Quarter Tone

Pronunciation: KWOR-ter tone


What is a Quarter Tone?

A quarter tone is a musical interval that means half of a semitone. In a regular octave, quarter notes consist of 24 different pitches. These pitches are defined as being half-way between the usual notes of a chromatic scale.

Key Takeaways

  1. A quarter tone is the halfway musical interval of a semitone.
  2. A quarter tone has its origins in Persian traditional folk music but is also used by Western composers in a typical chromatic scale.
  3. In a typical octave, there are 24 different quarter tones.

Understanding Quarter Tone

The quarter-tone has its origins in the Middle East, where it is present in traditional Persian music. The first recorded use of the quarter-tone in Western music was in 1849, by the French composer named Fromental Halevy. Halevy drew inspiration from Moravian folk tunes and rhythms.

The easiest way to describe a quarter note would be a pitch that falls halfway between two half-steps or two semitones.

Related Terms

Chromatic A chromatic scale is a 12-pitch scale, each being a semi note or half-step, which are above or below the last note. more

Pentatonic Scale Pentatonic is a musical scale that consists of 5 notes per octave, as opposed to the 7 notes commonly found on a… more

Semitone A semitone is also known as a half note or half step in Western music. more

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