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C or Do is the first
note Note, notes, or NOTE may refer to: Music and entertainment * Musical note In music, a note is the representation of a musical sound. Notes can represent the Pitch (music), pitch and Duration (music), duration of a sound in musical notation. A ...
and
semitone A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest interval (music), musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most Consonance and dissonance#Dissonance, dissonant when sounded harmonically ...
of the
C major C major (or the key of C) is a major scale based on C (musical note), C, consisting of the pitches C, D (musical note), D, E (musical note), E, F (musical note), F, G (musical note), G, A (musical note), A, and B (musical note), B. C major is on ...
scale, the third note of the
A minor A minor is a minor scale based on A (musical note), A, with the pitches A, B (musical note), B, C (musical note), C, D (musical note), D, E (musical note), E, F (musical note), F, and G (musical note), G. Its key signature has no Flat (music), fla ...
scale (the
relative minor In music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definition of music, definit ...
of C major), and the fourth note (G, A, B, C) of the
Guidonian hand In medieval music, the Guidonian hand was a mnemonic device used to assist singers in learning to sight reading, sight-sing. Some form of the device may have been used by Guido of Arezzo, a medieval music theory, music theorist who wrote a number ...
, commonly pitched around 261.63  Hz. The actual
frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also occasionally referred to as ''temporal frequency'' for clarity, and is distinct from ''angular frequency''. Frequency is measured in Hertz (unit), hertz (H ...
has depended on historical pitch standards, and for
transposing instrument A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which music notation is not written at concert pitch (concert pitch is the pitch on a non-transposing instrument such as the piano). For example, playing a written middle C on a transposing in ...
s a distinction is made between written and sounding or
concert pitch Concert pitch is the pitch (music), pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are musical tuning, tuned for a performance. Concert pitch may vary from musical ensemble, ensemble to ensemble, and has varied widely over music history. ...
. It has
enharmonic In modern musical notation and musical tuning, tuning, an enharmonic equivalent is a Musical note, note, interval (music), interval, or key signature that is Equivalence class (music), equivalent to some other note, interval, or key signature bu ...
equivalents of B and D. In English the term ''Do'' is used interchangeably with C only by adherents of fixed Do solfège; in the movable Do system Do refers to the tonic of the prevailing key.


Frequency

Historically,
concert pitch Concert pitch is the pitch (music), pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are musical tuning, tuned for a performance. Concert pitch may vary from musical ensemble, ensemble to ensemble, and has varied widely over music history. ...
has varied. For an instrument in
equal temperament An equal temperament is a musical temperament or Musical tuning#Tuning systems, tuning system, which approximates Just intonation, just intervals by dividing an octave (or other interval) into equal steps. This means the ratio of the frequency, ...
tuned to the A440 pitch standard widely adopted in 1939, middle C has a frequency around 261.63 Hz (for other notes see
piano key frequencies This is a list of the fundamental frequencies in hertz (cycles per second) of the keys of a modern 88-key standard or 108-key extended piano in Equal temperament#Twelve-tone equal temperament, twelve-tone equal temperament, with the 49th key, the ...
).
Scientific pitch Scientific pitch, also known as philosophical pitch, Sauveur pitch or Verdi tuning, is an absolute concert pitch Concert pitch is the pitch (music), pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are musical tuning, tuned for a perfo ...
was originally proposed in 1713 by French physicist
Joseph Sauveur Joseph Sauveur (24 March 1653 – 9 July 1716) was a French mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in their work, typically to solve mathematical problems. Mathematicians are concerned with n ...
and based on the numerically convenient frequency of 256 Hz for middle C, all C's being
powers of two A power of two is a number of the form where is an integer An integer is the number zero (), a positive natural number (, , , etc.) or a negative integer with a minus sign (−1, −2, −3, etc.). The negative numbers are the additive i ...
. After the A440 pitch standard was adopted by musicians, the
Acoustical Society of America The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is an international scientific society founded in 1929 dedicated to generating, disseminating and promoting the knowledge of acoustics and its practical applications. The Society is primarily a voluntary orga ...
published new frequency tables for scientific use. A movement to restore the older A435 standard has used the banners "Verdi tuning", "philosophical pitch" or the easily confused
scientific pitch Scientific pitch, also known as philosophical pitch, Sauveur pitch or Verdi tuning, is an absolute concert pitch Concert pitch is the pitch (music), pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are musical tuning, tuned for a perfo ...
.


