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Sound parameters

Actualizado: 24 abr

Iván Rolón

Welcome to the first class of the online piano and music theory course. Today we are talking about Sound Parameters.

Music is the art of sounds. Identifying the differences between sounds is fundamental to understanding the musical writing system and orderly arranging them in interpretation, composition, and improvisation. We call parameters the categories that are established from the differences between the sounds.

The sound parameters are:

  1. PITCH: By its pitch, we distinguish between low and high sounds.

  2. DURATION: By its duration, we distinguish between short and long sounds.

  3. INTENSITY: By its intensity, we distinguish between soft and loud sounds.

  4. TIMBRE: By its timbre, we distinguish the source that produces it.

These parameters are associated with various musical elements:

1. Pitch is related to notes. The notes are 7 and are called:

Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti, or C-D-E-F-G-A-B

In the following videos, you can recognize pairs of sounds with differences in their pitch (low/high and high/low respectively).

2. Duration is related to the note values. Some of them are:

Whole note - Half note - Quarter note

In the following videos, you can recognize pairs of sounds with differences in their duration (short/long and long/short respectively).

3. Intensity is related to dynamics in musical writing. They are written in Italian. The basic dynamics are:

  • Piano (p): For sounds that are played or sung softly.

  • Forte (f): For sounds that are played or sung strongly.

In the following videos, you can recognize pairs of sounds with differences in their intensity (soft/laud and laud/soft respectively).

4. Timbre is related to the musical instrument. Musical instruments are classified according to the vibrating body that produces the sound. They may be:


  • Plucked: The string is pressed directly with the finger or indirectly with some device. For example: guitar, harp or harpsichord.

  • Bowed: The string is rubbed with a bow. For example: violin, viola, cello or double bass.

  • Struck: The string is struck with some device. For example: Piano or Harpsichord.


  • Wood: Blow instruments that are made or were originally made of wood and have holes to shorten the tube and modify the height of the sound, which are covered with the fingers or keys. For example: flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone or bassoon.

  • Brass: Blow instruments that are made of metal and have valves or pistons to lengthen the tube and modify the height of the sound, but do not have holes to shorten it. For example: Trumpet, Horn, Trombone or Tuba.


  • Membranophones: The sound is obtained from the percussion of a tense membrane. For example: timpani.

  • Idiophones: The sound is obtained from the percussion of a rigid body. For example: xylophone.

In the following videos you can assess the timbre of the instruments mentioned:.

1. Violin (Johann Sebastian Bach: Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: I. Prelude, Violin: Sebastian Bohren)

2. Viola (Henri Vieuxtemps: Caprice for solo viola, 'Hommage à Paganini', Viola: Julia Kim)

3. Cello (Johann Sebastian Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1007: I. Prelude, Cello: Ophélie Gaillard)

4. Double Bass (Adam Ben Ezra: Can't Stop Running, Double Bass: Adam Ben Ezra)

5. Guitar (Agustín Barrios-Mangore: Prelude in C minor, Guitar: Sofija Mihailovic)

6. Harp (Claude Debussy: Clair de Lune, Harp: Héloïse de Jenlis)

7. Harpsichord (Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Sauvage, Harpsichord: Jean Rondeau)

8. Piano (Chopin: Nocturne in E Major Op 9 No 2, Piano: Valentina Lisitsa)

9. Clavichord (Eduardo Antonello: Prelude in C Major, harpsichord: Eduardo Antonello)

10. Flute (Debussy: Syrinx for solo flute, Flute: Emmanuel Pahud)

11. Oboe (Wolfgang A. Mozart: Concerto for oboe and orchestra KV. 314, Oboe: William Welter)

12. Clarinet (Ante Grgin: Caprice for solo clarinet, Clarinet: Yulia Drukh)

13. Bassoon (Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita for solo bassoon, BWV 1013: Allemande, Bassoon: Céline Camarassa Castelló)

14. Trumpet (Mahler, Symphony No. 5 (fragment), Trumpet: Andrea Giuffredi)

15. Horn (Maxime-Alphonse: Study No. 2, Book 1, Horn: Scott Leger)

16. Trombone (Wagner: Die Walküre (fragment), Trombone: S. J. Park)

17. Tuba (Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg -fragmento-, Tuba: Melton Meinl Weston)

18. Timpani (Tom Freer: Study for Solo Timpani No. 1, Scherzo, Timpani: Leonardo Soto)

19. Xylophone (Manuel de Falla: The Brief Life, Spanish Dance, Xylophone: George Didenko)


1) Play pairs of sounds on the piano with differences in pitch, duration, intensity, and timbre (through the use of pedals).

2) Free improvisation from exploring the piano with the sound parameters using pedals. Example:

3) Identification:

  • On which parameter is the difference between each of these pairs of sounds based (pitch, duration, intensity, or timbre)?

  • What is the relationship between these sounds (low/high or high/low, short/long or long/short, soft/loud or loud/soft)?

Write down your answers.







4) Musical instruments: which instruments play the main solo in the following excerpts?