- Max Kuehn
Read our article on what is pitch in music, explain how to identify pitches, examples, and the importance of pitches. Please keep reading for more info.
Definition Of Pitch Music
What happens when you play a single note on an instrument?
You can make a soundwave with any instrument, whether you are playing a piano or guitar or blowing into a saxophone.
A sound wave is simply vibrations of air molecules, which travel back and forth creating pressure waves that travel from the instrument that produces the sound and are picked up by our ears.
Frequency is the main property of sound waves. This is a term that describes how fast the wave cycles.
The human ear then hears and understands pitch.
This is a little technical and mathematical. However, you should know that pitch is the frequency of a note.
The frequency determines the pitch and vice versa.
If a note has a frequency higher or lower than the note, it will sound “higher” (or “lower”) than another note.
It is easy to see which notes are louder and which are lower on staff because they are written “higher” on staff.
Here’s an example of pitch-rising notes.
The opposite is true as well. The pitch is affected by how low a note is written on a stave.
Here is an example of descending notes:
Pitch is a measurement of the frequency of a sound wave in physics. It is measured in Hertz (Hz). These frequencies correspond in two ways to musical notes.
A pitch that emits high frequencies is called a high pitch. Higher pitches can be represented on the treble clef of a standard musical staff.
High pitches can be represented by several ledger lines that are higher than the treble-clef staff. High-pitched notes on the piano keyboard are located on the right-hand side.
They are usually played with the left hand. They are played high on the fingerboard for stringed musical instruments.
A note that vibrates at a lower frequency than its pitch. These notes are usually found in the tenor or bass clefs of musical staves.
Low pitches can be found on the left side of the keyboard of a piano and on the low fingerboard on string instruments.
How To Identify Pitch In Music Theory?
Musicians use two methods to measure different pitches in music: vibrations and note names.
A musical pitch is a representation of a particular sonic vibration. This vibration is measured in Hertz (Hz). The Western musical scale is tuned so that A4 (the A above the middle C) vibrates at 405 Hz.
The frequency of musical notes doubles with every octave. A5 vibrates at 880Hz and A3 vibrates at 220Hz.
Names of Notes
Music theorists developed a system for identifying pitches. Each note is given a letter name. These notes are then divided into intervals known as semitones or half-steps.
In Western pop and classical music, there are twelve semitones. You can arrange them into groups such as the major, minor, and chromatic scales.
It is important to note that musicians don’t use amplitude for pitch measurement. The amplitude and frequency of sound waves affect their volume.
Pitches Of Related Notes
Mathematically, pitches are related to notes that are on the same scale and, specifically, notes from the same chord.
Take, for example, note A in the table.
The frequency of the A is 440 Hz. To increase the frequency of A by an octave, you need to double the frequency and pitch.
If the frequency of the lower A is 440 Hz, then it means that the frequency of the higher A will be 440×2 = 880Hz.
The entire frequency range is re-examined. Every A in music can be either 55 Hz or 110 Hz.
The perfect 4th and 5th of a note are closely related.
A perfect 4th pitch is the 4:3 pitch of the main note. The 5th pitch is 3:2 higher.
If the A is 440 Hz, the perfect fourth above that (D), is approximately 440×4/3= 587 Hz and 440×3/2= 660 Hz.
These are the ratios between pitches of notes on a major and minor scale:
- Major 2nd: 9:8
- Minor 3rd: 6:5
- Major 3rd: 5:4
- Minor 6th: 8:5
- Major 6th: 5:3
- Minor 7th: 9:5
- Major 7th: 15:8
These ratios don’t need to be memorized, but they can be helpful to remind us that chords and scales sound harmonious because of the mathematical relationship between their pitches.
What Are The Pitches Named?
Musicians and theorists in Western music give each pitch a specific name based on the 12-note scale. Two elements are required to give a pitch name: the name of the note as well as the octave it appears in.
The note F is the third octave in standard music. D#5 is the name given to the fifth octave’s note D#. The pitch name for Middle C, the middle note on a piano keyboard is C4.
Definitive pitches are those that can be identified and named. Certain pitches are produced by instruments like the trumpet, guitar, violin, or piano.
Indefinite pitches are pitches that cannot be identified or named. Indefinite pitches are produced by many percussion instruments, such as cymbals and snare drums.
What Is The Importance Of Pitch In Music?
Musicians consider pitch important because it allows them to determine if a sound is more or less musically melodic.
Pitch In Music Examples
Learn some common phrases that include a pitch to understand how musicians use it in their daily practice.
If they have another note to refer to, a person with perfect pitch will be able identify any note in the scale. A person should be able identify any new note if they play a Middle C relative pitch, and then play another note.
A pitch too high for the intended note is called a sharp pitch. It can be corrected by tuning your instrument or adjusting your technique.
A sharp pitch is not the same as the key signature in music notation. A musical sharp is when a composer asks you to play a note half-step higher than a note on the musical staff.
A pitch that is too low to the intended note is called a flat pitch. This is the opposite of a sharp pitch.
Music notation can also have flat notes, just like it does with sharp notes. These notes are not the equivalent of playing a pitch that is accidentally too flat.
Diatonic Pitch (Or Diatonic Note)
A diatonic pitch is one that is part of a major or minor scale. The notes C, D, and E are diatonic pitches. F# is a non-diatonic pitch within that scale.
However, a musician might still wish to use it for harmonic purposes.
This should give you an overview of the pitch. Fidlar hopes you found this post helpful. Let us know in the comments what you found helpful or any questions you may have.