indefinite pitch

Subject: indefinite pitch
From: Eldad Tsabary (
Date: Fri Oct 07 2005 - 00:17:28 EDT

Hello all,

I would like your input regarding a terminology issue.

When discussing a (definite) pitch sound object, with the use of correct
terminology it is very easy to distinguish between the object's physical
quality (fundamental frequency and partials - most prominently those
belonging to the fundamental's integer-multiple frequencies) and its
perceived quality (pitch). Describing a note as having a higher FREQUENCY
than another is unmistakably understood as having two sound objects - one
vibrating faster than the other (a physical phenomenon). Saying it has a
higher pitch, on the other hand, is understood as a note being PERCEIVED

However, in the case of, let's say, a cymbal - we understand it to have a
range of prominent frequencies - sort of a cluster - instead of a single
fundamental (physical description). Would we consider a brighter cymbal to
be PERCEIVED as a higher INDEFINITE PITCH (describing perceptual qualities
rather than physical)? Do you find the term "indefinite pitch" somewhat
deceptive (a sound object either has pitch or doesn't?)

If we accepted the term "indefinite pitch" when would it not be applicable
anymore? For example in white noise there is obviously no pitch of any kind.
What about two different band-limited white noises? Does it make sense to
refer to one being perceived higher in indefinite pitch than the other? Or
would we simply use a term such as brighter (again, avoiding description of
its physical qualities for now).


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