Why Write B-Sharp Instead of C?
(Durham, NC, USA)
I'm a retired pilot who took up the piano a few months ago. I have always loved piano music and it has always been a dream to learn to play but my work schedule was prohibitive. I want to play just for my own relaxation and to keep my mind actively challenged and learning to play has provided ample challenge.
I want to play the slower, simpler versions of some of the easier classical pieces and just started on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Here is my question. When a B sharp is indicated is that really a C? When I do that is seems to sound okay. If so, why would he indicate a B sharp instead of a C natural(since all other C's are sharp).
Thanks for your time.
I am so happy to hear about your new hobby! The “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven should provide you with plenty of challenge and pleasure as well!
To quickly answer your first question; Yes, B sharp is the same key as C. (These notes are called enharmonic because they are written differently but sound the same.) To answer your second question we need to look in to some music theory!
The “Moonlight Sonata” is originally in C sharp minor. This tonality has 4 sharp signs as its “Key Signature” and those are written in the beginning of each staff.
Now, the minor scale has three variants, the Natural, the Harmonic and the Melodic minor scale. The Moonlight Sonata’s first and last movements are written in C sharp minor and use the “Harmonic” minor scale pattern.
In the Harmonic minor, the 7th step in the scale is raised as well, but this change is never written in the “key signature” but is written in the score whenever it is needed.
So, the raised seventh step counting up the Harmonic scale of C# minor is: 1.C#, 2.D#, 3.E, 4.F#, 5.G#, 6.A, 7.B# and back home to C#. See? The 7th step was B# (alias regular C).
So in this case Beethoven could not write the B# as a C natural, because that is not the 7th step!
I hope this helped!
Good Luck with your playing, and if you like to learn more about the theory behind the scale patterns, you could always check out some of my pages about scales here:
The Piano Scale
Printable Piano Scales