What Is A Musical Tone? Definition & Examples

In this article we’ll look at what a musical tone is, how many musical tones there are, how to use them to make wonderful melodies and more.

Musical Tone Definition

Musical Tone Definition

The definition of a musical tone is a sound with pitch, intensity, duration, and loudness. In layman's terms, it is the slightest tone produced by sound-making objects such as humans or instruments.

For example, someone who hums a tune while waiting for the bus produces musical tones with their throat and lungs. On the other hand, someone who plucks a guitar string or presses a key on a piano makes musical tones with instruments.

You should note that many musical tones exist, each with its own duration and pitch. In most musical scores, the melody will make use of 12 different musical tones denoted by the first seven letters of the alphabet.

How Many Musical Tones Are There?

How Many Musical Tones Are There

There are 12 musical tones. Each has a different letter it is represented by, and some have a “sharp” or “flat” designation. The different tones are:

  • A
  • A#/Bb
  • B
  • C
  • C#/Db
  • D
  • D#/Eb
  • E
  • F
  • F#/Gb
  • G
  • G#/Ab

(# = Sharp, b = flat)

With these 12 sounds, composers create music by arranging them in a unique array on the sheet. There are 88 octaves on a traditional piano, and each octave features each of the twelve tones.

The tones give each a half step of space on the scale and conform to an ascending or descending arrangement pattern. The variety of tunes gives musicians an array of sounds they can use with their pianos, guitars, or voices to create music. Most music is simply playing tones together in chords.

On top of providing pitch and duration, tones also give you a sense of intensity. That's often called the timbre, a term that offers each tone its unique sound.

What Is Timbre And How Does It Relate To Musical Tones?

What Is Timbre And How Does It Relate To Musical Tones

The timber determines how different tones sound when coming from other instruments. For example, a tone played by piano is much different than a similar tone played on a bass guitar. Since different timbres exist, each instrument has a special sound.

In tandem with pitch, different tones can produce several sounds that come with their own overtone. An overtone is an additional frequency from a particular note from various instruments.

In most cases, an instrument with a lower pitch will produce more recognizable overtones than higher ones. Therefore, a high-pitched Piccolo instrument has fewer harmonic tones than a low-pitched flute.

How Do Composers Depict Pitch On Sheet Music?

As we mentioned, the beat system is duration, but as for the pitch, composers will use the aforementioned chromatic scale to give a pitch range. This scale uses five levels and several note orientations to indicate different sounds.

Five lines on a sheet of music represent each frequency level, and they helped give musicians an easier time playing their instruments.

What Is A Musical Tone? Final Thoughts

What Is A Musical Tone One Last Note

And that’s all there is to it! With enough practice, you’ll be able to recognize different tones from sound alone. Musicians around the world have made a living by composing music using their keen ears and sense of tone. There are an infinite number of combinations you can make with these tones to write original music.

The only thing you need to do now is to grab some sheet music and get to work!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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