Scientific Pitch Notation

Scientific Pitch Notation

What is Scientific Pitch Notation?

Scientific pitch notation gives numbers to pitches to help us work out where they are in the spectrum of human hearing. As you know, there’s not just one type of C, there’s many. When it comes to talking about the exact pitch in a music theory context (i.e. in words not notation) it’s beneficial to be very clear about which C we’re talking about.

C ‘Zero’ or C0 is theoretically the lowest C normally available to human hearing (not entirely true but basically). It’s also the C at the bottom of the piano. As such, that’s where our counting starts from. All the notes above C0, until we get to the next C are given the number 0 – e.g. ‘D0’ and ‘E0’.. etc. 

Every subsequent C is then given a new a higher number and all the numbers following after to that are given that number. Middle C is 4 octaves above the low C and is therefore given the number 4. So middle c is in the 4th octave above C0 and is therefore called C4.

 

Watch the video above and it should give you a good overview of the concepts of scientific pitch notation. That’s really all you need to know to use it conceptually, and to understand the references like ‘D6’ or ‘F2’ used in many music theory manuals. It’s also used in digital music production, like in the image below.

If you wanna go super geeky – go to Wikipedia.