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What is the phonetic pronunciation of every note name in German? So, all three iterations of every letter (flat, natural, and sharp) including E#, Cb, etc.

Also, how do you pronounce the German note names “B” and “H”? Is there a German equivalent for the English “B#” (such as “H#”?) and how would that be pronounced phonetically?

  • Hi and welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Feel free to take a tour of the site. For any questions about how it works, visit the help center. – Jan Nov 29 '15 at 15:34
  • I wonder what the German equivalents of quarter tones, i.e. “half sharp” or “half flat”, are. – user4642212 Oct 13 at 0:41
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For those notes that are a letter of the alphabet, e.g. C, A, E, H, B (yes, that one, too) they are pronounced as the letter itself would be. Note, that English B is called H in German and English B flat is German B.

A sharp is rendered as the syllable -is added to the letter name. So C♯, D♯, E♯ would be cis, dis, eis. Note that eis is pronounced e-is, not like Eis (ice). His is no exception.

A flat is rendered as es appended to the letter’s name. The exceptions are A, E and H, which are As, Es and B respectively.

Double sharp is -isis appended to the letter. E.g. Fisis. Likewise, double flat is -eses. A double flat would be Ases, B double flat is Heses.

-Es is [ɛs], -is is [ɪs]; the double forms are twice that.

By themself, ♯ is called Kreuz and 𝄪 (probably not displayable) is a Doppelkreuz, ♭ is called B and ♭♭ is Doppel-B. Note the possible confusion that may arise from both ♭ (the sign) and B (the note B♭ in English) sharing the same name.

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    We usually say "Kreuz" and "B", which can be a little bit confusing in the latter case because it's also the name of a note. It is usually clear from context, however. "Warum hat der Trompeter Angst vor dem Friedhof? Wegen der vielen Kreuze!" is a popular musician's joke showing usage of the word "Kreuz". – Jörg W Mittag Nov 29 '15 at 19:45
  • @JörgWMittag: ... and, for the sake of completeness, "Doppelkreuz" and "Doppel-B". – O. R. Mapper Nov 30 '15 at 8:44
  • @JörgWMittag: Trompeter sind wie Verurteilte: Jeder nur ein Kreuz! ;) – Jan Nov 30 '15 at 10:52
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The German sequence of the basic notes (white keys on piano) is: C, D, E, F, G, A, H.

The system is simple. There is no »flat« or »sharp«, just the suffixes »-es« and »-is«. And you have to keep in mind, that the German name of the English B is H. There are five exceptions, they are written in boldface.

I will not talk about enharmonic, I guess you know about it.

  • C Note
    • Cbb: written as »Ceses«, spoken: [ʦeses]
    • Cb: »Ces«, [ʦes]
    • C: »C«, [ʦeː]
    • C#: »Cis«, [ʦis]
    • C##: »Cisis«, [ʦisis]
  • D Note
    • Dbb: »Deses«, [deses]
    • Db: »Des«, [des]
    • D: »D«, [deː]
    • D#: »Dis«, [dis]
    • D##: »Disis«, [disis]
  • E Note
    • Ebb: »Eses«, [eses]
    • Eb: »Es«, [es]
    • E: »E«, [eː]
    • E#: »Eis«, [eːis] (do not mix up with [aɪ̯s]! Later is the pronunciation of the German word for ice or ice creme, not for the music note)
    • E##: »Eisis«, [eːisis]
  • F Note
    • Fbb: »Feses«, [feses]
    • Fb: »Fes«, [fes]
    • F: »F«, [ɛf]
    • F#: »Fis«, [fis]
    • F##: »Fisis«, [fisis]
  • G Note
    • Gbb: »Geses«, [ɡeses]
    • Gb: »Ges«, [ɡes]
    • G: »G«, [ɡeː]
    • G#: »Gis«, [ɡis]
    • G##: »Gisis«, [ɡisis]
  • A Note
    • Abb: »Asas«, [asas]
    • Ab: »As«, [as]
    • A: »A«, [aː]
    • A#: »Ais«, [aːis]
    • A##: »Aisis«, [aːisis]
  • B Note
    • Bbb: »Heses«, [heses]
    • Bb: »B«, [beː]
    • B: »H«, [haː]
    • B#: »His«, [his]
    • B##: »Hisis«, [hisis]

Addendum

The sign ♯ (that looks very similar to the sign #, but is different to it), which is written in a staff before a note's head to mark it as being a halftone higher, is called »Kreuz« ([kʀɔɪ̯ʦ]). This sign can also be part of a staffs key signature.

The sign 𝄪 before a note's head marks it as two halftones higher and is named »Doppelkreuz« ([ˈdɔpl̩ˌkʀɔɪ̯ʦ]) in German. This sign can not be part of a staffs key signature.

To mark a note as one halftone lower, you use the sign ♭ before a notes head or in the key signature. Since it looks like the letter b (from which it is different!) it is named »B« ([beː]) in German.

To make a note two halftones lower you use the sign 𝄫 (before a notes head only, never as part of a key signature). It's German name is »Doppel-B« ([ˈdɔpl̩ˌbeː].

To cancel all four of these signs there is the sign ♮ (which also looks similar to #, so be careful with that!). Its German name is »Auflösungszeichen« ([ˈaʊ̯fˌløːzʊŋsˈʦaɪ̯çn̩]]) (verbatim: annulment-sign). But be careful: This sign has barely nothing to do with »resolution« (of a dissonant accord into a consonant accord), with is »Auflösung« in German too.

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    As far as I know, in Germany at least, C♭ is pronounced [ʦɛs] (not [ʦes]) and C♯ is pronounced [ʦɪs] (not [ʦis]), etc. – Walter Tross Dec 1 '15 at 22:51

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