Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Tone and Pitch

Tone vs Pitch

There are various sounds created by different objects. Depending on the object and how it is made to produce the sound, you will get soft, low, or loud sound. However, the variations in sound are actually a result of tone, pitch and intensity. The amount of energy of a sound which spans a given radius is its intensity. Intensity is highest at smaller radius near the source of the sound (louder) and weakens as the radius grows bigger (fainter sound). This article will mainly focus on the differences between tone and pitch.

Pitch is a key auditory attribute of sound. It is a perceived fundamental frequency of sound. The human auditory system cannot perceive and differentiate between frequencies of notes in some given circumstances. Pitch is subjective in that the perceived tones to a listener are assigned to a musical scale’s relative positions based mainly on frequency of vibration. The frequency of the tones determines the ‘just-noticeable difference’ (jnd), which is the threshold of change perception.

On the other hand tone represents the ‘quality’ of sound, that which distinguishes it and makes it recognizable by its constant ‘pitch’. A tone’s pitch defines its depth (or height) in relation to the complete series of tones that can be heard by the ear. This is why two instruments sound differently even if the pitch is the same, for instance a violin and a flute playing the same pitch will sound differently. The way a listener evaluates frequency also represents pitch of a tone. Obviously a higher pitch results from a higher frequency and a lower frequency gives a lower pitch.

In music terms, pitch, as opposed to tone, is the actual value of the note sung while tone would be the thickness, or how full or shrill the note is. So, in musical terms, a natural vocal production should first be established before a singer can embark on ‘pitch training’. When a natural vocal production is in place, then singing on pitch comes off easily. Still defining musical terms, tone is the timbre or quality of a note. It’s important to know that in singing, a singer can be perfect on pitch but horrible with tone. This is because there are a lot of factors that influence tone, for instance a singer’s physical condition, breath support, technique and many more.

1.Pitch is a perceived fundamental frequency of sound while tone is the ‘quality’ of sound.
2. In the field of music, pitch is the actual value of a tone while tone is the thickness of the note.
3. In music, pitch can be perfect while tone cannot be perfect. .

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  1. After reading this, I still have no practical idea what the difference is between pitch and tone. A few obstacles:

    1) You seem to use “tone” as a synonym for “sound”. If so, it cannot also be a quality of that same sound. That would be nonsensical, which you can see by word replacement: A sound has a tone = a sound has a sound.

    2) Pitch: If it is a “perceived” difference, does that mean that tone is not perceived? If yes, then we cannot recognize tones, which I think is not true. If no, then saying pitch is perceived does not help to uniquely define it because tones are also perceived.

    At the end of the day, what your definition is lacking is any practical way for someone to tell the difference between pitch and tone while listening to sounds.

  2. I’m sure you know what you are talking about but unfortunately you are unable to explain these concepts to someone like me who does not have the knowledge of music.

    • This made a world of difference to me..this was simple enough for me.. I’m learning to play guitar this explanation helped me with note and tone differences.

  3. When reading the articles les between sap and resin, a link for pine ‘pinch’ takes you to this sound pitch — Not to pine tree pitch.

    This and other not accurate information needs corrected on this site.

  4. “Quality” and “thickness” do not what tone is. “Frequency” helps me better understand pitch.

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