Octave nomenclature


Middle C

Middle'' ''C (the fourth C key from left on a standard 88-key
piano The piano is a stringed keyboard instrument in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material (modern hammers are covered with dense wool felt; some early pianos used leather). It is played using a musica ...
keyboard) is designated C4 in
scientific pitch notation Scientific pitch notation (SPN), also known as American standard pitch notation (ASPN) and international pitch notation (IPN), is a method of specifying musical Pitch (music), pitch by combining a musical Note (music), note name (with accidental ...
, and c′ in
Helmholtz pitch notation Helmholtz pitch notation is a system for naming musical notes of the Classical music, Western chromatic scale. Fully described and normalized by the German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, it uses a combination of upper case, upper and lower case ...
; it is note number 60 in
MIDI MIDI (; Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a technical standard that describes a communications protocol, Digital electronics, digital interface, and electrical connectors that connect a wide variety of electronic musical instruments ...
notation. While the expression ''Middle C'' is generally clear across instruments and clefs, some musicians naturally use the term to refer to the C note in the middle of their specific instrument's range. C4 may be called ''Low C'' by someone playing a
Western concert flute The Western concert flute is a family of transverse flute, transverse (side-blown) woodwind instruments made of metal or wood. It is the most common variant of the flute. A musician who plays the flute is called a flautist (in British English), ...
, which has a higher and narrower
playing range In music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definition of music, defin ...
than the piano, while C5 (523.251 Hz) would be Middle C. This technically inaccurate practice has led some pedagogues to encourage standardizing on C4 as the definitive Middle C in instructional materials across all instruments. On the
Grand Staff In Western culture, Western musical notation, the staff (US and UK)"staf ...
, Middle'' ''C is notated with a
ledger line A ledger line or leger line is used in Western musical notation to notate Pitch (music), pitches above or below the lines and spaces of the regular musical staff. A line slightly longer than the note head is drawn parallel to the staff, above or b ...
above the top line of the
bass staff A clef (from French: 'key') is a Musical notation, musical symbol used to indicate which Musical note, notes are represented by the lines and spaces on a musical staff (music), stave. Placing a clef on a stave assigns a particular pitch to ...
or below the bottom line of the treble staff. Alternatively, it is written on the centre line of a staff using the
alto clef A clef (from French: 'key') is a Musical notation, musical symbol used to indicate which Musical note, notes are represented by the lines and spaces on a musical staff (music), stave. Placing a clef on a stave assigns a particular pitch to ...
, or on the fourth line from the bottom, or the second line from the top, of staves using the
tenor clef A clef (from French: 'key') is a Musical notation, musical symbol used to indicate which Musical note, notes are represented by the lines and spaces on a musical staff (music), stave. Placing a clef on a stave assigns a particular pitch to ...
.


Other octaves

In vocal music, the term ''High C'' (sometimes called ''Top C'') can refer to either the soprano's ''C''6 (1046.502 Hz; ''c''′′′ in Helmholtz notation) or the tenor's ''C''5; both are written as the C two ledger lines above the treble clef but the tenor voice sings an octave lower. The term ''Low C'' is sometimes used in vocal music to refer to ''C''2 because this is considered the divide between true basses and bass-baritones: a ''basso'' can sing this note easily, whereas other male voices, including bass-baritones, typically cannot. ''Tenor C'' is an organ builder's term for ''small C'' or ''C''3 (130.813 Hz), the note one
octave In music, an octave ( la, octavus: eighth) or perfect octave (sometimes called the Pythagorean interval, diapason) is the interval (music), interval between one musical Pitch (music), pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave rela ...
below Middle C. In older stoplists it usually means that a
rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a ranking, such as: Level or position in a hierarchical organization * Academic rank * Diplomatic rank * Hierarchy * H ...
was not yet full compass, omitting the bottom octave, until that octave was added later on.


