I am not talking about chords. Imagine a score with two staffs (e.g. for piano) and let's say 2 voices. In the first measure on the upper staff we have some chord (let's say it consists of 4 notes) and all the notes of this chord are crochets. Then, on to bottom staff, in the second voice, we have two eighths. So the crochet-chord and first eighth form kind of "acoustic block" that produce to sound together. Then, after eighth interval there we have second "block" with the second eight of second voice. So we have there two "blocks" of sound. Does this block have some formal name, then?

Update: The answer is simultaneity.

According to Wikipedia:

In music theory, a pitch simultaneity is more than one pitch or pitch class all of which occur at the same time, or simultaneously: "A set of notes sounded together."[1]

Simultaneity is a more specific and more general term than chord: many but not all chords or harmonies are simultaneities, though not all but some simultaneities are chords. For example, arpeggios are chords whose tones are not simultaneous. "The practice of harmony typically involves both simultaneity...and linearity."[2]

So I am accepting @Richard answer as it is precise answer to may question. Thank you!

  • 2
    I would indeed say that there are two different chords in the piece you describe. What is it about the word "chord" that leads you to think it's inappropriate here?
    – phoog
    Jan 9, 2019 at 23:12
  • As I understand, chord needs to be composed of at least 3 tones. What if each of two voices have just one note? Or alternatively, is there a common name for a set of chords occurring at the same time? Please note, that the "block" may also contain a rest at some point, so it is not really a chord.
    – Cromax
    Jan 9, 2019 at 23:15
  • The example in the question specifies 4 tones in the upper staff and at least one in the lower staff, so I didn't get into the question of fewer than 3 tones, but if there are two you could call it an "interval." Richard's answer seems useful from a theoretical point of view, but I've never heard those terms used in a rehearsal or other practical context. Are you in fact asking about theoretical or practical terminology?
    – phoog
    Jan 9, 2019 at 23:28
  • Theoretical --- that's why I put "theory" tag. As I understand interval is about "space" (measured in halftones) between two tones. And I am asking more about, hm, "set of tones (or even notes), not necessarily harmonic, starting to sound at the same moment". Was I more precise this time?
    – Cromax
    Jan 9, 2019 at 23:34
  • Music theory is also applied in practical contexts, so it still helps to distinguish. But when you say "starting to sound..." I wonder about the crotchet-in-one-voice-two-quavers-in-the-other example.
    – phoog
    Jan 9, 2019 at 23:39

1 Answer 1


A common term in the study of twentieth-century music is simultaneity, which simply means "a collection of musical entities that sound simultaneously."

It's odd, because that's really all that "harmony" means. But I think "harmony" often has some (incorrect) baggage that suggests it must be harmonious/consonant, which isn't always true.

In less formal discourse, I've heard "blocks" or "sound blocks" plenty, so you should feel free to use those terms, as well. As long as it gets the point across—which these all do—you should be in good shape.

  • The definition seems to be perfect, but I got the impression, that it concerns more a physical phenomenon while I am referring more to musical notation (notes). I probably wasn't precise enough, my apologies. I am writing musical software and this involves in naming (and modeling of) many things. Imagine, that each voice is a sequence of notes and/or rests. And looking at voices is a "horizontal" way of looking at it. And I need to "squash" these voices and look at them "vertically" --- as the playback time progress. Does it sound right: "this measure have 8 simultaneities"?
    – Cromax
    Jan 9, 2019 at 23:29
  • @Cromax People wouldn't typically say "this measure has 8 simultaneities," but they would say something like "this simultaneity has 8 pitches." I hope the term still works for you!
    – Richard
    Jan 10, 2019 at 3:22
  • Yes, it fits my purposes very nicely, thank you very much!
    – Cromax
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:02

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