The distance in semi-tones between keys

Hi Kenny, Just saw your latest blog on “Keys”……Question! The distance in semi tones between keys…. ie if key is A…. Is it 1 semi tone down to get Ab and 1 more to get G likewise is it 1 semi tone up to get Bb… and if so is it consistantly 1 up or down over the entire range???? I was at a friends Karaoke the other night and he asked the question. I couldn’t answer!!!! 

Hi Gordon

Yes, that’s correct – each key on a keyboard represents a semi-tone. The notes follow the alphabet from A up to G# but after G# instead of the next note being H, you repeat the notes again (i.e. A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#).

By the way, A# is exactly the same note as Bb (just as C# is the same as Db etc etc). The reason these notes are given two different names is because of the way music notation is written. If you don’t read or write music notation then don’t worry about this – just know that to flatten a note you would pick the note to the immediate left on a piano keyboard, and to sharpen a note you would pick the note to the immediate right of it.

Most of the newer modern karaoke systems do work in semi-tones so 1 down will usually mean 1 semi-tone down, but they certainly can’t be trusted to give accurate pitch changes.

Karaoke was designed for amateur singers, not professionals so sometimes when a karaoke system says it is taking a song “one down” it will often take the song more than a semi-tone down. To be fair they karaoke was never meant to be as exact as that – amateur singers who find a song too high just want it lowered, they don’t know or care how many tones or semi-tones the karaoke machine is moving the pitch…