I'm wondering what ways there are to remember a note. For example, as a guitarist it'd come in handy if one can hum an E note so you can tune your E string according to it.

Are there common techniques to remember a note? Or is it just practice and feeling?

  • USA dial tone is set to 425 Hz, just a smidge from Ab (416) based on A = 440. When it's time to "reach out and touch someone" you can get a snuggle with offset Ab.
    – filzilla
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 22:19
  • If you know your range, you could memorize your min/max and work from there. As long as you don't practice and increase your range ;) Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:49

6 Answers 6


It's taken a year or so, but I use (don't ask why) the opening note of Coronation Street (a British soap) that is a C note , the major 3 of Ab. Every time I walk past a piano - several times a day, I hum that note, then play it to check (much to my wife's amusement and disgust). Just done it now, and got in the crack to one side of the correct note. Getting better but not perfect yet. So, yes, it can be learnt. Obviously. Some have perfect/absolute pitch, but we mere mortals put up with relative pitch, where we get a note and can pitch another from it. Again, a skill to be practised.

With tuners as small as they are,or using a mobile, you could carry one around, and try a note every so often. It may take time, but it's a good way to bore your friends.

50 yrs ago - pre tuners, during caravan holidays, I used to drop a house key on a hard surface to keep guitars in 'concert pitch'.Daft, but it worked !

  • 1
    I like the "piano-walk-by" practice! Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 8:09
  • 2
    There may still be reference pitches around you. For example, in a typical UK home lots of things are humming quietly at 50Hz.
    – slim
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 11:56
  • 1
    @slim More likely 100Hz -- here west-pond-side, 60Hz AC current leads to 120Hz sound, because AC has two peaks per cycle, each of which leads to a peak in current, and the thermal properties of the bulb (incandescent or fluorescent) are such that you then get 2X the driving frequency as acoustic output. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 12:03
  • 3
    Good point, @slim. I can remember when I first read about this in a book years ago. It was used to explain why you can most easily "see" the open A on a guitar vibrating, if you are playing in artificial light. That string is A = 110, so it vibrates just over twice for every mains cycle. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 12:04
  • @slim - yes, from memory, that's close to a G, bottom gtr string. It used to happen on gigs, particularly those at the Belfry (Warwickshire). Damned annoying, and not humming too quietly.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 12:05

I had to learn Bach's Minuet for a piano class. I played it so much that I remember the D I started on every time. I also have a small vocal part in a song that I had to practice getting perfectly correct even if I can't hear myself at all, that starts on a D. Now I'm pretty good at just singing, hearing a D and can sometimes identify other notes from this D.

It takes some real training but just practicing different modes of making or hearing the note repetitively to really drill it into your head. It's still not always accurate of course, but it'll get better and if you don't have perfect pitch, it's something!!


"Perfect pitch" (the ability to sing and/or recognize a particular note) can be developed by some people, to some degree. Not everyone, and generally not as accurately as a tuner. (The folks who are precise report that it may be more a handicap than a help, since they may be annoyed by any instrument that's tuned slightly differently.)

I know that I naturally tend to start some songs in D-minor, just because that's where my voice naturally falls. That sort of thing, tapping "muscle memory" and the resonances of your own body, might be adequate for solo performance. As noted above, it isn't likely to be good enough for performing with others where you have to agree on a tuning.

Electronic or mechanical tuners can be tiny and cheap. Tuner apps exist for most of the popular smartphones and tablets. I suspect that if you care enough to want to be on the right note, you want to be on the RIGHT note, and are better off using mechanical assistance unless you want to spend lots of time practicing this skill that could be spent practicing the instrument.

  • 2
    yes, we seem to be obsessed with tuners and using them. Back in the 60s, when a group went into the studio to record, they tuned to the guy whose guitar was nearest in tune, if there were only guitars and bass. Different with keys or a piano, If the piano was flat, so was everyone else. Try playing along to early Kinks stuff, and you'll find it's about half a fret out !
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 16:37
  • We also seem to be obsessed with the good old days, when things were bad... Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 21:03
  • 1
    Quoting Dean Inge: "There are two kinds of fool. One says 'this is old, and therefore good.' The other says 'this is new, and therefore better.'" Beware both fallacies. Sometimes good enough really is good enough. The trick is knowing which criteria really matter for the specific case.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 22:09
  • The question is about learning a reference pitch. Being in tune seems quite pertinent then, as opposed to the recording practices of yore. Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 21:09

You're asking how to remember a pitch. It's more like remembering one pound by hand, than notes in music. Therefore you have to repeat the pitch as others answered:

listen to a pitch, recall it by heart, listen, recall, ...

It's simple rote learning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rote_learning

For that matter if you tune an instrument every day, you would be aware of Hz difference rather than note difference although I can't say you will have one herz accuracy.


Use a spectrum analyser (there's an app), that will allow you to correlate your natural tone. mine is 146hz..whats that, a D?

so i can read this value off on the analyser, and repeat recall until its lodged deep inside my neural pathway.


The sensitivity to the relative pitch differences may depend on the absolute value of the pitch. Very low or very high notes are more difficult to recognize and tell apart, even if in still hear-able sound range.

As you have an instrument, try to experiment where approximately your individual ear is the most sensitive to the pitch differences, and then learn to remember the absolute frequency in this range. Simply play, record into mobile phone and use later as a ringtone and wake up signal in the morning.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.