I'm teaching myself the violin, having to learn music theory. I don't understand the difference between the G note (which is two spaces below the bottom space) and the upper G (the second string from the bottom).

Are these notes the exact same? I amused that was the case, but the song I am learning (happy birthday) doesn't sound right at all. There is a section of the song that plays the bottom G twice, then the upper G right after.



2 Answers 2


The notes have the same letter name, but are in different octaves so they are not exactly the same note so you should not try to substitute one with the other.

Let's look at the frequency of the two notes in question to better understand the relationship. The first G you mentioned, which in scientific pitch notation is called G3, has a frequency of approximately 196 Hz. The second G you mentioned, which in scientific pitch notation is called G4, has a frequency of approximately 392 Hz. These are two very different frequencies, however there is a relationship tying them together which is G3's frequency is half of G4's frequency. It is due to this relationship and how the harmonic series works that we give them similar names and we call this phenomenon octave equivalence.

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    I haven't touched a violin in years, but those two notes are also played on physically different strings, correct? Perhaps you could let OP know which strings play each note, if such a thing is easy to describe in the violin (again, it's been too long for me to remember) May 1, 2017 at 17:00

The difference is that the same note can be played in different octaves. As Dom answered, the technical meaning of an octave is that the frequency of the pitch doubles. Practically speaking, to most people these notes sound like the same note, only one is higher.

On the violin, you can play three different G's in first position (where a beginner usually plays). The lowest is the open G string. The next is played with the 3rd finger on the D string. If you can bow two notes at once, try playing both the open G string and the G on the D string. If you play it perfectly, it will be a very smooth sound, almost as though there was only one note being played. You can contrast that with how it sounds when you play both the open G and any other note on the D string at the same time. If you can't bow two notes and once and don't have someone to demonstrate it, you can try plucking the two notes at the same time, but the similarity is not as easy to hear that way.

The third G is played with a low 2nd finger on the E string, so is a little more difficult to find than the other two, and cannot be played with the open G string to compare.

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