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What Is 11# In Music Theory What Is 11# In Music Theory

Music Theory

What Is 11# In Music Theory

Written by: Cathrine Lefler

Discover the meaning of 11# in music theory and its significance. Explore the principles and concepts of music theory to enhance your understanding and appreciation of music.

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Welcome to the fascinating world of music theory! Whether you’re a musician, composer, or just someone who appreciates music, understanding the fundamentals of music theory can greatly enhance your musical journey. In this article, we will explore the concept of 11# in music theory, its symbolic representation, and its significance in musical composition.

Music theory is a discipline that encompasses the study and analysis of the elements and structures of music. It provides us with a framework to understand how melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and other musical components come together to create beautiful and meaningful compositions. Within this vast realm of theory, we encounter various symbols, notations, and techniques that help us decipher and communicate musical ideas.

One such symbol is the 11#. In traditional music notation, we commonly encounter sharps (#) and flats (b) to indicate altered pitches, which are notes played higher or lower than their natural state. The concept of 11# expands upon this idea, adding another level of complexity and nuance to the musical landscape.

As we delve into the world of 11# in music theory, we will discover its unique characteristics, its symbolic representation, its functional role, and examples of its usage in musical compositions. This exploration will not only deepen our understanding of music theory but also provide insight into the creative possibilities it offers to composers and musicians.


Definition of 11# in Music Theory

In music theory, the term “11#” refers to the raised eleventh degree of a musical scale. It is an extension of the traditional system of sharps and flats and is used to indicate a note that is raised by eleven semitones or half steps.

To better understand the concept of 11#, we first need to comprehend the structure of a scale. A scale is a sequence of notes arranged in ascending or descending order, with specific intervals between each note. The most commonly used scale in Western music is the diatonic scale, which consists of seven unique pitches. When we refer to the “eleventh” degree of a scale, we are counting from the root note (the first degree) up to the eleventh note.

The addition of the sharp symbol (#) indicates that the eleventh note is raised by one semitone or half step. This alteration creates a unique and distinctive sound, adding tension and harmonic complexity to the music. The 11# can be applied to any scale, whether it’s a major scale, minor scale, or modes such as Dorian, Mixolydian, or Lydian.

It’s important to note that the concept of 11# is primarily used in advanced music theory and is more commonly found in jazz, fusion, and contemporary genres. In traditional classical music, the use of such alteration is relatively less frequent.

Overall, the definition of 11# in music theory encompasses the raising of the eleventh note of a scale by one semitone or half step, resulting in a distinct and unique sound. Its inclusion adds complexity and variation to musical compositions and allows for greater creativity and expression for composers and musicians alike.


The Symbolic Representation of 11# in Music Theory

The symbolic representation of 11# in music theory utilizes the familiar sharp symbol (#) to indicate the raised eleventh degree of a scale. When notating a specific pitch or note with 11#, it is typically written as the note name followed by the sharp symbol and the number 11 (#11).

For example, if we are in the key of C major and want to indicate the raised eleventh note, which is F#, we write it as F#11. This notation tells the performer to play or sing the note F raised by eleven semitones. Similarly, if we are in the key of D minor and want to indicate the raised eleventh note, which is G#, we write it as G#11.

The symbolic representation of 11# can also be seen in chord symbols. In jazz and contemporary music, chords are often expressed using shorthand notations. For example, if we have a dominant 7th chord with a raised eleventh, we would write it as X7#11, where X represents the root note of the chord.

Another common way to represent the raised eleventh note is through the use of chord extensions. In this method, we indicate the root note of the chord followed by the desired extensions. For instance, if we have a C major chord with an added #11, it would be written as Cmaj#11.

It’s worth noting that the symbolic representation of 11# can vary slightly depending on the musical context and the notational conventions used. In some instances, the sharp symbol may appear before the number, such as #11. However, regardless of the precise ordering, the essential purpose remains consistent: to indicate the raised eleventh degree of a scale or chord.

The symbolic representation of 11# in music theory provides a concise and effective way to communicate the desired pitch alteration within a musical composition. Whether it’s indicating a single note or incorporating it into chord symbols, this notation helps performers accurately interpret the music and bring the intended sound to life.


The Function and Usage of 11# in Music Theory

The function and usage of 11# in music theory offer a range of possibilities for composers and musicians looking to add complexity and color to their compositions. Let’s explore some of the common ways in which 11# is used:

1. Extended Chords: One of the primary applications of 11# is in the creation of extended chords. By adding the raised eleventh to a chord, composers can introduce dissonance and tension, giving the chord a rich and distinctive sound. This is particularly prevalent in jazz and fusion genres, where extended chords are frequently employed for their harmonic complexity and expressiveness.

