Does this system - where C3 is middle C - have a standard name? For instance, is there a wikipedia page which explains this system and if so how is it titled?

(note: As mentioned middle C is C4, my mistake... leaving it as written so the answer given doesn't end up confusing.)


2 Answers 2


It's called scientific pitch notation. Here's an explanation of it:

Scientific pitch notation (also known as American Standard Pitch Notation) is one of several methods that name the notes of the standard Western chromatic scale by combining a letter name, accidentals, and a number identifying the pitch's octave. The definition of scientific pitch notation in this article is that proposed to the Acoustical Society of America in 1939,1 where C0 is in the region of about 16 Hz. - Wikipedia

  • 2
    I'd advertise using the name American Standard Pitch, because there really isn't much about this system that makes it particularly scientific. Jan 2, 2015 at 19:55

I don't think there's a name we give to the note naming format of C4... The last number is the octave.

By the way, C4 is middle C, not C3. Not every piano manufacturer gets that right. Some start on the wrong octave because their instrument doesn't have the full 88 keys and they start labeling octave 2 as 1.

Lowest note on the standard 88 key piano is A0.
Some pipe organs have lower keys that dip into octave "-1".

  • Oops, slip of the brain :) Although as it happens, my cheap keyboard, which labels all the keys, does have them all one octave wrong which was very confusing when I was using it to figure out my vocal range :)
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 2, 2015 at 16:54
  • Ah, @Dom's link even refers to this "For example, MIDI software and hardware often uses C5 or C3 to represent middle C"
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 2, 2015 at 17:34
  • I dunno. It may say "scientific pitch notation" on that wikipedia page. But I've never ever heard anyone else use that term. I'm not Mr. Allknowing about musical terms, of course. But don't expect everyone you meet to know what the heck you're talking about if you use that term. Also, keep in mind that it makes more sense to specify the octave first as it qualifies WHICH C# you're talking about. Things sort better in a text file if you use 4c for middle C, for example. (Not that that matters a great deal. And C4 is a standard way to say it). Jan 2, 2015 at 19:28

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