What’s the significance of “middle C?”

Playing a Wurlitzer Piano

Just to make sure we’re talking about the same instrument here… I’m referring to the “middle C’ on the piano keyboard, which is the first note in the “C Major” scale. Even though it’s not exactly in the middle of the keyboard, it’s still the middle compared to all of the other “C’s”… It has a frequency of 261.61255 hertz.

Middle C actually gets its name because of its location exactly in the middle between the treble and bass clefs in music notation as indicated here.

As an aspiring piano player, knowing where middle C is helps to get you oriented properly to the instrument. It’s simply a good reference point when determining where on the keyboard one should be playing a certain piece since lots of piano music is played right in the center of the keyboard.

If you’re familiar with the piano keyboard setup, then you’ll know that the black keys (the major and minor keys) are laid in groups of two and three. After every set of two black keys comes a set of three and it just keeps rotating.

Directly to the left

And there’s a “C” directly to the left of every set of two black keys, with a total of eight C’s on an 88 (eighty eight) key keyboard. The “middle C” is the fourth C from the left, or fifth from the right right. Being fourth C from the left, it is designated C4 in scientific notation.

For the other keyboards, middle c is as follows:

49 Keys61 Keys76 Keys88 Keys
3rd C from Left 3rd C from Left 3rd C from Left 4th C from Left

Click here to see it pictures on the keyboards themselves and how it appears in musical notation as the first ledger line below the treble clef…

Many songs start in this position

The old classic song, “Heart-n-Soul” starts out with the right hand on middle c. I’m pretty sure this is the first song that I ever learned on the piano (No where near as good as in the video below, but ok…).

In the video below, Chis Vu plays an amazing version of the song. Now, he is playing both parts together (usually its a duet). Also, although the song is centered around middle c, he’s all over the place (but in a very tasteful way)… have a listen…

This is the most common way to refer to middle C, as the c closest to the middle of the piano keyboard… However, as I’ve discovered in my research, it really depends upon the instrument as to which pitch / frequency is being referred to.

Ya know, I’ve heard a great deal in the past to not reference Wikipedia if you want good, reliable information for whatever it is you’re researching. And I understand this mindset since anyone can create an account; however, I’ve always found it to be a great place to start because they have usually displayed the same information as leading websites on particular topics. And if you really need an in-depth description of the musical note, “C,” then (with an explanation of middle C included) read their description.

It Divides the piano

Middle C simply divides the piano in half meaning that (normally…) every note to the left of it is played with the left hand and everything to the right is also played with the left hand – just kidding… with the right (just seeing if you’re actually reading this)…

The left hand would play the bass clef notes and the right… the treble clef notes, with middle C right in the middle of both.

Hope this helps…

stephen-ruppe-signature

References:

  1. http://www.piano-keyboard-guide.com/middle-c.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_(musical_note)
  3. https://livingpianos.com/general/what-is-middle-c-music-lesssons/
  4. http://www.middlecmusic.com (just because)

S. B. Ruppe

I like writing and recording music and other audio , checking out new music and recording gear, experimenting with tonal qualities, and just about anything-and-everything related to the subject of audio (music, or other wise)...

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