Pitch Vs Tone Vs Timbre Vs Technique Vs Texture Vs Overtone: What’s the Difference?
Written by Cameron Mayo
If you new to the music world, you may not understand all of the technical descriptions for sounds that vocals and other instruments make. There are few important words to know so that you can understand other musicians and producers are talking about. These will also be helpful for when you get feedback, you will know what you need to improve. This article will define the most common aspects of music so you can talk to and understand other musicians.
Pitch refers to how high or low a note sounds. Specifically, pitch refers to the frequency of soundwaves your instrument or voice are producing. The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch.
Tone is an aspect of the quality of a sound identified regularity in its vibrations. Simple tones only have one frequency, an example would be the sound made by a tuning fork. Complex tones have a couple of simple tones, known as partial tones. As a tone gets more complex, you end up with overtones. We will discuss those later on.
Timbre also references the quality of different sounds. It is easily one of the most distinguishable characteristic of a type of sound aside from the pitch and loudness. Simply put, it’s the difference in timbre that helps you identify a flute from a cello, even when they are playing the same pitch. It is one of the broadest designations a sound can have and identifies the most obvious characteristics of a sound. Words like “tinny, dark, and bright” are common ways to describe the timbre of the sound.
Technique refers to the ability of the musician to control their instruments (or their voice) to produce the exact sound they need to for their music. To improve your technique, you need to practicing. There are countless exercises for every instrument that will help you improve agility and muscular sensitivity. You also need to practice ear training. This will help you recognize patterns of notes and chords, as well as help you to tune their instrument. Technique covers a wide variety of areas in music and is the foundation of a musicians ability to play.
Texture is used to describe how the tempo, harmonic, and melodic materials are created in a composition to determine the quality of sound in the piece. There are many layers to every song, even the simplest sounding ones. Layers of instruments and vocals come together to create the texture. More instruments and voices often make a thicker texture while fewer makes a thinner texture. There are different types of musical textures including monophonic, biphonic, and homophonic.
This is where complex tones come in. Overtones refer to other frequencies that are much higher than what is known as the “fundamental frequency”. The fundamental frequency is the pitch we hear when a note is played. Overtones are a series of pitches that compliment the fundamental frequency and give the the pitch a unique sound. This helps us differential between instruments as each instrument produces a different series of overtones. For instance, if you take a violin and a piano and play the same note you will get very different overtones.
TO WRAP IT UP
Music may seem very simple, but there are many different parts that work together to create the music you love. Each of these aspects are important to making a song as unique as the artist creating it. Now that you have a foundational vocabulary, get practicing! Learn some music theory! It takes time and effort to get good at music and now is the best time to start. Good luck!
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