Butter Notes
Explore & Practice Music.

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What are butter notes?

I'll let Herbie Hancock explain it:

That may be confusing, so let me add to that:

Suppose you are in a band, and the rhythm is playing the C major chord. If you are playing leads, you may want to pick from the notes from the C major scale:

CDEFGAB

The root is C, the 2nd is D, the 3rd is E, and so on and so forth. Hancock is saying to NOT play the 3rd and the 7th, because they are obvious, so, in the example of playing with the C major scale, you would not be playing the E or the B.

All art is based on limitations, and with limitations, genius solutions arise. So many songs are 3 to 4 minutes. Most songs stay in a single key and maintain a constant time signature. These are guide points, but they can be a way to constrict and limit, in a good way, what you are able to do with a song. The restriction on playing the 3rd and the 7th force you to come with new perspectives and approaches.

In an apparent twist of irony, butternotes.com does, in fact, show all the butter notes -- one can't not play them if he or she doesn't know what they are.