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Octave - Wikipedia

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In music, an octave (Latin: octavus: eighth) or

perfect octave is the interval between one
musical pitch and another with half or double its
frequency. It is defined by ANSI[1] as the unit of
frequency level when the base of the logarithm is
two. The octave relationship is a natural
phenomenon that has been referred to as the
"basic miracle of music", the use of which is
"common in most musical systems".[2]
The most important musical scales are typically
written using eight notes, and the interval
between the first and last notes is an octave. For
example, the C major scale is typically written
C D E F G A B C, the initial and final Cs being
an octave apart. Two notes separated by an
octave have the same letter name and are of the
same pitch class.

Perfect octave


Other names





Interval class

Just interval


Equal temperament


24 equal temperament


Just intonation


Three commonly cited examples of melodies

featuring the perfect octave as their opening interval
are "Singin' in the Rain", "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow", and "Stranger on the Shore".
The interval between the first and second harmonics
of the harmonic series is an octave.

Layout of a musical keyboard (three octaves


The octave has occasionally been referred to as a diapason.[3]

To emphasize that it is one of the perfect intervals (including
unison, perfect fourth, and perfect fifth), the octave is
designated P8. The octave above or below an indicated note is
sometimes abbreviated 8a or 8va (= Italian all'ottava), 8va bassa
Perfect octave Play
(= Italian all'ottava bassa, sometimes also 8 ), or simply 8 for
the octave in the direction indicated by placing this mark above or below the staff.


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1 Theory
2 Notation
2.1 First octave
3 See also
4 References
5 External links


An example of
an octave, from
G4 to G5

Multi-octave F major chord with

octaves marked by brackets.
Play full chord , lowest
octave , middle octave , or
highest octave .

For example, if one note has a frequency

of 440 Hz, the note one octave above is at
880 Hz, and the note one octave below is
at 220 Hz. The ratio of frequencies of two
notes an octave apart is therefore 2:1.
Further octaves of a note occur at 2n times the frequency of that note (where n
is an integer), such as 2, 4, 8, 16, etc. and the reciprocal of that series. For
example, 55 Hz and 440 Hz are one and two octaves away from 110 Hz
because they are 12 (or 21) and 4 (or 22) times the frequency, respectively.

After the unison, the octave is the simplest

interval in music. The human ear tends to
hear both notes as being essentially "the
same", due to closely related harmonics.
Notes separated by an octave "ring" together,
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" melody doubled in four
adding a pleasing sound to music. For this
octaves: consonant and equivalent. Play
reason, notes an octave apart are given the
same note name in the Western system of
music notationthe name of a note an octave above A is also A. This is called octave
equivalency, the assumption that pitches one or more octaves apart are musically equivalent in
many ways, leading to the convention "that scales are uniquely defined by specifying the intervals
within an octave".[4] The conceptualization of pitch as having two dimensions, pitch height
(absolute frequency) and pitch class (relative position within the octave), inherently include octave
circularity.[4] Thus all Cs, or all 1s (if C = 0), in any octave are part of the same pitch class.
Octave equivalency is a part of most "advanced musical cultures", but is far from universal in
"primitive" and early music.[5][6] The languages in which the oldest extant written documents on
tuning are written, Sumerian and Akkadian, have no known word for "octave". However, it is
believed that a set of cuneiform tablets that collectively describe the tuning of a nine-stringed
instrument, believed to be a Babylonian lyre, describe tunings for seven of the strings, with
indications to tune the remaining two strings an octave from two of the seven tuned strings. [7] Leon
Crickmore recently proposed that "The octave may not have been thought of as a unit in its own

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right, but rather by analogy like the first day of a new seven-day week".[8]
Monkeys experience octave equivalency, and
its biological basis apparently is an octave
mapping of neurons in the auditory thalamus
of the mammalian brain.[9] Studies have also
shown the perception of octave equivalence in
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" melody doubled at
rats (Blackwell & Schlosberg, 1943), human
fifths: fairly consonant but not equivalent. Play
infants (Demany & Armand, 1984),[10] and
musicians (Allen, 1967) but not starlings
(Cynx, 1993), 4-9 year old children (Sergeant, 1983), or nonmusicians (Allen, 1967).[4]
While octaves commonly refer to the perfect
octave (P8), the interval of an octave in music
theory encompasses chromatic alterations
within the pitch class, meaning that G to G
(13 semitones higher) is an Augmented
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" melody doubled at
octave (A8), and G to G (11 semitones
seconds: neither consonant nor equivalent. Play
higher) is a diminished octave (d8). The use
of such intervals is rare, as there is frequently
a preferable enharmonically equivalent notation available, but these categories of octaves must be
acknowledged in any full understanding of the role and meaning of octaves more generally in

