C (musical note)

This article is about the musical note. For the fruit drink, see Hi-C. For other uses, see C (disambiguation).
"Middle C" redirects here. For the novel by William H. Gass, see Middle C (novel).
"Do note" redirects here. For the iOS and Android app, see Do Note.
Middle C  Play .

In terms of musical pitch, C or Do is the first note of the fixed-Do solfège scale.

Middle C

When the A440 pitch standard is used to tune a musical instrument, Middle C has a frequency around 261.6 Hz. Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note's position as the fourth C key from left on a standard 88-key piano keyboard.

Another system known as scientific pitch assigns a frequency of 256 Hz but, while numerically convenient, this is not used by orchestras. Other note-octave systems, including those used by some makers of digital music keyboards, may refer to Middle C differently. In MIDI, Middle C is note number 60.

The C4 designation is the most commonly recognized in auditory science, and in musical studies it is often used in place of the Helmholtz designation c'.

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, which has a higher and narrower playing range 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.[1]

In vocal music, the term Soprano C, sometimes called "High C" or "Top C," is the C two octaves above Middle C. It is so named because it is considered the defining note of the soprano voice type. It is C6 in scientific pitch notation (1046.502 Hz) and c''' in Helmholtz notation. The term Tenor C is sometimes used in vocal music to refer to C5, as it is the highest required note in the standard tenor repertoire. The term Low C is sometimes used in vocal music to refer to C2 because this is considered the divide between true basses and bass-baritones: a basso can sing this note easily while other male voices, including bass-baritones, cannot.

In organ music, the term Tenor C can refer to an organ builder's term for small C or C3 (130.813 Hz), the note one octave below Middle C. In stoplists it usually means that a rank is not full compass, omitting the bottom octave.[2]

For the frequency of each note on a standard piano, see piano key frequencies.

Designation by octave

Scientific designation Helmholtz designation Bilinear music notation Octave name Frequency (Hz) Other names Audio
C-2 C͵͵͵͵ or ͵͵͵͵C or CCCCC N/A Octocontra 4.088  Play 
C-1 C͵͵͵ or ͵͵͵C or CCCC (-uC) Subsubcontra 8.176  Play 
C0 C͵͵ or ͵͵C or CCC (-vC) Subcontra 16.352  Play 
C1 C͵ or ͵C or CC (-wC) Contra 32.703  Play 
C2 C (-xC) Great 65.406 Low C  Play 
C3 c (-yC) Small 130.813 Bass C, Tenor C (organ)  Play 
C4 c (zC) One-lined 261.626 Middle C  Play 
C5 c (yC) Two-lined 523.251 Tenor C (vocal), Treble C  Play 
C6 c (xC) Three-lined 1046.502Soprano C (vocal), High C (vocal), Top C (vocal) Play 
C7 c (wC) Four-lined 2093.005  Play 
C8 c (vC) Five-lined 4186.009Eighth octave C Play 
C9 c (uC) Six-lined 8372.018  Play 
C10 c (tC) Seven-lined 16744.036  Play 

Graphic presentation

Middle C in four clefs
Position of Middle C on an 88-key keyboard


Common scales beginning on C

Diatonic scales

Jazz Melodic Minor

B sharp

Comparison of notes derived from, or near, twelve perfect fifths (B).

Twelve just perfect fifths (B) and seven octaves do not align as in equal temperament.

This difference, 23.46 cents (531441/524288), is known as the Pythagorean comma.

See also


  1. Large, John (February 1981). "Theory in Practice: Building a Firm Foundation". Music Educators Journal. 32: 30–35.
  2. Wakin, Daniel J. (2007-09-09). "The Note That Makes Us Weep". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
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