Strictly speaking, tone and tonality are different things. Observe the definitions below:

Tonality: is a specific system of sounds (scales). There are the major, natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor tonalities. When we say the word “tonality”, we are referring to one of these systems, which are scales associated with keys.

Tone: is the note where the tonality is made. As there are several different notes, we can have the same tonality in different tones; or have the same tone with different tonalities.

See the examples below (note that the “key” is a junction of tone with tonality):

tones and tonalities

In practice, however, these two definitions are confused. Nobody says: “C Tone in the Minor Tonality”. People generally abbreviate it to “Tone of C minor”, “Key of C minor”, or “Tonality of C minor”.

Therefore, these terms end up having the same meaning in practice. Don’t worry about these subtleties, unless you want to take an admission exam for a music course or something like that.

Go to: Parallel Key

Back to: Module 8