Octaves are identified with various
naming systems. Among the most
common are the scientific, Helmholtz,
organ pipe, MIDI, and MIDI note
In writing, a specific octave is often
indicated through the addition of a
number after the note letter name.
Thus middle C is "C4", because of the
note's position as the fourth C key on a
standard 88-key piano keyboard, while the C above is "C5", in a system known as scientific pitch
The notation 8a or 8va is sometimes seen in sheet music, meaning "play this an octave higher than
written" (all' ottava: "at the octave" or all' 8va). 8a or 8va stands for ottava, the Italian word for
octave (or "eighth"); the octave above may be specified as ottava alta or ottava sopra). Sometimes

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8va is used to tell the musician to play a passage an

octave lower (when placed under rather than over the
staff), though the similar notation 8vb (ottava bassa
or ottava sotta) is also used. Similarly, 15ma
(quindicesima) means "play two octaves higher than
An example of the same two notes expressed
written" and 15mb (quindicesima bassa) means "play
regularly, in an 8va bracket, and in a 15ma
two octaves lower than written." The abbreviations
col 8, coll' 8, and c. 8 stand for coll'ottava,
meaning "play the notes in the passage together with
the notes in the notated octaves". Any of these directions can be
cancelled with the word loco, but often a dashed line or bracket
indicates the extent of the music affected.[11]
For music-theoretical purposes (not on sheet music), octave can be
abbreviated as P8 (which is an abbreviation for Perfect Eighth, the
interval between 12 semitones or an octave).

First octave
In music theory, the first octave, also called the contra octave,
ranges from C1, or about 32.7 Hz, to C2, about 65.4 Hz, in equal
temperament using A440 tuning. This is the lowest complete octave
of most pianos (excepting the Bsendorfer Imperial Grand). The
lowest notes of instruments such as double bass, electric bass,
extended-range bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, bassoon,
contrabassoon, tuba and sousaphone are part of the first octave.
The ability of vocalists to sing competently in the first octave is rare,
even for males. A singer who can reach notes in this range is known
as a basso profondo, Italian for "deep bass". A Russian bass can also
sing in this range, and the fundamental pitches sung by Tibetan
monks and the throat singers of Siberia and Mongolia are in this

Six octaves on a

See also
Blind octave
Eight foot pitch
Octave species
Pitch circularity
Pythagorean interval

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Short octave

1. ANSI/ASA S1.1-2013 Acoustical Terminology
2. Cooper, Paul (1973). Perspectives in Music Theory: An Historical-Analytical Approach, p.16. ISBN
3. William Smith & Samuel Cheetham (1875). A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities. London: John
4. Burns, Edward M. (1999). "Intervals, Scales, and Tuning", The Psychology of Music second edition, ,
p.252. Deutsch, Diana, ed. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-213564-4.
5. e.g., Nettl, 1956; Sachs, C. and Kunst, J. (1962). In The wellsprings of music, ed. Kunst, J. The Hague:
Marinus Nijhoff.
6. e.g., Nettl, 1956; Sachs, C. and Kunst, J. (1962). Cited in Burns, Edward M. (1999), p.217.
7. Clint Goss (2012). "Flutes of Gilgamesh and Ancient Mesopotamia". Flutopedia. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
8. Leon Crickmore (2008). "New Light on the Babylonian Tonal System". ICONEA 2008: Proceedings of
the International Conference of Near Eastern Archaeomusicology, held at the British Museum,
December 46, 2008. 24: 1122.
9. "The mechanism of octave circularity in the auditory brain (
/eng7.htm)", Neuroscience of Music.
10. Demany L, Armand F. The perceptual reality of tone chroma in early infancy. J Acoust Soc Am
11. Ebenezer Prout & David Fallows. "All'ottava". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music
Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)

External links
Anatomy of an Octave ( by Kyle Gann
Retrieved from ""
Categories: Octaves Perfect intervals Superparticular intervals Musical notes
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