F-sharp

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G Mess
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F-sharp

Postby G Mess » Tue May 27, 2008 2:39 pm UTC

Dear Science,

Scrap that.

So, I heard F-sharp (or a "Sharp F") for the first time, and it felt like the equivalent for my ears as for my tongue taking a bite out of a bhut jolokia. It was agonising, absolutely. To boot, it almost felt like I had taken a bite out of a chili, minus the burning.

That said, those same effects can't be replicated.

What just happened, why, and why is it not happening it again?

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Re: F-sharp

Postby Robin S » Tue May 27, 2008 2:42 pm UTC

Was it the pure note F#, or merely an F played slightly sharp? If the former, I find it hard to believe that you have not heard it before; it appears, for example, in the chord D major. Perhaps it was the timbre of the note, or did you hear it shortly after a C? (The "tritone" interval can sound quite jarring.) If the latter, perhaps you have perfect pitch in which case out-of-tune notes may cause you discomfort.
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dukederek
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Re: F-sharp

Postby dukederek » Tue May 27, 2008 2:46 pm UTC

not to cast nasturtiums about your lifestyle, but were you high? I say this only because once when I was high, a Tool song made my entire skin tingle and I've since never managed to reproduce it.

I also find it difficult to believe you had never heard an F# before, it's the 2nd fret of the E string on a guitar for a start.

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G Mess
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Re: F-sharp

Postby G Mess » Tue May 27, 2008 2:50 pm UTC

It was the note, F-sharp.

It wasn't after a C, and I don't have perfect pitch, at least, not that I'm aware. I can memorise notes and play them back in my head, though, to help me pretend that I do.

The notes were D, E, F-sharp. The E was an "eck" and then a nuclear holocaust out of nowhere from the F-sharp. Same thing happened a few times, and then nothing quite as strong. It's like comparing a halogen lamp to an overcast sky in terms of "MAKE IT STOP, OH GOD" factor.

EDIT

Instead of "I've never heard F-sharp before" make "It was the first time I'd heard F-sharp being nothing but F-sharp, and being called F-sharp". Before that moment, I'd never experienced excruciating pain from listening to my voluminous quantities of music. And no, I wasn't high. I was in a cello lesson.

EDIT++

Messing around with flash pianos, it still hurts me, but I'm fairly sure that's just pure anticipation of the sensation again. That said, I think it's worse the lower the notes are, but again, i'm not sure how much of this is sheer psychology.

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Macbi
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Re: F-sharp

Postby Macbi » Tue May 27, 2008 3:05 pm UTC

The seventh note of the twelve in the Renaissance scale - now called F sharp (F#) - was a particular nuisance. It sounded lousy when combined with almost every other note, creating toe-curling intervals that reminded listeners of howling wolves, and they became known as 'wolf intervals'. Since these intervals could surely not be what god had intended, the church named F# the devil's note, and for a while banned it from all music.
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Re: F-sharp

Postby Mettra » Tue May 27, 2008 3:48 pm UTC

Macbi wrote:
The seventh note of the twelve in the Renaissance scale - now called F sharp (F#) - was a particular nuisance. It sounded lousy when combined with almost every other note, creating toe-curling intervals that reminded listeners of howling wolves, and they became known as 'wolf intervals'. Since these intervals could surely not be what god had intended, the church named F# the devil's note, and for a while banned it from all music.


I think this requires a bit more context to fully understand it. During this period, I think there was no even temperament for tuning. In other words, you had to tune the entire instrument to a specific key. You couldn't tune it up to C major and then play in other modes because it would be slightly off (and it sounds godawful).

Now when I saw 'devil's note' I immediately thought of a tritone. Tritones are still commonly called 'the devil's notes' these days, though without any kind of negative connotation. A tritone is a note that is 6 half-steps above the root. The first key I counted up (to confirm) was C, and it turns out that F# is that note in the key of C. Since there are twelve notes in the chromatic scale, I imagine that's what the 'Renaissance scale' is, and it confirms that the key must be C since it calls F# the seventh note (remember, it's 6 half-steps ABOVE the root). Normally, this interval is just called a diminished fifth. In some ways, it's the most dissonant dissonance since the ear tries desperately to hear the very pleasing 5th but only gets the diminished fifth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritone /edit - I just noticed the example they use XD

That said, F# being a diminished fifth in the C major scale shouldn't have anything to do with the OP's problem. Most music these days is in D major (which includes F# as a major third, which is a very pleasing interval), E minor (which includes F# as a major second, a fairly dissonant interval), A minor (which is a mode of C major) and a handful of other keys which are NOT C (not sure why, I guess it's too 'simple' for the extraordinaly complex mind of a musician ;) ). The point being, F# plays all kinds of roles in today's music (I'm mostly talking about music that over 50% of people have heard, like today's 'rock' bands and so on). So the tonality is no reason that F# would affect the OP in such a way.