Designation by octave

Note that for a classical piano and musical theory, the middle C is usually labelled as C4; However, in the
MIDI MIDI (; Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a technical standard that describes a communications protocol, Digital electronics, digital interface, and electrical connectors that connect a wide variety of electronic musical instruments ...
standard definition (like the one used in
Apple An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (''Malus domestica''). Apple fruit tree, trees are agriculture, cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus ''Malus''. The tree originated in Central Asia, wh ...
's
GarageBand GarageBand is a line of digital audio workstations developed by Apple Inc. for macOS, iPadOS, and iOS devices that allows users to create music or podcasts. GarageBand is developed by Apple for macOS, and was once part of the iLife software su ...
), this middle C (261.626 Hz) is labelled C3. In practice, a MIDI software can label middle C (261.626 Hz) as C3–C5, which can cause confusion, especially for beginners. The frequencies given in this table are based on the standard that A=440Hz and with
equal temperament An equal temperament is a musical temperament or Musical tuning#Tuning systems, tuning system, which approximates Just intonation, just intervals by dividing an octave (or other interval) into equal steps. This means the ratio of the frequency, ...


Graphic presentation


Scales


Common scales beginning on C

*
C major C major (or the key of C) is a major scale based on C (musical note), C, consisting of the pitches C, D (musical note), D, E (musical note), E, F (musical note), F, G (musical note), G, A (musical note), A, and B (musical note), B. C major is on ...
: C D E F G A B C * C natural minor: C D E F G A B C * C
harmonic minor In music theory Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. ''The Oxford Companion to Music'' describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory". The first is the "Elements of music, rudiments", that are n ...
: C D E F G A B C * C
melodic minor In music theory, the minor scale is three Scale (music), scale patterns – the #Natural minor scale, natural minor scale (or Aeolian mode), the #Harmonic minor scale, harmonic minor scale, and the #Melodic minor scale, melodic minor scale (asce ...
ascending: C D E F G A B C * C melodic minor descending: C B A G F E D C


Diatonic scale In music theory, a diatonic scale is any heptatonic scale that includes five whole steps (whole tones) and two half steps (semitones) in each octave, in which the two half steps are separated from each other by either two or three whole steps, ...
s

* C Ionian: C D E F G A B C * C Dorian: C D E F G A B C * C Phrygian: C D E F G A B C * C Lydian: C D E F G A B C * C
Mixolydian Mixolydian mode may refer to one of three things: the name applied to one of the ancient Greek ''harmoniai'' or ''tonoi'', based on a particular octave species or musical scale, scale; one of the medieval musical mode, church modes; or a modern m ...
: C D E F G A B C * C Aeolian: C D E F G A B C * C Locrian: C D E F G A B C


Jazz melodic minor

* C ascending melodic minor: C D E F G A B C * C Dorian ♭2: C D E F G A B C * C Lydian augmented: C D E F G A B C * C
Lydian dominant In music, the acoustic scale, overtone scale, Lydian dominant scale, Lydian 7 scale, or the Pontikonisian Scale is a Heptatonic scale, seven-note synthetic scale, synthetic Scale (music), scale. : This differs from the major scale in having an ...
: C D E F G A B C * C Mixolydian ♭6: C D E F G A B C * C Locrian ♮2: C D E F G A B C * C altered: C D E F G A B C


See also

*
Piano key frequencies This is a list of the fundamental frequencies in hertz (cycles per second) of the keys of a modern 88-key standard or 108-key extended piano in Equal temperament#Twelve-tone equal temperament, twelve-tone equal temperament, with the 49th key, the ...
*
A440 (pitch standard) A440 (also known as Stuttgart pitch) is the pitch (music), musical pitch corresponding to an audio frequency of 440 Hertz, Hz, which serves as a tuning standard for the musical note of A (musical note), A above middle C, or A4 in scientific pitch ...
*
C major C major (or the key of C) is a major scale based on C (musical note), C, consisting of the pitches C, D (musical note), D, E (musical note), E, F (musical note), F, G (musical note), G, A (musical note), A, and B (musical note), B. C major is on ...
*
C minor C minor is a minor scale based on C (musical note), C, consisting of the pitches C, D (musical note), D, E♭ (musical note), E, F (musical note), F, G (musical note), G, A♭ (musical note), A, and B♭ (musical note), B. Its key signature consi ...
*
Root (chord) In music theory, the concept of root is the idea that a chord (music), chord can be represented and named by one of its Musical note, notes. It is linked to Harmony (music), harmonic thinking—the idea that vertical aggregates of notes can form ...


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:C (Musical Note) Musical notes