeghi
Faramarz Shayeghi 15 күн мурун
So the simple answer is: "Because it sounds pleasant"
Denis Sutherland
Denis Sutherland 16 күн мурун
All music comes from God and it comes to man through man via Jesus or via satan who steals the music from Jesus and uses it to impose his massive ego even after corrupting it horribly as in angry resentful... pop music that is designed to extract as much money as possible from the billions that cannot resist that corruption of what is peaceful harmonius subtle, soulful....sound from God.
Артем Поліщук
Артем Поліщук 16 күн мурун
Great and clear explanation for non-musicians (me)! Thank you!
Zoltán Jakab
Zoltán Jakab 16 күн мурун
I especially liked the temperament part. It is illuminating, and the sound demos are very cool.
Hanz Ketchup
Hanz Ketchup 16 күн мурун
Wrong ! Bach invented the concept of perfect tension , before Bach , musicians used any tuning they decided upon , according to their own , which made for a huge amount of bad music , and Bach brilliantly decided upon the 12 notes including the octave , and make no mistake , that was Brilliant .
Badiuzzaman Mohamed
Badiuzzaman Mohamed 17 күн мурун
hv always wondered about this topic. now music theory is making more sense. tq. subscribed
Walking D-day
Walking D-day 17 күн мурун
I always wondered why Bachs well temper clavicord was so called.
mic jones
mic jones 17 күн мурун
Im just a run of the mill campfire guitar player 40 years now always had these questions now i just don't care
Nando Favaro
Nando Favaro 17 күн мурун
Here are some things completely overlooked but vitally important missing in this video: 1) The reason the P5 and P4 are related is this: a P5 up is the same note as a P4 down but just in a different octave. 2) Every matching pair adds to an octave: P5+P5 =P8, M2+m7=P8, m3+M6=P8. They are all paired to the Octave. 3) Mathematically, the frequency of any note one octave up is TIMES 2. This means every one semitone is the 12th root of 2 and every note can be calculated.
Stian Yttervik
Stian Yttervik 18 күн мурун
Awh. I had hoped for some love to shine on well tempered piano music. It just sounds so good, even if you have to avoid large parts of the keyboard when composing for it.
C Conroy
C Conroy 18 күн мурун
Great demonstration, thank you
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