Considering all the music from all differents cultures on earth, how many notes do we get in an octave? I'd guess something around 24 instead of the 12 of western music?

  • I said in an Octave not all pitches on a piano. anyway the question should have been how many pitch changes in an octave instead of notes – DavidPotatoes Oct 25 '19 at 17:19
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    I'm not sure how anyone could possibly answer this question. It seems like you're asking about the total number of different notes used in written music, right? But in order to answer that question, wouldn't we have to look at every piece of music that has ever been written? Maybe you can clarify what you're asking for? – Tanner Swett Oct 25 '19 at 17:42
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    Should I honestly put in every out-of-tune note used in a published recording? How about the notes in the near-quarter-tone key used by "Rude Buster" from Deltarune Chapter 1? – Dekkadeci Oct 25 '19 at 18:23
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    24 is not the answer, if there is one. Even before we get to 24TET tuning (if that was the intent) there are multiple version of Just scale degrees with slight variation so even with diatonic and chromatic scale variations there may be close to 24. – ggcg Oct 25 '19 at 19:44
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    way too much downvoting! The question is OK, even if it needs some rewording. – Michael Curtis Oct 25 '19 at 19:54

The answer is, actually, an infinite number of pitches.

When we think about something like computer-generated music, and glissandi within that repertoire (e.g., the THX intro), we see that there is an infinite number of frequencies that exist within the boundary of a single octave.

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    What is "actual music"? Is electronic music not "actual music"? (Better yet, is it not included in the phrase "all the music from all differents cultures on earth"?) – Richard Oct 25 '19 at 15:56
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    Technically, Richard is correct. But the question doesn't have the parameter of ' what is the smallest change of pitch discernable by humans' as an inclusion. Maybe it should...The question itself needs qualifying better. Also which octave may well have a bearing. A low one will produce something different from a high one, I'd guess. – Tim Oct 25 '19 at 15:59
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    @DavidPotatoes, Please justify your statement about the changes not being audible. – ggcg Oct 25 '19 at 16:11
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    what do I need to justify? can you hear the difference between 400hz and 400,0000001 Hz? you cannot, so what's the point of saying there is an infinite amount of notes? – DavidPotatoes Oct 25 '19 at 17:41
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    Then you should have asked what are the total number to notes that are distinguishable within an octave and are used in music around the world. The fact is that a major 2nd in India may be a few cents different compared to a maj 2nd in Germany and different in Germany between a just and 12TET tuning system. Just because no one can distinguish the diff does not mean that they are the same. It seems clear that you have not really considered your question carefully. – ggcg Oct 25 '19 at 19:42

The answer is infinite

Consider just one note, not even an octave.

Ask 12 violinists to play one note. none of them will hit the exact same pitch, yet the listener would consider that to all intents & purposes, they did.

Even take 12 guitarists.
They all tune by ear to a commonly accepted pitch, then each play the same note on, say, the 3rd fret.
That increases the variance, because not only did they not all initially tune to mathematically the same pitch, they then all pressed with slightly different pressure on the 3rd fret, each stretching the string slightly differently.

Additionally, strings change pitch depending on how hard they are struck or bowed - adding even more variance to the result. So each pitch changes over time.

…and that's when everybody in one band, from one culture & tuning standard, tries to play one single note.

Multiply that by the number of tuning standards there are & how accurately each musician can hit that standard, at each & every note they play.

If you really want to test the human ear's response to microtonality, start with a synthesizer playing simple sine waves. Start with 2 waves & detune in 1/10th cent intervals. Listen what happens.

I can't even begin on the history of tuning standards - let WIkipedia have a go - Equal temperament

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