2. Altered Dominant Chords: Altered dominant chords are chords built on the dominant 7th chord, with altered tensions or extensions. In this context, the addition of 11# to the dominant 7th chord creates a sense of tension and instability, pushing the harmony towards resolution. This harmonic tension can be further emphasized by combining the raised eleventh with other altered tensions, such as b9, #9, and b13.

3. Modal Interchange: Modal interchange refers to borrowing chords or scales from a related key. Incorporating 11# allows composers to introduce chromaticism and create interesting harmonic twists within a composition. By borrowing chords that contain the raised eleventh from parallel or closely related modes, composers can add unexpected harmonies and colors to their music.

4. Melodic and Harmonic Decoration: The raised eleventh can be used as a melodic or harmonic decoration to add ornamentation and intricacy to a musical line. By strategically placing 11# in a melody or chord progression, composers can create moments of tension and release, adding depth and interest to their compositions.

5. Soloing and Improvisation: Musicians performing solos or improvisation have the freedom to explore the full range of musical possibilities, including incorporating 11# into their melodic lines. Using the raised eleventh in solos adds a sense of unpredictability and experimentation, allowing for unique and expressive musical moments.

The function and usage of 11# in music theory are not limited to these examples, as its application is ultimately driven by the composer’s creative vision and the musical context. Whether employed for its harmonic tension, melodic embellishment, or as a tool for innovation, the addition of 11# opens up a world of sonic possibilities, ensuring the continued evolution and exploration of music.


Examples of 11# in Musical Composition

Throughout the history of music, countless compositions have utilized the concept of 11# to create unique and captivating musical moments. Let’s explore a few examples across different genres:

1. “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane: This iconic jazz composition by saxophonist John Coltrane is renowned for its intricate chord progression and harmonic complexity. In the opening melody, Coltrane uses the raised eleventh (B#) to create tension and movement within the chords, highlighting the unique melodic and harmonic language of the piece.

2. “Blackbird” by The Beatles: In this beautiful acoustic ballad by The Beatles, Paul McCartney incorporates the raised eleventh (B#) within the fingerstyle guitar arrangement. The use of 11# adds a touch of unpredictability and color to the melodic line, enhancing the emotional impact of the song.

3. “Concerto for Orchestra” by Béla Bartók: In this acclaimed orchestral work, Bartók employs the raised eleventh (F# and C#) within the intricate harmonic and melodic passages. The inclusion of 11# contributes to the vibrant and dynamic nature of the composition, showcasing Bartók’s innovative approach to tonality.

4. “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones’ classic rock anthem incorporates the use of 11# in the guitar riff and chord progression. The addition of the raised eleventh (Db#) adds an edgy and dissonant quality, complementing the song’s intense and haunting atmosphere.

5. “So What” by Miles Davis: This cool jazz composition by Miles Davis features a modal improvisation and explores the use of 11# in the piano and bass lines. The raised eleventh adds a contemporary and adventurous flavor to the composition, emphasizing the modal interchange and improvisational spirit of the piece.

These examples demonstrate the versatility of 11# in various musical genres, ranging from jazz and rock to classical and contemporary music. Composers and musicians continue to explore and experiment with the raised eleventh, pushing the boundaries of what is musically possible and creating captivating compositions that resonate with audiences.



Understanding the concept of 11# in music theory opens up a world of possibilities for composers, musicians, and music enthusiasts alike. This raised eleventh degree of a scale adds complexity, tension, and unique color to musical compositions, enriching the listening experience and allowing for greater creativity and expression.

Throughout this article, we have explored the definition of 11# and its symbolic representation in music notation. We have also discussed the function and usage of 11# in creating extended chords, adding dissonance to dominant chords, exploring modal interchange, and embellishing melodies and harmonies.

Furthermore, we have examined examples of 11# in musical compositions across different genres, showcasing the diverse ways in which composers have utilized this concept to create awe-inspiring and memorable musical moments.

As you continue your journey through music theory, keep in mind the significance of 11# and its ability to shape and enhance musical compositions. Whether you are a composer experimenting with complex harmonies or a musician improvising with bold and unexpected melodic choices, the inclusion of 11# can bring a vivid and engaging dimension to your creations.

So, embrace the unique qualities of 11#, unleash your creativity, and explore the vast realm of musical possibilities that it offers. Let this understanding of 11# in music theory be a stepping stone towards unraveling the beauty and intricacy of music in all its forms.

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