# Why are notes always written in all-caps instead of C..B and then c..b for the next octave (E-Bass)

According to the positions of the notes on the sheet, the plain strings of an electric bass should be E,A,d,g with the latter two written in lower case because they belong to a higher octave.

Whenever I google for "bass fretboard notes" or similar, though, I get images with all notes in capitals (E,A,D,G) as if they were the same.

Why is that and how do you distinguish e.g. the "E" of the plain E-string from the "e'"(?) on the 9th fret on the g-string?

• "with the latter two written in lower case because they belong to a higher octave" - are you referring to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmholtz_pitch_notation ? Commented May 23, 2020 at 22:29
• @topoReinstateMonica yes, exactly. Isn't that used in the Rest oft Europe/America? (I learned it at school in Germany and thought it way universal) Why isn't at least "scientific notation" C3,G4 etc used to distinguish the notes? Commented May 23, 2020 at 22:35
• In that Wikipedia page, it says "Helmholtz developed this system in order to accurately define pitches". If that's the intent, why would we name the strings according to the positions of the notes in standard notation? Bass is a transposing instrument, notated an octave higher than played; wouldn't the notes actually be E͵ A͵ D G ? Commented May 23, 2020 at 22:48
• @topoReinstateMonica It should be E, A, D G (with the lower notes having a comma after them) or E A d g. But not E A D G as the E is the lowest and not between the D and G strings. Commented May 23, 2020 at 23:00
• I wrote "E͵ A͵ D G" using the same sub-prime symbol for the E and the A as in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmholtz_pitch_notation. Perhaps the sub-prime symbol isn't showing up in your browser? Commented May 23, 2020 at 23:11

Whenever I google for "bass fretboard notes" or similar, though, I get images with all notes in capitals (E,A,D,G) as if they were the same.

I assume you mean a diagram like this one:

Generally, people who use these diagrams already understand what the intervals between the strings are, and that each fret is a semitone higher. Which note position is in which octave - at least relative to the others - will more-or-less already be clear to them; they just want to put note names to the 'patterns' they already know.

It's true that you could perfectly sensibly add an octave designation to such diagrams, but this extra information just wouldn't add much value for most people who would consult this kind of diagram.

Let's contrast this with the first diagram that I get when I google "isomorphic keyboard":

Most people seeing that for the first time won't understand the interval patterns; the octave numbers in that case are much more useful to more people.

how do you distinguish e.g. the "E" of the plain E-string from the "e'"(?) on the 9th fret on the g-string?

When people are notating how to play a piece, they may use tablature, or standard notation with positions indicated with Roman numerals. When they're talking casually, they may just say 'E on the 9th fret on the g-string'.

The thing is - neither Helmholtz notation nor scientific pitch notation provide a complete solution to this problem, because 'E on the 9th fret on the g-string' is the same actual pitch as 'E on the 14th fret on the d-string'.

In situations where we do want to specify pitch, I'm much more used to seeing Scientific pitch notation than Helmholtz notation. In our brief exchange in the comments, we already highlighted two ways that Helmholtz notation can be confusing; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_pitch_notation#Use mentions some other problems with Helmholtz notation too.