AskDefine | Define note

Dictionary Definition



1 a short personal letter; "drop me a line when you get there" [syn: short letter, line, billet]
2 a brief written record; "he made a note of the appointment"
3 a characteristic emotional quality; "it ended on a sour note"; "there was a note of gaiety in her manner"; "he detected a note of sarcasm"
4 a piece of paper money (especially one issued by a central bank); "he peeled off five one-thousand-zloty notes" [syn: bill, government note, bank bill, banker's bill, bank note, banknote, Federal Reserve note, greenback]
5 a notation representing the pitch and duration of a musical sound; "the singer held the note too long" [syn: musical note, tone]
6 a comment or instruction (usually added); "his notes were appended at the end of the article"; "he added a short notation to the address on the envelope" [syn: annotation, notation]
7 high status importance owing to marked superiority; "a scholar of great eminence" [syn: eminence, distinction, preeminence]
8 a tone of voice that shows what the speaker is feeling; "there was a note of uncertainty in his voice"
9 a promise to pay a specified amount on demand or at a certain time; "I had to co-sign his note at the bank" [syn: promissory note, note of hand]


1 make mention of; "She observed that his presentation took up too much time"; "They noted that it was a fine day to go sailing" [syn: observe, mention, remark]
2 notice or perceive; "She noted that someone was following her"; "mark my words" [syn: notice, mark] [ant: ignore]
3 observe with care or pay close attention to; "Take note of this chemical reaction" [syn: take note, observe]
4 make a written note of; "she noted everything the teacher said that morning" [syn: take down]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (UK) /nəʊt/, /n@Ut/
  • (US) /noʊt/, /noUt/
  • Rhymes: -əʊt


  1. A mark or token by which a thing may be known; a visible sign; a character; a distinctive mark or feature; a characteristic quality.
  2. A mark, or sign, made to call attention, to point out something to notice, or the like; a sign, or token, proving or giving evidence.
  3. A brief remark; a marginal comment or explanation; hence, an annotation on a text or author; a comment; a critical, explanatory, or illustrative observation.
  4. A brief piece of writing intended to assist the memory; a memorandum; a minute.
  5. A short informal letter; a billet.
  6. A diplomatic missive or written communication.
  7. A written or printed paper acknowledging a debt, and promising payment; as, a promissory note; a note of hand; a negotiable note.
  8. A piece of paper money; a banknote.
  9. A character, variously formed, to indicate the length of a tone, and variously placed upon the staff to indicate its pitch.
  10. A musical sound; a tone; an utterance; a tune.
  11. A key of the piano or organ.
  12. Observation; notice; heed.
  13. Reputation; distinction; as, a poet of note.


visible sign
mark, or sign, made to call attention
marginal comment or explanation
  • Arabic:
  • Chinese: 字条 (zìtiáo)
  • Czech: zápis , zápisek
  • Dutch: aantekening
  • Finnish: muistiinpano
  • French: note
  • German: Notiz
  • Greek: σημείωση
  • Hungarian: jegyzet
  • Italian: nota
  • Japanese: メモ (memo)
  • Korean: 기록 (girok)
  • Portuguese: nota
  • Romanian: notă
  • Russian: записка
  • Spanish: nota
  • Swedish: anteckning
short informal letter
diplomatic missive or written communication
  • Czech: nóta
  • Finnish: nootti
  • Slovene: nota
written or printed paper acknowledging a debt, and promising payment
piece of paper money; a banknote
  • Czech: bankovka
  • Romanian: bancnotă
  • Slovene: bankovec
character indicating the length and pitch of a tone
  • Czech: nota
  • Finnish: nuotti
  • Slovene: nota
musical sound
  • Czech: nota
  • Finnish: nuotti
  • Greek: νότα (nóta)
  • Romanian: notă
  • Slovene: nota
key of the piano or organ
  • Finnish: huomio
  • Slovene: opazka
reputation; distinction; as, a poet of note


  1. To notice with care; to observe; to remark; to heed
  2. To record in writing; to make a memorandum of.
  3. To denote; to designate
  4. To annotate
  5. To set down in musical characters.


