• Questions Most Beginners Ask: What Is An Octave?

    in Beginners,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning what an octave is, then you arrived at the right page.

    Today’s lesson is for anyone who just got started with keyboard or piano playing and just came across the term octave and really wants to understand what it means.

    We’ll start out by defining the octave in this lesson and also showing you step-by-step, how you can identify the octave of any given note.

    Let’s get started!

    Definition Of The Octave

    Preliminaries

    There are twelve musical notes:

    Seven of them are natural and are white in color:

    …while five of them are said to be accidental and are black in color:

    Playing all the white notes from C:

    …to C:

    …produces what music scholars call the key of C major:

    …and this key has all the natural notes (C to B):

    …and another note (C):

    …which is a duplicate of the first note (C):

    Besides the key of C:

    …there are other keys on the keyboard and the key of F:

    …is one of them and it consists of the following notes – F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, and F – which is a product of seven notes:

    …and an F note:

    …which is a duplicate of the first note (F):

    The Definition Of The Octave

    The term octave is derived from a Latin word octava which means eight.

    The definition of an octave varies from one context to another. In one situation, the octave can mean the higher or lower duplicate of a given note while in another situation it could mean a collection of notes within its compass.

    The Octave As A Duplicate

    The octave can be used to describe the eighth tone of the scale, which is usually a duplicate of the first tone of the scale. For example, in the key of C major:

    …the first tone is C:

    …and the eighth tone (aka – “octave”) is also C:

    …and a duplicate of the first note.

    The Octave As A Collection Of Notes

    The octave can also be used to describe all the notes within its compass. For example, in between C:

    …and its octave (which is C):

    …all the notes encompassed (from C to C):

    …can be considered as an octave.

    So, an octave encompasses twelve tones – C to C:

    …Eb to Eb:

    …A to A:

    …F to F:

    …etc.

    Although the term octave can be used in several ways, we’ll be focusing on the use of the octave as the duplicate of a given note.

    How To Identify The Octave Of Any Given Note

    When a note is given, there could be a need to identify its octave — which is basically its duplicate. In this segment, I’ll be showing you how to identify the higher and lower octaves of any given note.

    The higher octave of a given note is basically its higher duplicate and can be spotted as the eighth scale tone away from a given note.

    For example, if E is given:

    …it should be considered as the first scale tone of the E major scale:

    Using the E major scale:

    …as a reference, we can see that the eighth note (E):

    …is a duplicate of the first note (E):

    In the same vein, the lower octave of a given note is the lower duplicates of a given note.

    How To Determine The Higher Or Lower Octaves Of A Given Note

    When a note is given, all the duplicates on the left hand side are considered as the lower octaves, while the duplicates on the right hand side are considered as the higher octaves.

    “On Lower Octaves…”

    If D is given:

    …every other duplicate of D on the left hand side is a lower octave. Starting from this D:

    …to this one:

    …and this as well:

    “On Higher Octaves…”

    If F# is given:

    …every other duplicate of F# on the right hand side is a higher octave. Starting from this F#:

    …to this F#:

    …then this one:

    Final Words

    Given any note on the keyboard, you can determine its higher or lower octave by knowing the direction of pitch.

    Pitch increases towards the right hand side and decreases towards the left. This should explain why duplicates on the right hand side are considered as higher octaves while duplicates on the left hand side are considered to be lower octaves.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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