Music Teacher's Helper Blog

How is a honeybee like middle C?

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.  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.  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?  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)
600 Mosquito
523 Lowest note on piccolo
440 A for orchestral tuning
261 Middle C
250 Honeybee
196 Lowest violin note (G)
190 Housefly
165 Lowest note on clarinet and guitar
130 Bumblebee and lowest note on viola (C)
100 Hornet
96 Horsefly
85 Moth
65 Lowest cello note (C)
38 Dragonfly
33 Lowest C on piano
20 Fundamental (lowest note) on trombone
12 Butterfly
8 Lowest organ note

About the Author

Ed Pearlman
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the countr... [Read more]

3 Comments

  1. Ronnie Currey

    I enjoyed your article and the insight into music notes. I am saving and using your chart for my students. One interesting thing I learned from the mom of one of my students, the German scale is A H C D E F G. She had to bring me a german music book to show me. Do you know why the B is not used? Thanks again for the insight.

  2. Ed Pearlman

    In the German system, our Bb is called a B, and our B is called an H. So they do have a B, but they also have an H. This is how Bach was able to write a piece of music built around the letters of his name.

  3. Phillip P.

    Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.

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