How to Write Music

8. Pitch Names - Letters


Old (2005-2010) Article Series

Lesson 8: Pitch Names - Letters

In order to start learning about almost anything in music, like chords or melodies, you need to know the names of the different pitches. A note's pitch is how "high" or "low" it sounds. The pitches are named after the first 7 letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Click and hold each letter below, one at a time, to play that pitch, first left to right ("going up") and then backwards, right to left ("going down"):

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... A B C D E F G ...

Now, the row above only shows 7 pitches from the middle of the pitch range, but we can hear many more pitches (higher and lower) than that. What do we name these higher and lower pitches? We just reuse the same letters. Here is a larger section of the pitch range:

... A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G ...

Once again, play the whole sequence above, left to right and right to left, to hear how the pitches sound.

The distance from one pitch to the next same-named one (e.g. from one A to the next A, or one B to the next B) is called an octave. So, the row above shows three octaves of pitches.

Between the lowest pitch our ears can hear, and the highest, there are about eight octaves of pitches. The three octaves shown above are just a section from the middle of this range. There are actually more octaves below (to the left of) the three octaves above, and also more octaves above (to the right).

When we need to be specific about exactly which A (or B, etc.) we're talking about, we can add a number after the letter, like A3 or A4. A4 is one octave higher than A3.

Besides these letter-named pitches, there are also other pitches in between some of the letters. Learn about these in-between pitches in Lesson 9: Pitch Names - Sharps & Flats.

by Conrad Albrecht 2015. Questions, comments, ideas? Tell me on Facebook!

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