To notice with care
To record in writing
To denote
  • Spanish: denotar
To annotate
  • Spanish: anotar
To set down in musical characters

Derived terms




  1. Form of First-person singular present subjunctive, noter
  2. Form of Third-person singular present subjunctive, noter
  3. Form of Second-person singular imperative, noter



note p


  1. Plural of nota




note f|p
  1. Plural of notă

Extensive Definition

The term note has two primary meanings: 1) a sign used in music to represent the relative duration and pitch of a sound; and 2) a pitched sound itself. Notes are the "atoms" of much Western music: discretizations of musical phenomena that facilitate performance, comprehension, and analysis (Nattiez 1990, p.81n9).
The term "note" can be used in both generic and specific senses: one might say either "the piece Happy Birthday to You begins with two notes having the same pitch," or "the piece begins with two repetitions of the same note." In the former case, one uses "note" to refer to a specific musical event; in the latter, one uses the term to refer to a class of events sharing the same pitch.

Note name

Two notes with fundamental frequencies in a ratio of any power of two (e.g. half, twice, or four times) will sound very similar. Because of that all notes with these kinds of relations can be grouped under the same pitch class. In traditional music theory pitch classes are represented by the first seven letters of the Latin alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F and G) (some countries use other names as in the table below). The span of notes between one pitch and another that is twice (or half) its frequency is called an octave. In order to differentiate two notes that have the same pitch class but fall into different octaves, the system of scientific pitch notation combines a letter name with an Arabic numeral designating a specific octave. For example, the now-standard tuning pitch for most Western music, 440 Hz, is named a′ or A4. There are two formal ways to define each note and octave, the Helmholtz system and the Scientific pitch notation.


Letter names are modified by the accidentals sharp (music sharp, similar to the symbol #) and flat (music flat, similar to the letter b). These symbols respectively raise or lower a pitch by a semitone or half-step, which in modern tuning will multiply or divide (respectively) the frequency of the original note by \sqrt[12], approximately 1.059. They are written after the note name: so, for example, Fmusic sharp represents F-sharp, Bmusic flat is B-flat. Other accidentals, such as double-sharps and double-flats (which will raise or lower the frequency by two semitones), are also possible in traditional music theory: avoiding sharps/flats in the key signature, "Cmusic sharpmusic sharp" yields D, when D's sharp is in the signature. Assuming enharmonicity, it is possible that use of accidentals will create equivalences between pitches that are written differently. For instance, raising the note B to Bmusic sharp is equal to the note C. Assuming the elimination of all such equivalences, however, the complete chromatic scale adds five additional pitch classes to the original seven lettered notes for a total of 12, each separated by a half-step.
Notes that belong to the diatonic scale relevant in the context are sometimes called diatonic notes; notes that do not meet that criterion are then sometimes called chromatic notes.
In musical notation, alterations to the seven lettered pitches in the scale are indicated by placing an accidental immediately before the note symbol, or by use of a key signature. The natural symbol (music natural), can be inserted before a note to cancel a previously indicated flat or sharp (so as "Fmusic natural" an F-sharp would become simply F).
Another style of notation, rarely used in English, uses the suffix "is" to indicate a sharp and "es" (only "s" after A and E) for a flat, e.g. Fis for Fmusic sharp, Ges for Gmusic flat, Es for Emusic flat. This system first arose in Germany and is used in almost all European countries whose main language is not English or a Romance language.
In most countries using this system, the letter H is used to represent what is B natural in English, the letter B represents the Bmusic flat, and Heses represents the Bmusic flatmusic flat (not Bes, which would also have fit into the system). Belgium and the Netherlands use the same suffixes, but applied throughout to the notes A to G, so that Bmusic flat is Bes. Denmark also uses h, but uses bes instead of heses for Bmusic flatmusic flat.
This is a complete chart of a chromatic scale built on the note C4, or "middle C":

Note designation in accordance with octave name

The table of each octave and the frequencies for every note of pitch class A is shown below. The traditional (Helmholtz) system centers on the great octave (with capital letters) and small octave (with lower case letters). Lower octaves are named "contra" (with primes before), higher ones "lined" (with primes after). Another system (scientific) suffixes a number (starting with 0, or sometimes -1). In this system A4 is nowadays standardised to 440 Hz, lying in the octave containing notes from C4 (middle C) to B4. The lowest note on most pianos is A0, the highest C8. The MIDI system for electronic musical instruments and computers uses a straight count starting with note 0 for C-1 at 8.1758 Hz up to note 127 for G9 at 12,544 Hz.

