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The Building Blocks of Music

January 26, 2010

Music, no matter what style, origin or form, consists of the same basic building blocks. Pitch, rhythm and timbre are the DNA of each musical note, dictating the sound that you hear.

Pitch

The pitch of a sound is determined by its frequency. We recognize pitch in clearly defined intervals (notes), although these are man made constructs that define the ‘pitch’. There are a multitude of variations between these notes that have a slightly different frequency, giving them a different pitch.

Rhythm

Rhythm is like the skeleton of music, holding all the different elements together. Rhythm is not just the sounds heard but also the silences between. The speed and frequency of the sound creating the rhythm, adding the foundations to the composition.

Timbre (pronounced tamber)

Timbre is the most complicated and variable building block. It is that unique combination of fundamental frequency, harmonics, and overtones that gives each voice, musical instrument, and sound effect its specific colouring and character. This is what gives you the ability to differentiate instruments and voices. It also allows us to distinguish how a note is sung or played.

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