In Western music, the expression "Middle C" refers to the note "C" located exactly between the two staves of the grand staff. This note resonates at a frequency of 261.626 hertz, and is near the top of the bass vocal range and near the bottom of the Soprano range. The note is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation (also known as note-octave notation), so named because of the note's position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard. While other pitch notation systems (including those used by some manufacturers of digital music keyboards) may refer to "Middle C" with a different designation, the C4 designation is the most commonly recognized in auditory science and most frequently used in musical studies.
While the expression "Middle C" is generally clear across instruments and clefs, some musicians tend to use the term to refer to the C note in the middle of their specific instrument's range. For example, C4 may be called "Low C" by someone playing a Western concert flute (which has a higher and narrower playing range than a 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.
Within vocal music the term Soprano C, sometimes called High C, is the C two octaves above Middle C. It is named because it is considered the defining note of the soprano voice type. It is also called C6 in scientific pitch notation. In Helmholtz notation, it is c′″. 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 tenor C can also refer to an organ (musical instrument) builder's term for small C or C3, the note one octave below Middle C. In stoplists it usually means that a rank is not full compass, omitting the bottom octave.
When calculated in equal temperament with a reference of A above middle C as 440 Hz, the frequency of the middle C note is approximately 261.626 Hz. See pitch (music) for a discussion of historical variations in frequency.
For the frequency of each note on a standard piano, see piano key frequencies.
|Scientific Designation||Helmholtz Designation||Bilinear Music Notation||Octave Name||Frequency (Hz)|
|C4 :Middle C||c′ :Middle C||(zC) :Middle C||One-lined||261.626|