Where Is Middle C on a Guitar?

After learning the basics to playing guitar, the next thing is to master tricks to keep your skill interesting and outstanding among other guitarists. Becoming a pro guitarist involves learning the hidden notes like the middle C. 

Sometimes, written music is not played exactly as in the books, especially with the guitar. This makes things confusing especially for beginner guitarists. 

In this article, we have narrowed down the important things to note in order to find the middle C on a guitar in simpler language. 

Where Is Middle C on a Guitar (Quick Answer)

The middle C is also musically referred to as the C4 in guitar. The middle C concept can seem complicated to guitarists because it can be played differently on a different combination of strings and frets on the same guitar. The middle C represents a frequency of 261.625565 Hz (standard A440 tuning).

If you have a guitar and want to play, the middle C, try out these options:

  • 2nd string and 1st fret
  • 3rd string with 5th fret
  • 4th string, with 10th fret
  • 5th string with 15th fret
  • 6th string with 20th fret

Although the middle C can be attained by playing each of the above strings, they sound different, with some producing a brighter sound and the others a muddier or dull sound.

The middle C in the official music language is played differently on guitar. It is played on the 5th string, 3rd fret, or the 6th string, 8th fret. This is different from the way the middle C is played above because the guitar music is written with an octave higher.

Why Is Guitar Written an Octave Higher?

The differences in how the middle C is written and how it is played can be confusing. Unlike other instruments, the written guitar is an octave higher than when playing.

Being a transposing instrument, every note played sounds an octave lower. The whole system of an orchestra makes sense with the guitar’s octave higher than the played notes.

If you have tried playing the middle C as written in the guitar music, you cannot achieve the C4, rather you will be playing the C3 instead.

Middle C on Bass Guitar

Playing bass guitar is different from playing the other guitar, and so is the middle C in bass guitar.

The bass guitar is an octave lower than the guitar and therefore the middle C in the bass is played on different strings and frets. The real middle C in bass guitar is played on the 1st string, 17th fret. In traditional guitar, the middle C is played on the 1st string, 4th fret, or the 3rd string, 15th fret. You can also get the middle string by playing the 4th string, and 10th fret in traditional bass.

Where Is the Middle C In Baritone Guitars?

The baritone guitars feature longer scale lengths and are used by players to do lower tunings. Baritone guitars have 27 inches and above length scale. They are also good for other types of tuning which makes it hard for them to have a specific middle C.

For instance, if a baritone guitar has the standard B tuning, then the middle C is played on the:

  • 4th string, 3rd fret
  • 5th string, 8th fret
  • 6th string, 13th fret

The middle C on the baritone guitar can be found on different points depending on how the guitar is tuned.

Why Is the Middle C Important?

You can learn bass guitar or the guitar without knowing where the middle C is. However, it is essential and a plus if you know where it is. One, the middle C acts as a reference point musically.

The middle C can be used to tell which octave one is playing and give clarity. The middle C is also great when reading music for guitar players.

The middle C guides players back to where they were in case they get confused between the notes when playing.


Is the Middle C the C4 or C3?

When playing guitar, the middle C is also the C4. However, if you are reading music, the middle C is the C3. This may be confusing, but remember, the middle C played on guitar is higher than the written middle C.

Do You Need to Master the Middle C to Play Guitar?

You do not have to master the middle C to learn guitar. The middle C is however an important musical aspect to learn as it is the reference point when you do not know which octave you are playing at.

Where Is C5 On Guitar?

To play a C5 on the guitar, your first finger should be on the 3rd fret, 5th string, the third finger on the 5th fret, 4th string, and the fourth finger on the 5th fret, 3rd string, and then strum the three middle strings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Middle C: Is it C3 or C4?

In the realm of musical notation, there’s often some confusion over the classification of the Middle C pitch. For those engaging with a standard 88-key piano keyboard, Middle C is typically the fourth C key from the left. Now, let’s talk terminology: in the scientific pitch nomenclature, this pitch is labeled as C4. This might be hard to remember, but I often think of it as being similar to naming floors in a building. Think of this as the “4th floor” of a skyscraper of musical notes! For those who prefer Helmholtz pitch notation, the same note is known as c′, and its MIDI notation number is 60. With time, these designations will become as clear to you as reading your native language.

Locating the Middle C on an Acoustic Guitar

For guitar enthusiasts, finding the Middle C might seem a bit tricky initially, especially due to the multiple instances of this note forming the octaves on a guitar fretboard. However, with practice, it becomes second nature. For the uninitiated, the Middle C is found at different frets along various strings of a standard six-string acoustic guitar. The easiest way to remember is to mark out these specific frets on each string. Need some directions? Here they are: the Middle C resides on the twentieth fret of the 6th string, the fifteenth fret of the 5th string, the tenth fret of the 4th string, the fifth fret of the 3rd string, and surprisingly just the first fret of the 2nd string. The pattern is pretty clear: it’s always five frets back (or forward) for the next string up (or down), and then it breaks when you come to the 2nd string. Confusing at first glance, certainly, but with some finger memory, these spots will light up like a Christmas tree!

Finding the C note on a Guitar

As we touched on earlier, the Middle C is just one octave of the numerous Cs that exist on your guitar. Now, this might make you wonder, “where else is the C note on my guitar?” Glad you ask! The truth is, a 6-string guitar in standard tuning (EADGBE) has multiple C notes lying across its entire span. Whether you pluck a C in the open position, strike one in the middle of your progress, or strum one at the high end of the fretboard, they all have their unique charm in the harmonic aspect of your performance. Whether as part of a chord or as a standalone note in a lick or riff, these multiple Cs are there at your fingertips (quite literally!) to bring out the best in your guitar compositions. Remember, knowing your guitar is knowing your music – and knowing your music is feeling your music.


I'm Johnny, the guy behind Guitar Manifesto. I've been playing guitar since my teens and now that I'm in my 40s, I'm all about sharing what I've learned to help you become a better guitarist.

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