Why do people say "an octave louder"?

This has always confused me. Octaves are measures of pitch, not volume.

Because they’re idiots.

I’ve never heard anyone say that.

I’ve never heard anyone say it either.

Maybe they’re confused by “an octave lower” (thinking it refers to lower volume rather than lower pitch) or pronuncing it in a confusing way.

Haven’t heard it either, but there’s always a first for everything.

Never noticed anyone using that phrase, but curiously enough there are 56200 ghits for “an octave louder”.

FWIW if I were trying to make sense of the phrase I’d associate it with doubling the perceived loudness as an octave is doubling the frequency.

Never heard it. Anyway, what do you (OP) think it means, if anything, or what do you think they think it means? Twice as loud?

Although why “an octave” (smells eight-ish) refers to a 2:1 is a different story.

Huh. Never heard it either. Higher and lower, yes, but louder? Weird.

For those that aren’t aware, “octave” does indeed come from eight, and it’s how musical steps are divided in Western music (do re me fa so la ti do, or ABCDEFGA, which is eight steps to the next octave).

There are many non-Western musical scales which do not divide the scale into 8 sections, and when you include semitones, the Western scale actually ends up having 12 notes instead of 8 between octaves.

I could see one of my directors saying this as a joke, maybe meaning “a whole shitload louder”. And then having them use it for years to come, all of us realizing it was tongue in cheek.

But still I’ve never heard anyone say this.

I occasionally hear “octave” to refer to more than just musical frequencies–for instance, two radio frequencies might be said to be an octave apart if one is double the other. But “louder” is nonsense.

It seems that the Google results are largely amateur books written by people who want to use fancy words without looking up what those words mean.

It is just barely possible for that to be a valid English phrase. If someone is playing an instrument which has significant variations in volume across its frequency range, one might command them to “play on an octave louder than the one you’re playing now”. But even that is pretty awkward.

It could make sense: “Play an octave; now play an octave louder.” But correct English would be “… now play that octave more loudly.”

I think it means the person using the phrase doesn’t know what an octave is.

Never heard it, and never want to.

There’s a few scientific points that can give this expression life… (as in, where it describes the actuality well enough.)

  1. objects reflect higher frequencies better than lower frequencies…
    So if the noise is coming from a reflection process, then increasing an octave does produce more reflection… the reflection is then louder. I notice this in train tunnels… The narrower gap has a higher natural frequency, so the newer tunnel with its closer tolerance , higher frequency … SQEEEAALLL !

  2. higher frequencies have more energy, so at the same loudness, hurts more.
    Kind of a physiological explanation why its perceived as louder even if it isn’t.
    But I guess its just ordinary conflation of the terms, like “Its not rocket surgery”, which has the meaning that the person isn’t trying to say he’s got a scientific explanation, he’s just saying that and thats all he is saying…

See 2, he’s not pinning it down to true loudness or percieved loudness, but its loud, and its higher in frequency. Its not ordinary doof doof of the the drums leaking through (See 1… less reflection of the low frequency… the doof doof leaks through ! )
Now mathematically speaking, both frequency and loudness are measured in a log scale… An Octave is a doubling of frequency, and so its a log2 scale… Loudness is measured in deciBels, which is a log10 system. They may be quaintly trying to say the volume doubled … trying too hard and saying that anything that doubled is an octave ? … Begs the question then, would they say this ? “My sister had an octave of babies the other day… she had twins !”.

Never heard that either

Never heard it.

Next Up:

“Quantum Leap” to mean “great distance”.

Proper Response:
(roll eyes), then "Ummm… what is a “quantum”?
About this time, the speaker realizes the error


Octaves are the same thing but different at the same time, and we can perceive the relationship to a nicety no other sense can afford us. Life over the centuries may be sort of like that, as Joyce tells us implicitly in the very thematic backbone of a day-in-the-life epic myth of Ulysses and again in the-night-in-the-life universal myths of Finnegans Wake. It is in both explicit (pruriently so in the Wake); I was particularly pleased to find this music-theoretical riff in the following daytime/nightime intersection in Ulysses.

In this midnight scene in a drunken hellish bordello (Phillip Drunk is essentially a one-time stand in for Stephen Daedalus’s drunken thoughts):

PHILIP DRUNK (impatiently)
Ah, bosh, man. Go to hell! I paid my way. If I could only find out about octaves. Reduplication of personality.
Some time later. Stephen argues with his friend’s cap, who/which brings the topic up again.
THE CAP (with saturnine spleen)
[…] Jewgreek is greekjew. Extremes meet. Death is the highest form of life. Ba!

[…] Here’s another for you. (he frowns) The reason is because the fundamental and the dominant are separated by the greatest possible interval which …

Which? Finish. You can’t.

STEPHEN (with an effort)
Interval which. Is the greatest possible ellipse. Consistent with. The ultimate return. The octave. Which.

Which? (*Outside the gramophone begins to blare *The Holy City.)

STEPHEN (abruptly)
What went forth to the ends of the world to traverse not itself, God, the sun, Shakespeare, a commercial traveller, having itself traversed in reality itself becomes that self. Wait a moment. Wait a second. Damn that fellow’s noise in the street. Self which it itself was ineluctably preconditioned to become. Ecco!
FTR, we already knew that, certainly–Earlier in the day, Leopold Bloom, a commercial traveller having ineluctably become a new self Ulysses, sat nervously twisting a rubber band as he listened to sad music and gossip about his wife: “Bloom wound a skein round four forkfingers, stretched it, relaxed, and wound it round his troubled double, fourfold, in octave, gyved them fast.”

I think the Millenium Falcon’s hyperdrive motivator has to go an octave louder to have any hope of making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. :smiley:

It could be tongue-in-cheek. The person does know that volume isn’t measured in “octaves”. I would interpret it to mean: Just a little bit louder.

A colleague of mine always said: “This could take light-years”, yet he was certainly smart enough to know that a light year is a unit of length.