The main difference between pitch and intonation is that pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a tone or voice while intonation is the variation of pitch in the spoken language.
Pitch and intonation are two terms that describe music and voice. Both describe how a low or high a note or a voice is. Therefore, many people use these two terms interchangeably. However, it is important to note that the term intonation has two different meanings. When we are talking about spoken language, intonation refers to the variation of pitch, but when we are talking about music, intonation refers to pitch accuracy of either a musician or musical instrument.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Pitch
– Definition, Characteristics
2. What is Intonation
– Definition, Characteristics
3. What is the Difference Between Pitch and Intonation
– Comparison of Key Differences
Intonation, Pitch, Rising Intonation, Falling Intonation
What is Pitch
Pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a tone. It is governed by the rate of vibrations producing it. While high pitch has a high frequency, a low pitch has a low frequency. Frequency indicates how often vibrations occur. In music, pitch describes how high or low a note is. Pitch is also a major auditory element in musical tones, along with timbre, duration, and loudness. However, the pitch can be determined only if the sounds have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to differentiate from noise. A note that vibrates at 261 Hz indicates that sound waves vibrate at 261 times a second. This is the Middle C on the piano.
In spoken language, pitch indicates the degree of highness or lowness with which one speaks. Some people naturally speak in a high-pitched voice. Emotions can also affect the pitch of someone’s voice. For instance, sudden emotions like anger, surprise or joy can make a person speak in a higher pitch than usual. Likewise, a tired person may speak in a lower pitch.
What is Intonation
Intonation is the variation of pitch in the spoken language. It indicates people’s emotions and attitudes, help to determine the difference between statements and questions and sometimes highlight the importance of the verbal message we’re giving out. The English language has three basic intonation patterns as falling intonation, rising intonation, and partial/fall-rise intonation.
Falling intonation describes how a person’s voice falls on the final stressed syllable of a phrase or a group of words. It can express a complete, definite thought, and ask wh-questions.
- “Where are you going?”
- “I got a new job.”
Rising intonation describes how our voice rises at the end of a sentence. This is common in yes-no questions or in expressing surprise.
- “Is she the new teacher?”
- “Are you hungry?”
Partial Intonation describes how voice rises then falls. We use this intonation when we are not sure about something, or when we have more to add to a sentence. We can also use this intonation pattern to ask questions since it sounds more polite.
- “Would you like another cup of tea?”
- “I would like to help you, but…”
Difference Between Pitch and Intonation
Pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a tone or voice while intonation is the variation of the pitch in the spoken language.
There are two main types of pitch as high pitch and low pitch whereas there are three types of intonations as falling intonation, rising intonation, and partial/fall-rise intonation.
Pitch and intonation are two terms that describe music and voice. The main difference between pitch and intonation is that pitch is the degree of highness or lowness of a tone or voice while intonation is the variation of pitch in the spoken language.
1. “Intonation.” English Grammar Today, Cambridge Dictionary, Available here.
1. “3870974” (CC0) via Pixabay
Leave a Reply