Pitch (music)

perceptual property in music ordering sounds from low to high

In music, the pitch of a note means how high or low the note sounds. For example, a violin usually has a higher pitch than a string bass. Pitch mostly depends on the frequency of the sound — how fast the air vibrates back and forth. In physics, frequency is measured in a unit called Hertz. A note that is vibrating at 261 Hz will be caused by sound waves that vibrate at 261 times a second. This will be Middle C on the piano.

Not all musical instruments make notes of a certain pitch. Many percussion instruments like drums, triangles and cymbals are instruments used for rhythms. They do not play tunes because they have no definite pitch (although often a definite pitch can just be heard when listening carefully.)

Some musicians have a sense of absolute pitch or perfect pitch. This means that they always know what note is being played, even without comparing it to another note. Having a sense of absolute pitch does not necessarily make someone a good musician, although it can be very useful.

There is evidence to suggest that well-known composers of classical music, such as Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach, had developed and perhaps even mastered their sense of pitch.

Pitch is not exactly the same as frequency. Frequency is used as a scientific means for measuring and changing sound and its possible pitches. Pitch is a more psychological quality. It depends on how the ear perceives sounds, and how the brain interprets them.

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