Cultural and Creative Arts

Theory of music

Fundamentals of Music and Sound

Music can be defined as a composition of organized sound pleasant to the ear.

It is a performing art, a medium in which one’s mind can be meaningfully expressed by who appreciates it:

The raw material of music is sound. Sound may be perceived as pleasant or unpleasant. Pleasant sound is musical sound while unpleasant sound is noise. Recorded music blared from a number of outlets (e.g. Business centers, shops etc) constitute noise. On the other hand, the sound from a performing orchestra could be very soothing and exhilarating.

The real difference between musical sound and noise lies in the impression made on the listener. While musical sound is generally attractive and enjoyable, noise is distracting and could be irritating. Furthermore, musical sound is organized while noise is not.

Sources of Sound

There are two main sources of sounds:

(i) Natural Source e.g. Human beings, animals, weather, etc.

(ii) Artificial source – man with the aid of objects called musical instrument e.g. Guitar, gong etc.

Musical Sounds

Musical sounds are produced in two ways:

(i) Through the human voice (vocal music) and

(ii) through musical instruments.

Characteristics of Sound

  1. Pitch: This is the height or depth of a musical sound. E.g d:m:s:s:l:s-
  2. Intensity: This refers to the loudness or softness of a musical sound.
  3. Timbre: This is the difference in sound production of one musical instrument and the other. E.g the sound of violin differs from the sound of guitar, while the sound of guitar differs from that of saxophone.
  4. Duration: The length of a musical sound is called duration. In a piece of music, each sound has length(duration) in note beat value combined, in relation to other set of organized sounds to produce music.
  5. Accent: This is the emphasis placed on certain sounds in a piece of music in order to create definite effects on the listeners or audience.


  1. Define music
  2. What is the difference between music and noise.
  3. List three characteristics of sound.

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