Written notes

A written note can also have a note value, a code which determines the note's relative duration. These note values include quarter notes (crotchets), eighth notes (quavers), and so on.
When notes are written out in a score, each note is assigned a specific vertical position on a staff position (a line or a space) on the staff, as determined by the clef. Each line or space is assigned a note name, these names are memorized by the musician and allows him or her to know at a glance the proper pitch to play on his or her instrument for each note-head marked on the page.
The staff above shows the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C listen and then in reverse order, with no key signature or accidentals.

Note frequency (hertz)

In all technicality, music can be composed of notes at any arbitrary frequency. Since the physical causes of music are vibrations of mechanical systems, they are often measured in hertz (Hz), with 1 Hz = 1 complete vibration per second. For historical and other reasons, especially in Western music, only twelve notes of fixed frequencies are used. These fixed frequencies are mathematically related to each other, and are defined around the central note, A4. The current "standard pitch" or modern "concert pitch" for this note is 440 Hz, although this varies in actual practice (see History of pitch standards).
The note-naming convention specifies a letter, any accidentals (sharps/flats), and an octave number. Any note is an integer of half-steps away from middle A (A4). Let this distance be denoted n. If the note is above A4, then n is positive; if it is below A4, then n is negative. The frequency of the note (f) (assuming equal temperament) is then:
f = 2n/12 × 440 Hz
For example, one can find the frequency of C5, the first C above A4. There are 3 half-steps between A4 and C5 (A4 → Amusic sharp4 → B4 → C5), and the note is above A4, so n = +3. The note's frequency is:
f = 23/12 × 440 Hz ≈ 523.2511 Hz.
To find the frequency of a note below A4, the value of n is negative. For example, the F below A4 is F4. There are 4 half-steps (A4 → Amusic flat4 → G4 → Gmusic flat4 → F4), and the note is below A4, so n = −4. The note's frequency is:
f = 2−4/12 × 440 Hz ≈ 349.2290 Hz.
Finally, it can be seen from this formula that octaves automatically yield factors of two times the original frequency, since n is therefore a multiple of 12 (12k, where k is the number of octaves up or down), and so the formula reduces to:
f = 212k/12 × 440 Hz = 2k × 440 Hz,
yielding a factor of 2. In fact, this is the means by which this formula is derived, combined with the notion of equally-spaced intervals.
The distance of an equally tempered semitone is divided into 100 cents. So 1200 cents are equal to one octave — a frequency ratio of 2:1. This means that a cent is precisely equal to the 1200th root of 2, which is approximately 1.0005777895
For use with the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) standard, a frequency mapping is defined by:
p = 69 + 12 \times \log_2
For notes in an A440 equal temperament, this formula delivers the standard MIDI note number. Any other frequencies fill the space between the whole numbers evenly. This allows MIDI instruments to be tuned very accurately in any microtuning scale, including non-western traditional tunings.

History of note names

Music notation systems have used letters of the alphabet for centuries. The 6th century philosopher Boethius is known to have used the first fifteen letters of the alphabet to signify the notes of the two-octave range that was in use at the time. Though it is not known whether this was his devising or common usage at the time, this is nonetheless called Boethian notation.
Following this, the system of repeating letters A-G in each octave was introduced, these being written as minuscules for the second octave and double minuscules for the third. When the compass of used notes was extended down by one note, to a G, it was given the Greek G (Γ), gamma. (It is from this that the French word for scale, gamme is derived, and the English word gamut, from "Gamma-Ut", the lowest note in Medieval music notation.)
The remaining five notes of the chromatic scale (the black keys on a piano keyboard) were added gradually; the first being B which was flattened in certain modes to avoid the dissonant tritone interval. This change was not always shown in notation, but when written, Bmusic flat (B-flat) was written as a Latin, round "b", and Bmusic natural (B-natural) a Gothic b. These evolved into the modern flat and natural symbols respectively. The sharp symbol arose from a barred b, called the "cancelled b".
In parts of Europe, including Germany, Poland and Russia, the natural symbol transformed into the letter H: in German music notation, H is Bmusic natural (B-natural) and B is Bmusic flat (B-flat).
In Italian, Portuguese, Greek, French, Russian, Romanian, Spanish and Hebrew notation the notes of scales are given also in terms of Do - Re - Mi - Fa - Sol - La - Si rather than C - D - E - F - G - A - B. These names follow the original names reputedly given by Guido d'Arezzo, who had taken them from the first syllables of the first six musical phrases of a Gregorian Chant melody Ut queant laxis, which began on the appropriate scale degrees. These became the basis of the solfege system. "Do" later replaced the original "Ut" for ease of singing (most likely from the beginning of Dominus, Lord), though "Ut" is still used in some places. "Si" or "Ti" was added as the seventh degree (from Sancte Johannes, St. John, to which the hymn is dedicated).


  • Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate (1990). ISBN 0-691-02714-5.

External links

note in Arabic: سلم موسيقي
note in Catalan: Nota
note in Czech: Nota
note in Danish: Node
note in German: Note (Musik)
note in Spanish: Nota musical
note in Esperanto: Tononomo
note in Estonian: Noot (muusika)
note in Basque: Musika nota
note in Persian: نت
note in French: Note de musique
note in Galician: Nota musical
note in Croatian: Note
note in Icelandic: Nóta (tónlist)
note in Italian: Nota musicale
note in Hebrew: תו (מוזיקה)
note in Latin: Sonus
note in Lithuanian: Nata
note in Dutch: Muzieknoot
note in Norwegian: Note
note in Japanese: 音符
note in Korean: 음표
note in Polish: Nuta
note in Portuguese: Nota
note in Russian: Ноты
note in Simple English: Note (music)
note in Slovak: Nota
note in Slovenian: Nota
note in Swedish: Notskrift
note in Finnish: Nuotti
note in Thai: โน้ตดนตรี
note in Turkish: Nota (müzik)
note in Ukrainian: Ноти
note in Contenese: 音符
note in Chinese: 音符

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

CD, Federal Reserve note, French pitch, IOU, MO, Parthian shot, accent, acceptance, acceptance bill, accidental, acknowledgment, address, adversaria, advertence, advertency, affidavit, affirmation, affix, aide-memoire, air, alertness, allegation, allonge, allude to, animadvert, animal noise, annotation, answer, apostrophe, apparatus criticus, appendix, apperception, appreciation, appreciativeness, argue, aria, article, assertion, assiduity, assiduousness, assignat, atmosphere, attend, attend to, attention, attention span, attentiveness, attestation, aura, authority, authorization, averment, awareness, badge, balance, balance the books, bank acceptance, bank check, bank note, banknote, banner, bark, barking, be indicative of, be significant of, be symptomatic of, bespeak, betoken, bill, bill of draft, bill of exchange, bill of health, billet, birdcall, blank check, blurt, blurt out, book, breve, business letter, calendar, call, call attention to, callable securities, canto, cantus, capitalize, care, carry, carry over, carve, cast up accounts, catalog, cats and dogs, causerie, certificate, certificate of deposit, certificate of proficiency, certification, certified check, chalk, chalk up, character, characteristic, characterize, charge off, check, check in, check out, checkbook, cheque, chit, chronicle, clang, classical pitch, climate, close out, close the books, clue, coda, codicil, cognition, cognizance, comment, commentary, commentation, commercial paper, communication, concentration, concern, concernment, connote, consciousness, consecutive intervals, consequence, consequentiality, consider, consideration, conspicuousness, contemplate, corporation securities, crack, credential, credit, criticism, critique, crotchet, cry, cue, currency, cut, debenture, debit, declaration, degree, demand bill, demand draft, demisemiquaver, denominate, denote, deposition, depth, descant, descry, device, diapason, diatessaron, diatonic interval, diatonic semitone, dictum, differentia, differentiate, diligence, diploma, discern, disclose, discourse, discussion, dispatch, display, disquisition, dissertation, distinction, distinguish, docket, dollar bill, dominant, dominant note, double entry, double whole note, draft, due bill, ear, earmark, earnestness, eighth note, eisegesis, element, elevation, eminence, emphasis, enclitic, engrave, enharmonic, enharmonic diesis, enharmonic interval, enharmonic note, enroll, enscroll, entail, enter, entry, envoi, epilogue, epistle, espial, espionage, essay, etude, exaltation, examination, excellence, exchequer bill, exclaim, exclamation, excursus, exegesis, explanation, exposition, express, expression, fan letter, favor, feature, feel, feeling, fiat money, fifth, file, fill out, first approach, flat, folding money, footnote, foreign securities, fourth, fractional note, frame, frame of mind, futures contract, give evidence, give thought to, give token, gloss, government note, government securities, grandeur, grave, greatness, greeting, grunt, half note, half step, halftone, hallmark, heart, heed, heedfulness, height, hemidemisemiquaver, high mightiness, high order, high