If you are taking up piano lessons, or are a proficient pianist, you would have come across the term octave during music lessons, or while playing for a choir. The term Octave is derived from the Latin Word Octo which means eight. Wonder how many octaves are in a piano? An octave is a series of eight notes that are integral for composing a tune on a piano. There are also two types of octaves, namely the scale and the interval octave. Let us discuss the octaves in a piano tune and its variations in different pianos here.
Table of Contents
- What is an Octave?
- How to play Octaves in a Piano?
- Octave notation:
- Octave equivalency:
- Octaves in Different Types of Pianos
- Octaves’ Relationships with Frequency
- Modern Day Variations
- Why Are Octaves in a piano Important ?
- Conclusion on Octaves in a Piano
What is an Octave?
Pianos initially has only five octaves and soon they grew to be seven octaves in a piano. These additional notes help composers to write tunes on larger scales and pianists play new sounds. The octave scale is a series of notes, that iterates through the seven notes of a particular scale until the pianist arrives at the note that they have started on.
For example, if we take the G major note, we iterate through all the notes of the G Major and finish on the G major. But it is not the same G that the tune started with, and it belongs to the next G up on the piano. This is referred to as an octave higher and it is referred to as the next occurrence of the note they started on.
The octaves in a piano can also be referred to as an interval, in a way that the fifth note is five notes apart and an octave is eight notes apart. The bottom note in a modern piano is A, and there are also seven more A’s on the piano thus there are seven octaves. The number of octaves in a piano depends on the number of keys on the piano. Older pianos had only seven octaves, but modern pianos have additional three notes, namely B, B flat, and C to endure seven octaves along with additional three notes.
How to play Octaves in a Piano?
Chords are most likely much simpler to play for a beginner. That’s fine because chords sound great even on the piano. Unfortunately, playing an octave with chords will not produce a pleasing result. To begin, locate the song you want to play along with its chord notation. When you look over the chords you will be playing, keep in mind that you will be playing them with your right hand. In this case, the left hand is doing nothing, which is not ideal.
So, instead of letting your left hand stagnate, make use of it. All you must do on the bass line is match the root note to each chord you will be playing with your right hand. A root note is a note that the chord is named after, as you may recall from our basic chords lesson. If you are playing an A Major chord, for example, the root note is A. You only need to press both A notes in an octave to get started. You can already improve your sound quality by playing two notes at a time. When it comes to playing octaves with piano chords, it really is that simple!
Various naming systems are used to identify octaves. The scientific, Helmholtz, organ pipe, and MIDI note systems are among the most common. A particular octave is indicated in scientific pitch notation by a numerical substring number after the note name. Middle C is C4 in this notation because it is the 4th C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard, whilst also C5 is an octave higher.
Sheet music may contain the notation 8a or 8va, which means “perform this an octave higher than written” (all’ ottava: “at the octave” or all’ 8va). 8a or 8va is the Italian word for octave (or “eighth”); the octave above can be indicated as ottava alta or ottava sopra). When placed under rather than over the staff, the notation 8va is used to tell the musician to play a passage an octave lower, however the roughly comparable notation 8vb (ottava bassa or ottava sotto) is also used.
15ma (quindicesima) implies “play two octaves higher than written,” while 15mb (quindicesima bassa) tends to mean “perform two octaves lower than written.” The abbreviations col 8, coll’ 8, and c. 8va stand for coll’ottava, which signifies “with the octave,” which means to play the notes in the passage alongside the notes in the notated octaves. Most of these instructions can be rescinded with the word loco, but just a dashed line or bracket usually indicates how much music is affected.
The octave is the relatively simple interval in music after the unison. Due to strongly linked harmonics, the human ear perceives both notes as essentially “the same.” Notes kept separate by an octave “ring” together, giving music a pleasing sound. Because the interval is so natural to humans, when men and women sing in unison, they usually sing in octaves. As a result, in the Western system of music notation, notes an octave apart are provided the same note name; the name of a note an octave above A is also A.
This is known as octave equivalence, which holds that pitches one or even more octaves apart and are musically equivalent in many ways, giving rise to the convention “that scales are distinctively defined by specifying the intervals within an octave.” Pitch height (absolute frequency) and pitch class (relative position inside the octave) are two dimensions of pitch that inherently include octave circularity.
