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SPN Keyboard

Scientific Pitch Notation Explained

You will notice that many of our string charts list note names followed by a number.  For example, we say the range of our Jolie Harp is C2 to G6.  What, exactly, does that mean?

When we say that a harp starts on the note C, we need some way to communicate which C we mean.  We have adopted the use of Scientific Pitch Notation (SPN).  SPN is a way to identify a specific musical pitch using the musical note name and a number which identifies the pitch’s octave.

In this system, Middle C on a piano is C4. The number, or octave, changes on the C notes. So the C one octave above middle C would be C5 and so on.  A440 = A4

This diagram of a piano keyboard shows how this works.

SPN Keyboard
Piano Keyboard with all notes labeled with SPN


Here are some common instruments and their tuning labeled with SPN:

  • Guitar – E2, A2, D3, G3, B3, E4
  • Violin – G3, D4, A4, E5
  • Mt. Dulcimer – D3, A3, A3 A3


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