Whether for beginners who need to understand what an octave is, or for advanced players (and teachers!) who just find it interesting, below is a chart I put together to compare musical notes to natural sounds such as insect buzzes.
In case you’d like to do some of your own comparisons, here’s a link to a chart showing all the frequencies of the notes on a piano.
I like to point out to students that anything moving 440 times per second sounds like the A above middle C. A mosquito sounds a little higher than that; a fly or bee buzzes lower. An electronic hum is usually between an A# and a B, because it is a multiple of the 60 cycles per second frequency of our electric current.
It’s reassuring for students to know that it requires no musical training for our ears to sense when two notes are in unison (which creates hope that one can learn to tune an instrument!) and when a note matches the note an octave above or below.Â What we call an octave is a pair of notes, the higher one having exactly double the frequency (or vibrations/beats per second) of the lower one.Â Our ears naturally hear this harmony, and also hear the dissonance if the two notes are slightly off from each other.
Do you work with beginners who wonder why two different notes can both be called “A” and why there are only 7 letters in the musical scale?Â How do you usually explain this in your teaching?
Without further ado, below is the comparison of natural sounds and musical notes. Enjoy!
BPS (beats per second) — Sound
1046 Highest human voice note
988 Highest note in 1st position of violin (B)
523 Lowest note on piccolo
440 A for orchestral tuning
261 Middle C
196 Lowest violin note (G)
165 Lowest note on clarinet and guitar
130 Bumblebee and lowest note on viola (C)
65 Lowest cello note (C)
33 Lowest C on piano
20 Fundamental (lowest note) on trombone
8 Lowest organ note