Octaves in Different Types of Pianos
The modern-day piano is derived from the harpsichord, which had more than one set of keys. Each of its keys has around four octaves in a piano length. When the first generation pianos were invented, it has only four octaves. Pianos underwent a series of continuous development before they settled into the current modern design.
Its octave range expanded, mainly because the musicians demanded it. With an expanded key range and octave range, the pianist can compose elaborate music. Modern-day pianos are stronger and are capable of handling more strings, keys, and octaves. Let us discuss the different types of pianos and the number of octaves they have.
a. Extra Small pianos: (2-3 octaves)
These pianos have 25 to 37 keys and possess only two to three octaves in a piano. They are used to make electronic music only and are comprised of spring-loaded keys. They are useful for music composition and not for stage performances. These pianos can be plugged into the computer through a USB or MIDI port and it also makes use of programs such as Sibelius to compose music. These are not great for learning and practicing music.
b. Small pianos: (4 octaves)
The small pianos have only 49 keys and are still very basic. The keys of the piano feature a spring-loaded action and are designed for practice and learning. These pianos come with basic sounds and are designed for complete beginners, who are looking to play pianos without spending much money. These pianos are also extremely portable and are more of beginners’ pianos. The number of octaves in a piano is only four.
c. Medium-sized pianos: (5 octaves)
The medium-sized pianos have 61 keys and these are probably the best pianos for those who wish to start playing on the keyboard. These are the standard electronic keyboards and are slightly larger. These are standard pianos for gig and studio musicians who will use them for playing pop music. These are portable and versatile pianos and are great for composing good-quality music.
d. Large pianos with 76 keys: (6 ½ octaves)
This is an exceptional piano for serious musicians to practice and perform in the instrument. This piano with 76 keys are great for both beginners and intermediate pianist and its keys are weighted and touch-sensitive.
e. Large pianos: (7 octaves)
The large-size pianos have 85 keys and are close to real-size pianos. These pianos could be slightly limiting if you play music by some composers. The 85-key pianos are the same as that piano with 88 keys but they lack the additional three treble keys. These pianos are quite rare to find and are generally the format used in 1940s pianos.
f. Standard pianos: (7 ¼ octaves)
The 88-key pianos are standard instruments and are the standard minimum for a real piano. Most of the acoustic pianos that are manufactured in modern times belong to this standard range and comprise the full range of 88 keys. These pianos have 52 white keys and 36 black keys that offer them seven octaves and a minor third. The additional quarter octave gives these pianos the three additional treble notes, namely B, C, and Bb.
A full-sized piano has 88 keys with 52 white and 36 black keys. The white keys of the piano comprise notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. The black notes make up the sharps and flats notes. The F- sharp note is also referred to as G- flat. It is mandatory to use sharps in some instances and flats in other instances. In the standard piano with 88 keys, there are 7 octaves in a piano – standard.
If we consider only the black keys, each octave in a piano comprises 12 notes and if we consider the white keys, the octave has 8 keys. There are only 7 different notes on the piano and the 8th note is the octave, which is the same as that of the first note. A thorough understanding of the octaves in the piano helps in the piano composing and playing experience and enriches one’s musical journey.
Octaves’ Relationships with Frequency
In electronics, an octave is a logarithmic unit for frequency ratios, with one octave corresponding to a frequency doubling. For example, one octave above 40 Hz equals 80 Hz. The term comes from the Western musical scale, where an octave is a frequency doubling. As a result, octave specification is common in audio electronics.
It is a component used to describe frequency bands or frequency ratios, along with the decade. In music, an octave is an interval in which the higher note has a sound-wave vibration frequency twice that of the lower note. Thus, the international standard pitch A above middle C vibrates at 440 hertz (cycles per second), while the octave above it vibrates at 880 hertz and the octave below it vibrates at 220 hertz.
Modern Day Variations
The small pianos have 49 keys and a four-octave range. These are basic digital keyboard instruments intended for beginners who want to learn the fundamentals of music and play the piano at a low initial cost. These Octaves in a piano are primarily designed for practice rather than actual live piano performances. They also are not built to last, and most people outgrow them and move on to more elaborate pianos.
Medium pianos have 61 piano keys and 5 octaves, making them ideal for those learning to play the piano. This is the size that most manufacturers make in electronic pianos, and so many performers and voice coaches use these pianos in their studios. They are adequate for practice and serve well in music lessons.
Sincere musicians prefer the Medium-Large pianos, which have 76 piano keys and six and a half octaves. These can be utilized to learn how to play the piano as well as for more advanced skills. Many digital pianos in this category have the appearance and feel of a grand piano, of weighted keys for touch sensitivity.
