Tone quality

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Helical line over 2.5 octaves.

Tone quality (also tone quality , tone character or chroma ; English pitch class ) describes the perception of the same tones in octave intervals . This can be visualized as a cylinder in which the tones of a scale are arranged in a helical line - over several octaves - with certain "pins" connecting the octave tones of the same name with each other (the C "pin", for example, connects all C on the line). The term was introduced by the Austrian ethnomusicologist Erich Moritz von Hornbostel (1877-1935).

According to a more recent neurophysiological model, the cause of the tone quality lies in the anatomy and physiology of the auditory thalamus .


  • Albert Wellek : The splitting of the "pitch" in Hornbostel's hearing psychology , in: Zeitschrift für Musik-Wissenschaft, vol. 16 (1934).
  • A. Bachem: Tone height and tone chroma as two different pitch qualities , in: Acta psychologica, Vol. 7 (1950).

See also