Difference Between Loudness & Pitch

Loudness and pitch are two elements that refer to different aspects of a musical composition. Each element is crucial to the performance and interpretation of music. Composers will use these two elements in different ways to invoke certain emotions and provide the listener with an enjoyable musical experience. The properties of loudness and pitch sometimes overlap, but usually they serve different purposes in the composition.


Musical pitch can exist in several registers on the musical staff. High pitches are more penetrating, but not necessarily louder than lower pitches. The highness or lowness of pitch is what creates melodies. With loudness, there isn’t a registral space to be concerned about. There is no differentiation between high or low loudness, only the intensity of the loudness. This is one major difference between pitch and loudness: pitch can be high or low in the register, while loudness merely affects the volume of the pitch.


Higher pitches and louder pitches are both penetrating elements in music. With pitch, the higher notes are more penetrating than the lower notes, but this does not make them louder. It simply makes them more visible since higher pitches are more likely to be near the surface of the music. This is why it is easier to hear the melody than the harmony in a piece of music. Loudness can make a pitch that normally wouldn’t be heard, audible to the listener. Unlike pitch, loudness doesn’t need to be high to be heard, it just needs to be loud.


Melody utilizes both loudness and pitch in different ways. Melodies can exist at a very high pitch or a very low pitch and they will still sound like the originally melody. The register change will affect a melody by changing the timbre. Most instruments sound different in the higher and lower range. Loudness on the other hand, doesn’t change the timbre, it just makes the music more audible. Loudness can be used to make a melody come out over the ensemble, whereas pitch can change the character of the melody.


The final difference between pitch and loudness is how these elements function in music to create effects. High-pitched screams create moments of dread and fear, especially in film music. Loud thumps and booming basses help to create the sensation of movement and suspenseful climaxes. Horror movies will often turn the volume of the music up substantially during high-intensity scenes. Loud music works to put the audience into a state of heightened awareness, while pitch may simple scare them in a moment of onscreen panic.


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