Saturday, January 1, 1994

Berbers in Algeria (c. 10,000 BC) - Steps - F

Algeria is the second largest country on the African continent and the 11th largest country in the world in terms of total area.

It is bordered by Tunisia in the northeast, Libya in the east, Niger in the southeast, Mali and Mauritania in the southwest, a few kilometers of the Western Sahara in the west, Morocco in the northwest, and the Mediterranean Sea in the north.

Algeria has been inhabited by Berbers (or Imazighen) since at least 10,000 BC.

Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are discontinuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. They speak various Berber languages, which together form a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Between fourteen and twenty-five million Berber speakers live within this region, most densely in Morocco and becoming generally scarcer eastward through the rest of the Maghreb and beyond.

Many Berbers call themselves some variant of the word Imazighen (singular Amazigh), meaning "free men." This is common in Morocco, but elsewhere within the Berber homeland a local, more particular term, such as Kabyle or Chaoui, is more often used instead.

Algeria - Dance Music

The Algerian Dance features an ostinato (repeated rhythmic cycle) of 6 beats, with a drum pulse that can be heard as

ONE TWO three FOUR five six

Where ONE is the downbeat, followed by secondarily strong pulses on TWO and FOUR.

If this music were to be notated with the quarter note getting the beat, it would be said to be in 6/4 time (6 beats per measure, with the quarter note getting the beat).

The Dance features a variety of intervals -- distances between adjacent notes -- the smallest of which roughly equates with what is known as a half-step in Western music.

Half steps are the smallest intervals on a piano keyboard: the distance between adjacent white notes and black notes, or between white notes when there are no intervening black notes.


An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note.

The three principal symbols indicating whether a note should be raised or lowered in pitch are derived from variations of the letter B in medieval times:

the flat sign (♭) from the round "B rotundum" or "soft b."

A flat (♭) lowers a pitch one half step.

The natural (♮) and the sharp (♯) evolved from from the square "B quadratum" or "hard b."

A sharp (♯) raises a pitch one half step.

A natural (♮) cancels out a flat or sharp.

In the early days of European music notation (4-line staff Gregorian chant manuscripts), only the note B could be altered (i.e. have an accidental applied to it): it could be flattened, thus moving from the hexachordum durum (i.e. the hard hexachord [six-note pattern]: G-A-B-C-D-E) where it is natural, to the hexachordum molle (i.e. the soft hexachord: F-G-A-B♭-C-D) where it is flat; the note B is not present in the third hexachord hexachordum naturale (i.e. the natural hexachord: C-D-E-F-G-A).

This long use of B as the only altered note incidentally helps explain some notational peculiarities:

the flat sign actually derives from a round B, signifying the B of the soft hexachord, that is, B flat (hence the name of the flat sign in French "bémol" from medieval French "bé mol" -- modern French "bé mou" -- or "soft b") and originally meant only B♭

the natural sign derives from a square B, signifying the B of the hard hexachord, that is, B natural (hence the name of the natural sign in French "bécarre" from medieval French "bé carre," earlier "bé quarre" -- modern French "bé carré" -- or "square b") and originally meant only B natural.

In the same way, in German music notation the letter B designates B flat while the letter H, which is actually a deformation of a square B, designates B natural.

As polyphony became more complex, notes other than B needed to be altered in order to avoid undesirable harmonic or melodic intervals (especially the augmented 4th, or tritone, that music theory writers referred to as "diabolus in musica," i.e. "the devil in music"). The first sharp in use was F♯, then came the second flat E♭, then C♯, G♯, etc.; by the 16th century B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭ and F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯ and A♯ were all in use to a greater or lesser extent.

However, those accidentals were often not notated in vocal part-books (but the correct pitches were always notated in tablature). The notational practice of not marking implied accidentals, leaving them to be supplied by the performer instead, was called musica ficta (i.e. "feigned music" or "fictitious music").


Since about 1700, accidentals have been understood to continue for the remainder of the measure in which they occur, so that a subsequent note on the same staff position is still affected by that accidental, unless replaced by an accidental of its own. Notes on other staff positions, including those an octave away, are unaffected. Once a barline is passed, the effect of the accidental ends, except when a note affected by an accidental (either explicit or implied from earlier in the measure) is tied to the same note across a barline.


The white notes on the piano are usually designated by simple letter names, whereas the black notes may be spelled as flats or sharps.

A# and Bb look different in staff notation but are the same note on a standard piano keyboard.

The note A# ("A-Sharp") is written on the staff as #A ("Sharp-A").


The pattern of intervals in any major scale is WWHWWWH

(whole step / whole step / half step /

whole step / whole step / whole step / half step.

This pattern is easiest to see in C major on a piano keyboard,

and less obvious in staff notation, so it is recommended that the piano keyboard pattern of white and black notes in one octave (from C to C) be memorized.


The F Lydian Mode or Scale, above, can be solfeged as

Do Re Mi Fi Sol La Ti Do (where Fi is understood to mean "raised Fa").

Notice that

Do-Re is a whole step
Re-Mi is a whole step
Mi-Fi is a whole step

for a total distance interval known as the "tritone" (3 whole steps)

Tritones can sound so unusal that they were dubbed "Diabolus in Musica" -- "The Devil in Music"!

The collection of notes can become F Major with the addition of a key signature (accidental[s] placed at the beginning of the staff, just after the clef) of one flat. The fourth note of the scale will now be Bb -- restoring the half step beween Mi and Fa.

The F Major solfege is identical to C Major, or anty other Major, sofege:

Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do,

with that same intervalic content of


[1997 Cameroon Settled / 1994 Berbers in Algeria]