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(#2) Pitch, Dynamics, and Tone Color

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by

Lori Roy

on 3 February 2015

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Transcript of (#2) Pitch, Dynamics, and Tone Color

In the last lecture, we discussed rhythm, or how music moves linearly through time. If rhythm can be considered the "horizontal" aspect of music, pitch can be considered the "vertical" one.
Pitch, Dynamics, and Tone Color
What is pitch?
All pitches are sounds, but not all sounds have pitch.

A pitch is a single note caused by a wave vibrating at a certain frequency.

For Example: A440

The note A is created by a sound wave vibrating 440 times a second, creating the same pattern over and over.

Lower pitches have lower frequencies and produce lower notes.
Higher pitches have higher frequencies and produce higher notes.
Dynamics
Dynamics measure the level of strength of a vibration, or more precisely, the amount of energy they contain and convey.

In other words, they measure how loud or soft a sound is.

A sound becomes louder when the amplitude of a sound wave is higher. That is, the taller a sound wave, the louder the sound.

Musicians work in very subtle dynamic gradations from loud to soft, but it is not calibrated the way pitch is.
Tone Color
At whatever pitch, and whether loud or soft, musical sounds differ in their general quality depending on the instruments that produce them.

The word for this quality is tone color or timbre.
More Cool Sound Wave Things....
What is sound?
We will also be discussing two specific qualities each pitch will have: a tone color and a dynamic.
Sound is produced by vibrations that occur
when objects are struck, plucked, or activated in some way. The vibrations then travel through air (or some other medium) and cause our ears to vibrate sympathetically.
A sound can not be created without a vibration,
because sound IS vibration.
The vibration travels in waves. It causes the molecules of the medium through which it is traveling to become compressed or stretched.
Frequencies of different notes
Frequencies are measured in Hertz (Hz).
The human ear can hear anything between
20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.

As we age, we gradually lose the upper end
of our hearing range. For instance, if you are 24,
your hearing range generally tops out at 17.4K Hz.
Frequencies and Hertz are how we measure sound scientifically. How do we measure sound musically?

Musicians designate specific evenly-spaced frequencies and give them labels: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

"A" would be a low pitch, "B" would be slightly higher, "C" would be higher still, and so on. When you pass "G," you start over at A, except the A you have now is vibrating twice as fast as the first one you started with. This is called an "octave."
pianissimo piano mezzo piano mezzo forte forte fortissimo

pp p mp mf f ff

very soft soft medium soft medium loud loud very loud

Dynamics Frequently Seen in Music
The combination of pitch and dynamics can be very powerful.
Resonant frequency of a glass +
A loud enough dynamic=
BOOM! Broken glass!
Aiming the resonant frequency
of the human eyeball (19 Hz) directly
at someone's eye will cause them to
see spots.
Different tone colors are produced by the presence of different overtones within a sound. When different overtones are in a sounds, they create differently shaped sound waves, each which has their own characteristic sound.

Some words we use to describe different tone colors or timbres are......

Bright, dark, mellow, warm, nasal, reedy, shrill, tinny, and so on. There are conventional words we use to describe sounds, but really, your imagination is the limit.
Here you can see the overtones
present in each musical instrument.
Bach played on a guitar measured
by an oscilloscope.
Measuring the inflection of the human voice
These are what sound waves look like!
What is resonant frequency?
Basically, it's the natural frequency
at which an object vibrates.
Full transcript