Octaves to learn with?

This topic contains 6 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of britanica britanica 3 years ago.

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    Profile photo of larsguitar

    Are there any advantages to learning pitch with lower or higher octaves?

    I was wondering if the human brain is able to learn a pitch easier depending on the octave it’s played on.


    That’s a great question! The short answer is: it’s best to choose octaves in the middle range.

    Although the human brain and ear is technically capable of judging pitch well across all octaves we can hear, we tend to find it easier within the most commonly-used octaves. For example, the pitch range of a guitar, an 88-key piano or the human singing voice.

    Most musicians will find skills like interval and chord recognition or transcription trickier when the notes are in extremely high or low octaves.

    Sometimes this can be due to your ears’ frequency sensitivity (e.g. older people tend to have some hearing loss at high frequencies/pitches) making the notes quieter and less clear than they would be in a medium-range octave.

    Sometimes it’s simply a lack of practice – particularly when the instrument’s timbre is a factor. Deep low piano notes have a very different characteristic sound to the up-high tinkly notes, and you’ll need to train with them specifically to be as reliable as with mid-range notes.

    This can provide a fun extra challenge: if you find your ear training skills getting solid, try shifting everything to a very high or low octave and see if you can still ace the tests! :)

    Profile photo of larsguitar

    So for xample on a regular guitar tuned on E standard would you consider the lowest octave to be optimal?


    So for xample on a regular guitar tuned on E standard would you consider the lowest octave to be optimal?

    Personally, I would go for the middle range. The lowest guitar strings/notes tend have a thick dull sound, while the highest have a thin tinny sound. By comparison, the middle notes/strings have a moderate tone which tends to make ear training easier.

    This is particularly true if you are mostly interested in developing guitar skills: the notes you hear (in melodies or chords) will mostly fall in the mid-range of the guitar, so it makes sense to focus on this area.

    However, this is all slight over-analysis! The guitar’s whole range is quite reasonable for ear training. It’s going beyond that which would get you into tricky octaves.

    Profile photo of henjay

    I have certainly noticed this! I play bass guitar so I do ear training on my bass. It works great for letting me hear basslines but when I try to work out piano or guitar by ear I have no idea! I guess it is down to the different octave and maybe the sound of the bass too?

    Profile photo of trentvon

    This is all very interesting info I did not now about pitch. Good stuff!

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by Profile photo of trentvon trentvon.
    Profile photo of britanica

    I don’t play a guitar but this information is great. I never knew that staying in the middle is better than higher or lower. I knew a few people growing up who messed around on the guitar. They could never get it to sound right and I am wondering if this is why.

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