All About Middle C in Music

The Definition of Middle C Pitch

Hand holding musical note against white background
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Middle C (C4) is the first note of the fixed solfège scale and the half-way point on the piano keyboard. It is called middle C because it is the centermost on a standard 88-key piano, 4 octaves from the left end of the keyboard. 

Notation of Middle C on Different Clefs

Across a variety of instruments and clefs, middle C is often referred to by musicians. In piano performance, middle C serves as an approximate border between notes played with the left hand (bass notes) and notes played with the right (treble notes).

In sheet music, middle C is written on the first ledger line below the treble staff and the first ledger line above the bass staff. 

  • Treble Clef: Middle C is notated on the first ledger line below the staff
  • Bass Clef: Middle C is notated on the first ledger line above the staff
  • Alto Clef: Middle C is notated on the middle (third) line of the staff
  • Tenor Clef: Middle C is notated on the fourth line of the staff

Tuning of Middle C

In concert pitch, which is A440, middle C resonates at a frequency of 261.626 Hz. In scientific pitch notation, middle C is designated as C4

Middle C Synonyms 

Although commonly called middle C, there are other names that are often used to describe this pitch: 

  • C4MIDI #60
  • c1 (U.K. pitch notation)
  • do3; do centrale (It)
  • do3; do central (Fr)
  • c i; eingestrichenes C (Ger)

Learn how to locate middle C on the piano or on different sizes of keyboards.

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Kraemer, Brandy. "All About Middle C in Music." ThoughtCo, Oct. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/middle-c-2701274. Kraemer, Brandy. (2017, October 13). All About Middle C in Music. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/middle-c-2701274 Kraemer, Brandy. "All About Middle C in Music." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/middle-c-2701274 (accessed November 19, 2017).