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Why seven notes

DO Re Mi fa sol la si. Why seven, why not ten or five?

Music notation systems have used letters of the alphabet for centuries. The 6th century philosopher Boethius is known to have used the first fifteen letters of the alphabet to signify the notes of the two-octave range that was in use at the time. Though it is not known whether this was his devising or common usage at the time, this is nonetheless called Boethian notation.

Following this, the system of repeating letters A-G in each octave was introduced, these being written as minuscules for the second octave and double minuscules for the third. When the compass of used notes was extended down by one note, to a G, it was given the Greek G (Γ), gamma. (It is from this that the French word for scale, gamme is derived, and the English word gamut, from "Gamma-Ut", the lowest note in Medieval music notation.)

The remaining five notes of the chromatic scale (the black keys on a piano keyboard) were added gradually; the first being B which was flattened in certain modes to avoid the dissonant tritone interval. This change was not always shown in notation, but when written, B♭ (B-flat) was written as a Latin, round "b", and B♮ (B-natural) a Gothic b. These evolved into the modern flat and natural symbols respectively. The sharp symbol arose from a barred b, called the "cancelled b".

In parts of Europe, including Germany, Poland and Russia, the natural symbol transformed into the letter H: in German music notation, H is B♮ (B-natural) and B is B♭ (B-flat).

In Italian, Portuguese, Greek, French, Russian, Romanian, Spanish and Hebrew notation the notes of scales are given also in terms of Do - Re - Mi - Fa - Sol - La - Si rather than C - D - E - F - G - A - B. These names follow the original names reputedly given by Guido d'Arezzo, who had taken them from the first syllables of the first six musical phrases of a Gregorian Chant melody Ut queant laxis, which began on the appropriate scale degrees. These became the basis of the solfege system. "Do" later replaced the original "Ut" for ease of singing (most likely from the beginning of Dominus, Lord), though "Ut" is still used in some places. "Si" or "Ti" was added as the seventh degree (from Sancte Johannes, St. John, to which the hymn is dedicated).
Wow, I've always wondered that also. Thank you for posting that. (Was wondering how flats and sharps came along also!) Razz
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