A full-size piano with 88 piano keys, also recognized as a large piano, is the next step up. The Grand piano, also known as a large piano, has up to 96 keys, providing plenty of extra keys for playing. These pianos are primarily used for live performances. Many musical instruments have octave ranges, but they are not as huge or complexly designed as the piano.
When learning to play the guitar, for example, you understand where to place the fingers on the strings to make the desired sounds, whereas with woodwind instruments, you use your mouth to make the sound and the fingers over the correct holes to make lower or higher notes. Many of such musical instruments only have a few strings or holes to operate with.
Why Are Octaves in a piano Important ?
When you start playing in more than one key with the same notes but at a different pitch, it immediately adds depth and richness. Even if you are only playing at a beginner level, your sound will improve immediately.
Consider how it makes it sound when someone is playing a song on the piano one note at a time. Isn’t it a little awkward? There is something missing even if they start playing full chords (complement groups of notes) in one hand. What is lacking? Notes on the bass. This bass, the lower, deeper sounds that help to fill out and ground your sound.
You fill in the missing bass notes by playing octaves in your left hand. Your ears will be grateful! Octaves are one of the most common intervals used in piano music. An octave spans eight keys (seven distinct notes) and is commonly used to add richness and fullness to a song in classical, jazz, contemporary, and pop music.
Playing octaves well requires good body awareness and muscle control in the fingers, hands, wrists, as well as forearms. To avoid tension and injury, users must be able to relax their hand, wrist, and forearm while maintaining great strength and control.
Knowing how to play octaves in a piano can help you memorize the notes on the piano very early in your studies, which is one of the most important benefits. Consider this: memorizing all eighty-eight keys on the piano appears to be a daunting task. Many newcomers are put off by the mere thought of it. Instead, you can use the sectioning method. Sectioning is as simple as grouping your keyboard’s keys together to form a cohesive pattern. Let us take a quick look at a keyboard. When you look at the big picture, it is not obvious. When you section those, however, the pattern emerges.
Such a pattern of keys and notes is repeated throughout the piano. Remember that an octave begins with one note and ends with the same note but at a higher pitch. If you are wondering why, it is because the same set of notes is simply repeated across the entire piano. The piano is made up of octaves! You will have memorized the entire piano once you have memorized the notes within an octave. Isn’t it simpler to learn eight or twelve keys rather than eighty-eight? Octaves make learning the piano keys much easier and simpler.
Conclusion on Octaves in a Piano
Simply by adding depth, you can easily take your having to play to the next level. All you need to do is use your piano octaves! It’s as simple as using your right hand to play the song’s chords and your left hand to perform the root note of the chord you’re playing. You can now learn to improvise and transform the music it in to something unique.
The Casio Privia PX770 is one of the most reasonably priced slimline pianos. If you are a novice looking to put your toe into the ocean of piano, this is without a doubt one of the finest pianos on the market. It won’t break the bank because of its low price, and its small stature won’t be too imposing in a small bedroom. The PX-770, which uses the Casio Tri-Sensor II Hammer Action, does a good job of simulating the feel of a real piano. It is designed to simulate ebony and ivory keys add to the illusion that you are playing the real thing.
- How can one practice octaves on a piano?
During your daily warmups, practise scales and triads in octaves. Also, keep your hand in an octave position by playing solidly and broken four-note chords. Learn studies based on the octave technique.
- Is it possible to play octaves in a piano perfectly smooth?
While playing octaves legato is not possible, you can get remarkably close! On black note octaves, use fingers 1 and 4, and on white note octaves, use fingers 1 and 5. It is designed to simulate legato sound, use a damper pedal to smooth out any breaks in the sound.
- Can one with small hands play octaves in a piano?
If you have small hands, stretch them by starting with sixths and working your way to an octave. When playing, avoid letting your thumb hit the keys. To make it easier, you could indeed play a broken octave or leave out one of the notes.
- How difficult it is play octaves in a piano?
Octaves can be a difficult aspect of piano technique, but it doesn’t mean they’re impossible to master! Pianists should be able to play any octave with skill and strength with careful, consistent practise.
- What is an important thing to consider while trying to master playing octave?
Your thumb should strike the keys at about a 30° angle, in which the rounded part of the nail starts to flatten. Never let your thumb joint come into contact with the keys.