I can't imagine a single note having that effect. In some keys, an F# would be like grinding your eyes with sandpaper, but all by itself without any tonality (in other words, not within the context of a musical phrase) it shouldn't even be noticeable. Is there a chance that the F# and the E in question were terribly out of tune? Because what you describe is what I feel when that is the case. You've gotta realize that even most musicians are somehow incapable of tuning their instruments (a sad, sad truth).
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Re: F-sharp

Postby evilbeanfiend » Tue May 27, 2008 3:55 pm UTC

on its own a note can cause unpleasantness if it resonates with something in you. i would have thought this wouldn't be the case for f# though but that is just a guess.
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Re: F-sharp

Postby Robin S » Tue May 27, 2008 4:03 pm UTC

I think resonance of human body parts, if it occurs at all, does so at such low frequencies that the associated sound would be inaudible.
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Re: F-sharp

Postby psyck0 » Tue May 27, 2008 9:52 pm UTC

The only explanation I can come up with for this is that you are slightly synesthetic, which is surprisingly common (perhaps up to 10% of people are). Do a bit of reading about it and see if you think you are.

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Re: F-sharp

Postby Kobayashi_Maru » Tue May 27, 2008 11:21 pm UTC

Were you playing the notes? It can be easy for beginners to make horrible sounds come out of their instruments, especially a bowed instrument like the cello. Can you generally get a good tone out of the cello? How did your cello instructor react? Did he/she agree that it was the most evil sound he/she had ever heard? Did he/she say anything about whether the F# was in tune with the other two notes you played ?

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G Mess
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Re: F-sharp

Postby G Mess » Wed May 28, 2008 5:44 am UTC

Kobayashi: Negative, it was my teacher playing it. It didn't bother her at all, though.

And to psyck0, no. No synaesthesia. I can feel imagine sounds as having a shape and movement (most minors scales feel flat and forward, most major scales feel deep and up--and anyway, that wouldn't seem to account for any pain).

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Re: F-sharp

Postby motophiliac » Wed May 28, 2008 9:00 am UTC

You haven't had any trouble with your ears at all? It may have been caused by some inner ear part resonating with the fundamental pitch — or less likely a harmonic — of the note that was being played. I've had unpleasant tickling sensations deep in my ears, particularly where loud guitars are concerned.

The closest I can describe that feeling is like something flapping or scratching inside my head. It's not pleasant, but as soon as I made the connection to the cause, I could at least tolerate it for the session. I wore earplugs for rehearsals after that.

It is odd, however, that you say that lower notes (as played on a cello) can be worse as my experience was with mid range notes, maybe around 600-1200 Hz. Maybe close to a well played cello could be loud enough to cause a similar thing.

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Re: F-sharp

Postby zenten » Wed May 28, 2008 11:51 am UTC

Which F#? You know that 1/12 notes is an F#, right?

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G Mess
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Re: F-sharp

Postby G Mess » Wed May 28, 2008 1:42 pm UTC

Any F-sharp played after any E, but it's much, much worse the lower they are.

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dukederek
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Re: F-sharp

Postby dukederek » Wed May 28, 2008 3:54 pm UTC

the scientist in me (pretty much all of me really) would be interested to do blind testing to see if you could identify certain notes by 'feel'. This would assume you couldnt identify a note by hearing it anyway...

maybe we could set this up using the power of the internet...

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Re: F-sharp

Postby Mettra » Wed May 28, 2008 4:29 pm UTC

G Mess wrote:Any F-sharp played after any E, but it's much, much worse the lower they are.


One possibility is that you have 'perfect pitch' and the F#'s and E's are all very slightly out of tune with your head. With using even temperament, the pitches of some notes are shifted up slightly and some are shifted down slightly so that we can play in multiple keys on the same instrument. You may somehow have an inbuilt expectation of what frequency your ear should hear, but it's been shifted slightly because of even temperament.

Have you tried doing a blind test? Sitting down behind the piano and having your instructor or someone else play various chord progressions?

Also I'd recommend finding another instrument to find an F# (though keep in mind that an F# is not a 'real' F# on every instrument, you will have to find the equivalent pitch by playing around or knowing how far to go in advance).

Your mention that lower notes made me think about something else. A pitch can become shifted because of its amplitude, and this happens especially badly with low bass notes. Unfortunately, bass notes are those second most likely to be out of tune as well ;).
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G Mess
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Re: F-sharp

Postby G Mess » Wed May 28, 2008 5:38 pm UTC

If I open up soundforge, and do a simple synthesis with sine waves, for D, E, F-sharp, at 293.67, 329.63, and 369.99 Hz, the E sounds slightly sharp.

As for the blind test, after a few more runs through D major (the teacher playing on her cello), it was definately only a mild discomfort, as opposed to full-blown pain. Is that what you meant?

And dukederek, what do you mean, "notes by feel"?

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Re: F-sharp

Postby CheezusCrust » Wed May 28, 2008 5:43 pm UTC

I have heard that all car horns honk in F#. I've tested it at least once by playing an F# note while listening to a car horn and my ears could not detect a difference.

Maybe you live in a place with bad traffic? :)

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dukederek
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Re: F-sharp

Postby dukederek » Wed May 28, 2008 6:29 pm UTC

I meant feel as in the feeling you got from the F#.


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