How Musical Notes Work

Music is an art form that uses sound to express emotion and communicate ideas. Musical notes are the building blocks of music and are used to create melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. In this lesson, we’ll explore how musical notes work and how they are used in music.

Pitch and Frequency:

Pitch is the perceived highness or lowness of a sound. It is determined by the frequency of the sound wave, which is measured in Hertz (Hz). The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound. For example, a high-pitched note on a piano has a higher frequency than a low-pitched note.

Musical Notes:

Musical notes are symbols that represent a specific pitch and duration. The pitch of a note is indicated by its position on the staff, which is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces. Each line and space represents a different pitch. The duration of a note is indicated by the shape of the note. A whole note lasts for four beats, while a half note lasts for two beats, and so on.


An octave is the interval between two notes with the same name, but one note is twice the frequency of the other. For example, the note A4 has a frequency of 440 Hz, and the note A5 has a frequency of 880 Hz. The two notes are an octave apart. Octaves are important in music because they create a sense of harmony and repetition.


A scale is a series of notes arranged in ascending or descending order. The most common scale in Western music is the major scale, which consists of seven notes arranged in a specific pattern of whole and half steps. The pattern is W-W-H-W-W-W-H (W=whole step, H=half step). Other scales, such as the minor scale and the pentatonic scale, are used in different styles of music.


Chords are groups of three or more notes played together. They are used to create harmonies and support the melody. The most basic chord is the triad, which consists of three notes played simultaneously. Chords can be major, minor, augmented, or diminished, depending on the specific notes that are played.

The Sound Wave

The Ear and Hearing