Sound can be described as “vibrations or energy that reach our ears.”
In the previous section we learned that music is a system that can be defined by a certain number of elements.
All music, however, begins as a sound. Sound itself can be described as having four elements, or parameters: pitch, duration, intensity, and timbre.
High or Low
High: a mouse
Low: a lion’s roar
Long or Short
Long: boat horn
Short: pen clicks
Loud or Soft
Loud: a whistle
Soft: pouring water
These four elements are present in any sound, from a motorcycle speeding by (generally low, long, loud and “roaring”) to the sound of a drop of water falling into the sink (high, short, soft, “drippy?”).
Pitch, duration, and intensity can be measured; timbre is mostly described by what the listener thinks or feels about the sound.
In music, we talk about the four parameters like this:
- Pitch (high, low) – do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti / A, B, C, D, E, F, G
- Duration (long, short) – whole note, whole rest; half note, half rest; quarter note, quarter rest; eighth note, eighth rest…
- Intensity (dynamics: loud, soft) – ppp, pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, fff
- Timbre (instruments and tone color) – voice, violin, clarinet, flute; clear, light, breathy, nasal…
We’ll look at each of these in detail in the following units!
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