European chord notation mystery?

Any European-educated music geeks out there? I finally found a Web site for guitar tablature for Russian artists (actually, a couple of sites: and, and I’m guessing one is a ripoff of the other). I was very excited to find tabs for my favorite late-glasnost’ angst band, Kino. However, there’s one catch; they list some chords in a format that stumped both me and my guitar teacher, e.g. what the heck is an Hm chord? If you want to see what I mean, and you can navigate your way through the Cyrillic, here’s a link to the song I’m talking about: (The song is called Poslednyi Geroy, or for the non-Cyrillically inclined, “Last Hero.”)

By finding the same song written in another key on another site, I figured out that the Hm is supposed to be Bm, and a European friend of mine says that this is a German chord notation style; in the German system, apparently Hm=Bm, and B flat = B, or something goofy like that, but the rest of the notation system is the same as the American system which is more familiar to most of us.

My question is: why do the Germans do this?? If there’s no note called H, why is there a chord called H???

Any theories will be welcomed with open arms.

I don’t know what the Germans do today but in Bach’s time, the practice was that the H was a regular note on the scale, but I am finding conflicting cites on this, although I found multiple places that agree with the first:

In this article

In this article

Yes, German “H” is equal to “B” and German “B” is equal to “Bb”.

Bach even used his last name as the basis for a motif he used often: Bb-A-C-B.

That C# thing is total bunk.

btw, it isn’t “old” German notation - it’s German (and slavic?) naming of the notes of the scale. They have always done it that way and still do. I think they call Eb “S” as well ???

Radio announcers often mis-translate if they are reading off of a German CD or LP. They see B-Dur and call it B Major. You can be assured that Mozart did NOT write piano sonatas in B Major.

Here’s a pretty good page describing German pitch nomenclature.

Thanks, everyone, for the enlightening and illuminating responses, even if some of them did make my head hurt (the structural side of music theory has never been my strong point as a musician).

I’m wondering, though, from a historical standpoint, what made the Germans/Slavs develop an almost, but not quite, parallel form of notation from those of us farther westward. (I’m guessing the Russians have borrowed this from the Germans, but please feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.) Why did they take a divergent path from the rest of Western Europe? Were the Germans influenced by anyone in particular? Anyone have the inside scoop on any historical perspectives in this regard?

I did have one college course that included a short section on the historical development of musical notation, but it basically started with Gregorian chant and headed into stuff that is more mainstream in the U.S. now, with a short detour into shape-note tunes. Another case of how American education basically ignores anything that happens east of France…but that’s a rant for another forum.

I teach high school (and middle school) band. Last year, we had an exchange student from Germany who played the trumpet. As we rehearsed a tune, the trumpet players were missing the key. The other director and I reminded the students that B on a trumpet is fingered second valve. This really stumped our exchange student because she was certain that B is fingered first valve.

Luckily, I, the lowly middle school director, swooped in with the solution. Our German student was remembering that her ‘B’ is fingered first valve, but here in the States, we call that note ‘Bb’. Bb most certainly is fingered first valve on the trumpet.

In any event, she was missing the key signature on the written music!:rolleyes: