Frequency, Pitch and Range – A Pictorial Guide

These pictures will help you understand the concepts of pitch and frequency.

Here is a collection of images to help with understanding frequency, pitch and range.

The sound of your singing voice is, from a physics point of view, a wave of particles. When we want to measure what a certain note is, this is done by speaking in terms of the number of waves that pass by a certain point in one second.

The sound of the voice represented as waves passing through time.

A high note is one where there are more waves per second, or a higher frequency of waves per second. A low note is where there are less waves per second – a lower frequency of waves per second.

For those who like a bit of technical information: waves are measured in Hertz (Hz). 1 Hz = one wave per second. That’s a very slow sound wave! It is so slow – and therefore so low – that the human ear cannot pick it up. The lowest note on a piano (the A0) is about 27 Hz – human hearing typically begins at 20HZ

It is the speed of waves that determines whether or not a note is high or low.

Our system of octaves has a mathematical side: take a look at the illustration below to see that when you double or halve the number of Hertz, you are jumping an octave.

Doubling or halving the number of Hertz causes a note to jump up or down an octave.

It will be helpful for singers to know that octaves have numerical designations. The reason this is handy is that, once you have determined your singing range, you will be able to express it in short hand. For example, ‘My range is E3 to A5.’

Octaves, and the notes within them, have numerical designations.

Western music typically divides an octave into 12 parts, known as semitones. You will see that as you ascend up through the semitones, their frequencies increase (i.e. they have a greater number of Hertz). Take a look at one octave and the frequencies of each semi-tone:

The Semitones in one octave, along with their frequencies.

The range of an 88-key keyboard is shown below – you will notice that it includes several octaves. Each octave has a number. You can see C1 is the lowest C-note on a piano. The next full tone up from C1 is D1, the E1 and so on until C2 is reached.

A standard keyboard contains more than 7 octaves.

No singer’s range encompasses all of the notes on the keyboard! The illustration below shows how the range of a particular voice or instrument is only a part of the available frequencies.

A singing range is only ever a part of the available frequencies.

Finally, the last two images represent how an average female singer’s range might compare to an average male singer’s range. Remember, there is not “right” range to have! It’s just wise to understand your range and be able to express what that is to those working with you.

Note how range is expressed in “shorthand” – F3 to B5 for this singer.
Note how range is expressed in “shorthand” – B2 to D5 for this singer.
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