Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Names of notes in scientific and Helmholz notation

When I'm doing transcriptions for ukulele from tablatures for lute or guitar, I have to know how the instruments are tuned. This can be a problem for Renaissance or Baroque instruments, as the various composers assumed different tunings.

One minor irritation is that modern writers on the subject of tuning use different systems of nomenclature: the scientific and the Helmholtz (in its various versions). Wikipedia provides accounts of both systems, so I have made this concordance that would be relevant to ukulele players. I'm going to print it out and stick it on my wall for reference.

For my own use, I will keep to the scientific, as all you have to know is middle C = C4, and the rest progresses from there.

Scientific pitch notation (Wikipedia)
Helmholtz pitch notation (Wikipedia)


Scientific:   C0   C1   C2   C3   C4   C5   C6   C7   C8   C9    
Helmholtz:    C〟  C、   C    c    c'   c"   c"'  c""  c""' C"""  

For the record, you might like to know that the standard guitar tunings are as follows in the two systems:

1 = E4 = e'
2 = B3 = b 
3 = G3 = g 
4 = D3 = d 
5 = A2 = A 
6 = E2 = E 

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I hope you enjoy these arrangements. I would welcome your views, and comments on possible errors or improvements.