Re: indefinite pitch

Subject: Re: indefinite pitch
From: Prof Malone (
Date: Sun Oct 09 2005 - 11:16:31 EDT

Pitch (psychological) and Frequency (physical) are related but not the same.
Pitch is a facet of timbre that can be influenced mostly by frequency
but also by other parameters.
Play a sine wave soft then loud
- the perceived pitch will change.
Play a sine wave then a sawtooth at the same frequency
- the perceived pitch will change.

All sounds have some degree of pitchedness
except for the mythical perfect white noise.

Sine waves and spectra with integer relationships
are perceived as definitely pitched
but that definition is not unique in all contexts and syntaxes.
For example the melodic interval of a tritone with shepard tones
will go up for some and down for others.

happy tunes
don malone

it takes all of us

on 10.6.05 11:17 PM, Eldad Tsabary at wrote:

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 object¹s physical quality (fundamental frequency and partials - most prominently those belonging to the fundamental¹s 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 higher.

However, in the case of, let¹s 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 ³indefinite pitch² somewhat deceptive (a sound object either has pitch or doesn¹t?)

If we accepted the term ³indefinite pitch² 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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