Difference Between Pitch and Tone

Difference Between Pitch and Tone

The quality of the sounds we produce is determined by factors such as pitch, tone and intensity. In this article, we are looking at the two auditory elements pitch and tone. The main difference between pitch and tone is that pitch refers to the degree of highness or lowness of a tone whereas tone refers to a musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength.Difference Between Pitch and Tone - infographic

What is Pitch

Pitch refers to the degree of highness or lowness of a tone. It is governed by the rate of vibrations producing it. A high pitch has a high frequency whereas low pitch has a low frequency. Frequency refers to how often the vibrations occur.

Pitch can also refer to the degree of highness or lowness with which one speaks. For instance, some people naturally speak in a high-pitched voice. Moreover, emotions can also affect the pitch of someone’s voice. For example, sudden emotions like anger, joy and surprise can make a person speak in a higher pitch than usual. Similarly, a person may speak in a lower pitch when he is tired.

Pitch is also a major auditory element in musical tones, along with timbre, duration, and loudness. The concept of higher and lower notes in musical melodies can be judged by the pitch. However, the pitch can be determined only if the sounds have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to differentiate from noise.

Main Difference - Pitch vs Tone

Pitch notation

What is Tone

Tone refers to a musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength. It can refer to the quality of sound of a musical instrument or singing voice. For example, we can describe the voice of a singer by saying that he has a rich and silky tone. Tone can also refer to significant contrasts between words signalled by pitch differences. These contrasts may be semantical, constrastive, phonemic or lexical.

Tone can also refer to the emotions conveyed in the voice. When we are angry or annoyed, our state of mind will be clearly reflected in our voice. For example, an angry person will have a harsh tone.Difference Between Pitch and Tone

Difference Between Pitch and Tone


Pitch refers to the degree of highness or lowness of a tone.

Tone refers to a musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength.

Related Elements

Pitch is related to the frequency.

Tone is related to pitch, quality, and strength.

Lexical and grammatical meaning

Pitch is not used to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning.

Tone can be used to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning.

Image Courtesy: 

“Pitch notation” By User:Angr – Own work (Public Domain) via

“Whole tone scale on C” via  

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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