pitch

pitch, in music, the position of a tone in the musical scale, today designated by a letter name and determined by the frequency of vibration of the source of the tone. Pitch is an attribute of every musical tone; the fundamental, or first harmonic, of any tone is perceived as its pitch. The earliest successful attempt to standardize pitch was made in 1858, when a commission of musicians and scientists appointed by the French government settled upon an A of 435 cycles per second; this standard was adopted by an international conference at Vienna in 1889. In the United States, however, the prevailing standard is an A of 440 cycles per second. Before the middle of the 19th cent., pitch varied according to time, place, and medium of musical performance; since the classical period the trend has been gradually upward. The relative pitch of a tone, in contrast to absolute pitch, is an expression of its pitch in relation to the pitch of some other tone taken as a standard.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on in music pitch from Fact Monster:

  • Burmese - Burmese Burmese, language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan family of ...
  • Sino-Tibetan languages: Common Features - Common Features The Sino-Tibetan languages have in common several features, which are exhibited to ...
  • serial music - serial music serial music, the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a ...
  • Serbo-Croatian - Serbo-Croatian Serbo-Croatian , language belonging to the South Slavic group of the Slavic ...

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Theory, Forms, and Instruments