Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is middle C?

What does middle C mean in music?

In this video, Robert tells you about the middle C and why it is so called.

Released on May 3, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. Welcome to "Virtual Sheet Music" and I'm Robert Estrin. Today is a classic question, "What is middle C?" Well you know, you might think oh, you know what middle C is, but there's more to it than you might imagine. If you look at the piano keyboard, there are a whole bunch of Cs on there. So is middle C truly the middle C on the piano? Let's find out.

[piano key played] There's the top C on the piano. [piano key played] There's the bottom C on the piano. And now we're going through all the Cs, and see which one is in the middle.

It appears we have two middle Cs. How can this be? Well, I'm going to first of all show you something, and then there's another component to this, which is really more fundamental than anything I'm showing you now. If you were to play all the notes on the piano from the top and the bottom and meet in the middle, watch what happens.

We didn't end on the C at all. We ended on E and F. That's the middle of the piano.

So why the heck is this called middle C? Well there's are a couple of reasons. First of all, it's the C that's generally in the middle of the piano. [piano key played] This C after all is closer [piano keys played] to the middle of the piano, than this C is.

But more substantial, is where middle C is written on the grand staff. The treble clef and the bass clef form the 10 lines of the grand staff, but really it's 11 lines. Because if you put a line right between the treble and bass clef, you would have what is essentially the middle C line. Sure, it's written as a ledger line just below the treble clef and just above the bass clef, but it is the same note. And that is referred to as middle C because of where it's found in musical notation. And it happens to be the middle C. It's the C that's in the middle of the piano. Not the C that's in the middle of the piano, but a C that is closest to the middle of the piano. And that is the mystery of why it's called middle C, and what middle C is. And it is a great fundamental note to know, because it helps you to be able to read notes, both the treble and bass clef.

All right, thanks so much for joining me again. Robert Estrin, at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

peter campisano * VSM MEMBER * on August 30, 2017 @9:23 am PST
what is the name of the introductory music you open and close your videos with? can you post a copy of the music?
you are a great teacher.
many thanks
Robert - host, on August 31, 2017 @12:34 pm PST
The opening theme is something I composed for Virtual Sheet Music. I based the composition on the short intro I play at the beginning of many of the videos. Glad you like it! I haven't transcribed the music. I simply sat down at the piano and played it. I will probably notate this at some point when I have time.


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