pitch, high rank, highlight, hint, homily, howl, howling, humor, idea, identify, idiosyncrasy, image, impanel, import, importance, incise, index, indicant, indicate, indicator, infix, inkling, inscribe, insert, insight, insignia, intentiveness, intentness, interest, interject, interjection, interlineation, interpolation, interval, intimation, introductory study, investigate, involve, item, jot down, jotting, journalize, junior securities, keep books, key, keynote, lay, legal-tender note, less semitone, let drop, let fall, letter, letter of credit, line, list, listed securities, loftiness, log, look, look into, looking, lookout, low pitch, lucubration, make a memorandum, make a note, make an entry, make out, make reference to, manifest, marginal note, marginalia, mark, mark down, marketable securities, mash note, materiality, mating call, matriculate, mean, measure, melodia, melodic interval, melodic line, melody, memo, memoir, memorandum, memorial, mention, merit, message, milieu, mind, mindfulness, minim, minute, minutes, missive, moment, money, money order, monograph, mood, morale, morceau, motif, municipal securities, muse, musical note, national bank note, natural, navicert, negotiable instrument, negotiable note, negotiable securities, new philharmonic pitch, nobility, noesis, noncallable securities, notability, notarized statement, notation, note down, note of explanation, note of hand, notes, notice, obiter dictum, observance, observation, observe, octave, opine, outline, outstanding securities, outstandingness, over-the-counter securities, overtone, pandect, paper, paper money, paragraph, parallel octaves, paramountcy, patent note, pay attention to, peculiarity, perceive, perception, philharmonic pitch, philosophical pitch, phrase, picture, piece, pitch, place upon record, poll, portfolio, position, post, post up, postal order, postscript, precedence, preeminence, prefix, preliminary study, prestige, primacy, priority, proclitic, prolegomenon, prominence, promissory note, pronouncement, property, put down, put in writing, put on paper, put on tape, quality, quarter note, quaver, question, realization, recognition, record, records, reduce to writing, refer to, reflect, reflection, refrain, regard, regardfulness, register, registry, remark, reminder, renown, reply, report, representation, representative, reputation, repute, rescript, research paper, respect, responding note, reveal, rider, rough draft, saying, scholia, scholium, screed, scrip, seal, second, securities, see, self-importance, semibreve, semiquaver, semitone, senior securities, sense, sensibility, sentence, set down, seventh, shaped note, sharp, sheepskin, shinplaster, short-term note, show, sight bill, sight draft, sigil, sign, signal, signature, significance, signify, single entry, sixteenth note, sixth, sixty-fourth note, sketch, solo, solo part, song, soprano part, sound, speak, special article, spiccato, spirit, spirits, spying, staccato, stamp, stand for, standard pitch, state of mind, statement, step, stocks and bonds, strain, stress, stridulation, strike a balance, study, subject to call, subjoinder, sublimity, substance, suffix, suggest, suggestion, supereminence, superiority, supremacy, sure sign, survey, suspicion, sustained note, sworn statement, symptom, symptomatize, symptomize, synopsis, tabulate, tail, take down, take note, take notice, tape, tape-record, telltale sign, temper, tend, tenor, tercet, term paper, testamur, testify, testimonial, theme, thesis, think about, third, thirty-second note, thought, thumbnail sketch, ticket, time bill, time draft, tip, tip-off, tonality, tone, touch on, tract, tractate, trade acceptance, trait, treasury bill, treasury bond, treasury certificate, treasury note, treatise, treatment, treble, triplet, tune, ululation, undertone, undigested securities, unison interval, unregistered securities, utterance, value, vein, videotape, view, viewing, visa, vise, voucher, warrant, warranty, watch, watching, weight, whole note, whole step, witness, witnessing, woodnote, word, word of explanation, worth, write, write down, write in, write out, write up
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