I refer to this question (which is protected, but I cannot answer because it is 'protected') What are the differences between tone, note, and pitch?.

In it, Matthew Read accepts Kos' comment "I believe that note is more than a "named pitch", because it also carries information about the temporal length... Doesn't it? – Kos" and agrees that "note" is a named pitch with temporal information. Thus, 'tone' could be defined as (named/unnamed) note with information about timbre. A sound produced electronically consisting of a note on a single pitch could be a tone - perhaps a 'pure' tone, one without overtones. All other methods of producing sound have overtones so calling them whole tone or semitone on any instrument is correct.

  • @LaurencePayne, I don't think Dianne is trying to establish another definition for the world to use. My take is she's trying to connect these ideas on her own and check to see if her understanding of the relationships is correct. Coming up with relationships is an effective way to learn because connections aid our memory. It's not dissimilar to a road. The more roads that lead to a particular destination, the easier it is to get there. Similarly, the more neural pathways there are leading to a piece of stored information in one's brain, the easier it to retrieve that info.
    – jdjazz
    Jul 9, 2017 at 14:17

2 Answers 2


'Tone' is a word with at least 3 distinct meanings:

  • a synonym for' timbre'
  • a note or sound - often an electronically-produced one.
  • an interval of a certain size (i.e. two semitones!)
  • ...and probably more....

Can 'tone' be defined as "note with information about timbre"?

No, that isn't commonly-understood as a precise, single definition. It sounds like a blurring-together of the first two meanings above.

  • 1
    That's the problem, isn't it? Obviously, we don't have clearly defined usages of these terms. But it's probably unavoidable, since all terms are oversimplifications of a complex reality anyway. It's always good to keep in mind, imho, that the word is not the thing, and that we don't have enough words for the number of different things there are out there. Jan 17, 2017 at 14:22
  • 1
    @ScottWallace I'm sure someone, somewhere, is making a list of the 'things'... I often think that to do something like Google Translate well you have to have a machine that can think in terms of pure semantics. Once they've finished it they'll easily be able to make 'Google Bad Pun Generator'. Jan 17, 2017 at 16:00

Thus, 'tone' could be defined as (named/unnamed) note with information about timbre

No. As you referenced, note means a tone or pitch with temporal information., as in half-note, quarter-note etc.

Tone has no connection to temporal information, as is clear from @topomorto 's definition.

Note should not be connected to timbre at all. Many instruments, with a very wide variety of timbres, can all play exactly the same notes. A violin and a clarinet, for example, might play from identical notations, although their timbres are very different.

“a note with information about timbre” is closer to pitch than to tone, which is usually understood to mean an abstract sound - an audio frequency - lacking information about timbre or time. Pitch is a tone with information about timbre.

But again, pitch, like tone, has no connection to time, which is the essence of note: a discreet period in relative musical time.

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