The Roland TR-03 has a knob labelled with the term 'Tuning'. When I turn it to the left then the sound gets deeper. When I turn it to the right then the sound gets higher. I know the term 'pitch' stands for a parameter to adjust the height and lowness of a sound. Are the terms tuning and pitch the same?

  • Note that the words “tuning” and “tune” often refer to two different things. Jun 27, 2018 at 11:39
  • Hey Todd, thats interesting. Would you explain the differences more detailled?
    – Simon
    Jun 27, 2018 at 11:42
  • Well, a lot of times, a "tune" (noun) is a melody. To "tune" (verb) an instrument means adjusting the frequency of the note(s) made by that instrument, which is also called "controlling the tuning" (noun). The "tuning" (noun) of an instrument is how it is "tuned" (verb). I've changed your question to be about the word "tuning" because that's the name of the knob you are asking about. Jun 27, 2018 at 13:35
  • Also, welcome to Music Practice & Theory! Looks like you're getting into DJ and electronic music, which is some fun stuff. We have some people around here who know about that. I'm looking forward to your participation here. Jun 27, 2018 at 13:52

3 Answers 3


The standard definition of "pitch" (ref: the American National Standards Institute) is the subjective quality of how "high" or "low" a sound is. It corresponds closely with the objective measurement of frequency (vibrations per second of the air) but the two are not identical - for example a tone with constant frequency and changing amplitude (loudness) may appear to either rise or fall in pitch, depending on what part of the audible hearing range it is in.

The verb "tune" in this context means "adjust the pitch." Pedantically, I suppose the control should be called "frequency adjustment" rather than "tuning" since it only changes the (objective) frequency of a sound, not its (subjective) pitch.

But the English language is not very precise about the terminology - for example we talk about instruments being "in tune with each other" meaning "the pitches are the same." It would be strange to talk about "pitching an instrument" rather than "tuning it", but singers often talk about "pitching" a note rather than "tuning" it!

  • 1
    I pitched an old guitar once - straight into the bonfire...
    – Tim
    Jun 28, 2018 at 7:08

In this situation they are most likely interchangeable. Pitch in musical terms is related to frequency - how high or low a sound is. 'Lower' is a better parameter than 'deeper' here.To tune an instrument, its pitch may be altered. Fairly obviously, a 'tune' musically speaking, is a melody - the sort of thing one would whistle, sing or play. So, your knob marked 'tuning' will effectively change the key a track is in.

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    I have fixed the term depth into lowness in my question.
    – Simon
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:24

No, the terms are quite different.

Tuning is adjusting the frequency by a small amount, so several instruments are in tune or to adjust the reference pitch, say from 440 to 442 Hz.

Pitch on a piano would mean, to use another key, in MIDI it's another note number, on a recorder it is another fingering on the score the note is sitting somewhere else, e.g. on another line.

  • Would you say the terms 'tune' and 'pitch' both adjust the frequency. But the only difference is that tune does is stepless and pitch does it stepwise?
    – Simon
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:27
  • This doesn't seem right. Where would 'concert pitch' fit in?
    – Tim
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:34
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    @guidot, you can't be that pedantic. A controller called 'transpose' can be expected to work in semitone steps. 'Tune' is pretty clearly a continuous adjustment, intended to align to the basic pitch of another instrument or recording. And there's that word 'pitch', which MIGHT mean a completely different key, or might just mean A=442Hz rather than A=440Hz.
    – Laurence
    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:37

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