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Re: A note on notes

John Croft wrote:

And my point was simply that "tone" merely replaces one ambiguity with


I don't agree. Many words are polysemic, yet can be used consistently
in different contexts. What I am suggesting is that the words "tone"
and "note" be used in a consistent way in a scientific context, a way
that reflects the distinction between printed symbols and acoustic

Roy Patterson wrote:

My experience is that note is used for the sound events in common
language, and if it is you will have little success trying to
restrict its usage in science.


I believe you are unnecessarily pessimistic. The point of scientific
language is to be more consistent and precise than common language.
Take the term "significant", which means "important" in common
language but means "statistically reliable" in the context of an
ANOVA. Similarly, "note" should mean only a printed symbol in the
context of a discussion of materials used in a scientific experiment.

Jim Beauchamp, in a message addressed to me directly, mentioned
"MIDI-note numbers", for which I am grateful. MIDI jargon often gives
rise to yet another terminological conundrum. A MIDI note is neither
a note (a printed symbol) nor a tone (a sound). Rather, it is a
message signaling an action on an electronic instrument. A MIDI-note
number is not a pitch, although it is often called "MIDI pitch".
Rather, it indicates the location on a keyboard where an action is to
be (or has been) carried out. This, too, is worth keeping in mind
when discussing research done with MIDI equipment.


Bruno H. Repp
Research Scientist
Haskins Laboratories
270 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06511-6695
Tel. (203) 865-6163, ext. 236
FAX (203) 865-8963
e-mail: repp@haskins.yale.edu