Tritone

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The tritone (About this sound Play , tri- "three" and tone) is a musical interval that spans three whole tones. The tritone is the same as an augmented fourth, which in 12-tone equal temperament is enharmonic to a diminished fifth. It is often used as the main interval of dissonance in Western harmony, and is important in the study of musical harmony. "Any tendency for a tonality to emerge may be avoided by introducing a note three whole tones distant from the key note of that tonality."[10]

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Definition and nomenclature

Only the augmented fourth consists of three whole tones in meantone temperament, hence the derivation of the term "tritone". Calling the diminished fifth a "tritone" is parlance. Writers often use the term tritone to mean specifically half of an octave from a given tone, without regard to what system of tuning it may belong to. Two tritones add up to six whole tones, which in meantone temperament is a diesis less than an octave, but in equal temperament, where the diesis is tempered out, it is equal to a perfect octave. A common symbol for tritone is TT. It is also sometimes called a tritonus, the name used in German. An equal-tempered tritone may be heard here.

The equal-tempered tritone (a ratio of 2:1 or 600 cents) is unique in being its own octave inversion. Note that in other meantone tunings, the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth are distinct intervals because neither is exactly half an octave. In any meantone tuning near to 2⁄9 comma meantone the augmented fourth will be near to the ratio 7⁄5 and the diminished fifth to 10⁄7, which is what these intervals are taken to be in septimal meantone temperament. In 31 equal temperament, for example, the diminished fifth, or tritone proper, is 580.6 cents, whereas a 7⁄5 is 582.5 cents.

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