To understand the concept of enharmonic, we must first understand the difference between pitch and note.
- Pitch: The actual frequency (vibrations per second) of a musical sound, measured in Hertz. One Hertz is one vibration in a second. The pitch of a musical sound allows us to perceive it as high or low; the higher the frequency in Hertz, the higher the pitch will sound and vice versa.
- Note: A written symbol that represents the relative duration and pitch of a musical sound
So, a note is the written representation of a pitch and how long that pitch should sound. Now we are ready to understand enharmonic:
Enharmonic: A musical construct is enharmonic if each note is different but each pitch is the same. In other words, two notes are enharmonic if they have the same pitch (i.e., the frequency in Hertz is the same).
Think of enharmonic as using a nickname. Your friend Michael might also be called Mike or Mikey, but he is the same person regardless of which name is used.
In the example below, G# is enharmonic to Ab – they are different notes that have the same pitch (i.e., they sound the same when they are played).
The following sets of notes are all enharmonic.