The cicadas are singing in E

Around Chicago, we are currently experiencing a cicada emergence. We were playing outside the other day, and wondered what note they were singing. The predominant note was clearly E.

I just KNEW you all were dying to know that! :smiley:

Wondered if any of you nerds have messed around to figure out the tonal qualities of anything else not traditionally “musical”, whether natural or manufactured?

I taught my then-eight-year-old kid the major second interval by listening to the call of chickadees in our back yard.

One of my cello teachers told me that he had a friend with perfect pitch who would casually say things like “this motorcycle is almost in B flat”.

Yes. I had a friend like that. It can be annoying for them, because 90% of sounds (natural or man made) are “off” their standard pitch.

(Just to clarify: intervals are about relative pitch, which can be learned by most anyone, but absolute — i.e., “perfect” — pitch is essentially genetic, and rare….though the rest of us can use tricks like singing a note around the middle of our vocal range, to approximately identify some pitch absolutely.)

Good key for guitar.

I don’t know what ya’ll are talkin’ about.
Cicadas don’t make no noise.

Well, unless you’re claiming they are perfectly in tune with my tinnitis, so I don’t notice them… Nah! Can’t be!

All pitch is relative. ‘A’ being 440Hz is a convention. The concept of a ‘B flat’ doesn’t exist without that context.

Perfect pitch is a learned skill, but some people are just really good at it.

I had a blow dryer that was a few cents below “A”. I could whistle the same note along with it and if I drifted a little above or below the note, I’d get this interesting warbling effect in my head.

Alternating current is 60 cycles per second, which is pretty close to Bb, and you’ll often hear that note in electrical and electronic devices.

Cool! There’s a very good chance I was off by a semi-quaver; I used to be quite adept at ID-ing notes, but that ability is slowly slipping away.


A few years ago, used to hear this relatively high-pitched buzzing sound at work and every time I thought it was my phone ringing. My ringtone was Debussy’s Syrinx and it turns out the first note is indeed Bb.

Note, natural harmonics (3, 5, 7, …) are never going to be exactly in tune with tempered intervals.

Real hard-core synth nerds seem to be able to hear (or imagine) practically anything and patch it in seconds.

I want to steal this thread title for a poem! May I?

Years ago I was told that an old school dialtone was a good approximation for an A.

The Master speaks (pretty old article, any chance we can get an update, O Wise One)
What is “perfect pitch”? - The Straight Dope

I once heard a duck perfectly quack the first five notes of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”. Though I’m not sure what key it was quacking in, just that it got the intervals and rhythm right.

Now that you mention it, we used to have a bird living right outside our bedroom window that whistled the first four notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony — exact pitch and rhythm; we called it “Beethoven Bird.”

They’re human-made but I noticed long ago that all slot machine sounds are in the key of C.

When I was a kid, my dad would honk when he got home from work. As a teen learning to read music, I tried to find the note; I think it was almost an A.
And next time I’m on the NYC subway, I’ll try and figure out the 2 notes that they play when the subway doors are closing. The interval is a third; my first choir director gave it as an example when he was teaching intervals.

MY mother had severe hearing loss in both ears. I remember she purchased many teakettles looking for one that whistled in B-flat. She found one occasionally, and I was impressed that teakettles actually whistled in different notes.

I once saw a factoid that “most car horns are in the key of G”… but if all car horns were uniformly distributed across the entire harmonic scale, then that statement would be true for any given key, because each key contains 7 out of 12 notes (i.e., over half of them).