d sharp is not the same as e flat
we’ve been having a sharps vs flats war on this blog, and I have good news for both sides: this war is not about nothing, because sharps and flats are not the same.
I’m going to paraphrase an article from a 1930s music magazine by sid hedges:
a pianist can never play perfectly in tune. if a piano were perfectly tuned it would be possible to play upon it only in one key. this peculiarity is due to the fact the octave does does not split up in 12 equal parts–and consequently, the semitones are of varying sizes. a piano tuner has to “split the difference” between varying notes so that all of the scales sound fairly accurate. a pianist has to make one note serve for d sharp and e flat, when actually they are not the same. a violinist, making their own notes, is able to observe the proper distinction.
if you sing up the the scale of e major, you will find yourself making the d sharp (the leading tone) very sharp. if you sing up the scale of e minor, you will instinctively make your e flat very flat–considerably more so than the note on the piano.
a violinist can test the matter with the same two scales. first, they play up an e major scale, ensuring their intonation is flawless, and put a pencil mark on the fingerboard where d sharp is. next, they play a c minor scale and find that the e flat lands about a quarter of an inch below d sharp.
so, there you have it.