What Is An Octave

What Is An Octave

The word octave comes from the Latin word “octavus” which means eighth and is used in music to distinguish the distance between one note and the next note of the same tone but higher or lower. So a note with the same tone but a different pitch is said to be an octave higher or lower in pitch,

What Is A Pitch?

Whenever you pluck a guitar string or hit a key on the piano, you play a note. The pitch of that note is determined by its frequency or how many times it oscillates per second. The pitch runs from low to high, with sounds like thunder having low pitch and cats meowing having a high pitch.

What Is An Interval?

The pitch is a note at a set frequency whereas an interval is where two notes (with different pitches) are played together with the interval being the distance in the pitch between those two notes. The intervals between notes are described by various means starting with the smallest step which is called a semitone or sometimes a half step. Two semitones become a tone or whole step, then on through a third, fourth, sixth, eleventh and so on. Until eventually we reach an octave.

What Is An Octave?

An octave is the interval between notes that are exactly twice the pitch of the original note. Double the frequency of the original note. For example, the A above middle C (A4)has a frequency of 440 hertz, the A one octave higher (A5)  has a frequency of 880 hertz. The A one octave lower (A3) has a frequency of 220 hertz. 

Musical notes run from A to G which is 7 whole notes (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) the 8th being another A one octave higher, and the sequence continues. So an octave is the 8th whole note in sequence and as there are 7 whole notes, the 8th is called an octave (8th).

Whole notes are the same as the white notes on a piano (with the black notes being sharps and flats) there are 7 white notes before the pattern repeats itself so the 8th whole note is always the same note as the first one but a pitch higher.

A great example of the use of octaves in musical composition is the second movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. As the piece begins we experience several downward octave jumps.

12 string guitars use octave tunings on the four lower strings (E, A, D, G) with one set tuned to regular tuning and the second string of the pair tuned an octave higher. This is why 12 string guitars sound so melodic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an octave 7 or 8 notes?

An octave is the interval between notes that are exactly twice the pitch of the original note. As there are 7 whole notes, the 8th note is the octave note.

What is an octave in music?

An octave in music is an interval with the higher note having twice the frequency of the lower note.

Why does an octave start with C?

Octaves can start on any note, but C is often used as an example because it has no sharps or flats. Which makes it less complicated.

What does 1 octave higher mean?

1 octave higher means the same note but with double the frequency of the original note.

How many octaves are on a piano?

On a standard 88 key piano there are 7 octaves. Which equates to 7 white keys and 5 black keys per octave with 3 additional keys below the bottom C (52 white keys and 36 black keys).

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