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Harmony, in music, the sound of 2 or more notes heard simultaneously. In practice, this broad an interpretation can additionally include part instances of notes sounded one after the other. If the consecutively sound notes speak to to psychic the notes of a familiar chord (a team of notes sounded together), the ear creates its own simultaneity in the same means that the eye perceives activity in a movement picture. In such instances the ear perceives the harmony that would result if the notes had sounded together. In a narrow sense, harmony describes the extensively developed system the chords and the rules that enable or forbid relations between chords that characterizes western music.

Musical sound might be regarded as having actually both horizontal and vertical components. The horizontal aspects are those the proceed throughout time such together melody, counterpoint (or the interweaving of coincided melodies), and also rhythm. The vertical facet comprises the sum total of what is continue at any given moment: the an outcome either the notes the sound against each various other in counterpoint, or, together in the situation of a melody and accompaniment, that the underpinning the chords that the composer gives the primary notes that the melody. In this analogy, harmony is mainly a vertical phenomenon. It likewise has a horizontal aspect, however, due to the fact that the composer not only creates a harmonic sound at any type of given moment but likewise joins these sounds in a succession of harmonies that offers the music that is distinctive personality.


Melody and also rhythm have the right to exist without harmony. By far the greatest component of the world’s music is nonharmonic. Many highly sophisticated musical styles, such as those of India and China, consist usually of unharmonized melodic lines and their rhythmic organization. In just a few instances of folk and primitive music are an easy chords particularly cultivated. Harmony in the Western feeling is a comparatively recent invention having actually a rather restricted geographic spread. It arose less 보다 a millennium back in the music of west Europe and also is embraced today only in those musical societies that trace their beginnings to that area.

The ide of harmony and harmonic relationship is not an arbitrarily creation. It is based on particular relationships amongst musical tones the the person ear accepts nearly reflexively and that are likewise expressible through elementary scientific investigation. These relationship were an initial demonstrated through the Greek philosopher Pythagoras in the 6th century bce. In among his most well known experiments, a stretched string was separated by an easy arithmetical ratios (1:2, 2:3, 3:4,…) and also plucked. Through this way he demonstrated that the intervals, or distances in between tones, that the string sounded before and also after that was split are the most fundamental intervals the ear perceives. This intervals, which happen in the music of practically all cultures, either in melody or in harmony, space the octave, the fifth, and the fourth. (An octave, together from C come the C over it, includes eight white note on a piano keyboard, or a similar mixture that white and also black notes. A fifth, together from C to G, encompasses five white notes; a fourth, as from C come F, 4 white notes.) In Pythagoras’s experiment, because that example, a string sounding C when reduced in half sounds C, or the note an octave over it. In other words, a string divided in the ratio 1:2 returns the octave (c) that its basic note (C). Likewise, the proportion 2:3 (or two-thirds the its length) yields the fifth, and the proportion 3:4, the fourth.


These notes—the an essential and the notes a fourth, a fifth, and an octave over it—form the major musical intervals, the cornerstones ~ above which western harmony is built.

The roots of harmony

The organized mechanism of western harmony as exercised from c. 1650 come c. 1900 developed from earlier musical practices: indigenous the polyphony—music in numerous voices, or parts—of the late center Ages and the Renaissance and, ultimately, indigenous the strictly melodic music that the Middle periods that offered rise come polyphony. The organization of middle ages music, in turn, derives native the medieval theorists’ broke up knowledge of old Greek music.

Although the music of ancient Greece consisted entirely of melodies sung in unison or, in the case of voices of unequal range, in ~ the octave, the term harmony occurs generally in the works on music at the time. Leading theorists such together Aristoxenus (flourished fourth century bce) administer a clear snapshot of a musical style consisting of a wide an option of “harmonies,” and Plato and also Aristotle comment on the ethical and moral worth of one “harmony” over another.

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In Greek music a “harmony” was the succession of tones in ~ an octave—in modern-day usage, a scale. The Greek system embraced seven “harmonies,” or scale types, identified from one another by their specific order of sequence of tones and also semitones (i.e., totality steps and half steps). These “harmonies” were later on erroneously called modes, a broader term involving the characteristic border of a melody, and the scale it used.