I'm not sure if I should post this to Linguistics or Music Theory, but here goes:

My ear is not good enough to tell via observation whether people speak in musical scales, which would seem likely for those with a good ear (talented musicians, and those few who naturally have perfect pitch).

For example, do people normally speak with a certain pitch, say a middle C, and then when they lower or raise the pitch of their voice for modulation, speak in other notes within the C major scale (or C minor, or what have you)?

If they do, do other people find these speakers' voices more pleasant than someone who, for example, normally speaks dissonantly, in a note between C and C#/Db and then uses non-harmonious pitches when varying the pitch of their voice for effect?

On a related note (no pun intended), are the fake/robot voices (Siri and such) calibrated to speak "on pitch" and in harmony with themselves?

Finally, on a more musician-centered, Sherlock Holmesy type note, would it be possible to guess a person's favorite type of music based on which scales they use in speaking (major scales = rock or pop, minor scales = blues, 7th or 9th = funk, exotic scales = jazz or classical, etc.)?

  • I do not understand how having a good musical ear leads to "speaking in musical scales". That said, people voices have pitch. Singing and speaking are simply not the same.
    – Lambie
    Dec 20, 2022 at 16:45

1 Answer 1


This convenient chart gives frequency values for standard contemporary Western notes from octave 0 to 8, well beyond the possible range of the human voice. For example, C in octave 3 is 131 Hz (rounding), and C# is 139 Hz. In speech, pitch varies quite considerably, so it doesn't make sense to talk of people speaking "on a (particular) musical note". In addition, the 12 Western notes tuned with reference to A 440 has a limited scope of applicability – modern Western music. One might devise an algorithm to convert continuous frequency values in speech to musical notes, allowing a certain degree of imprecision in the mapping, and before we devised methods of accurately computing fundamental frequency, people did attempt to notate speech pitch variations using musical notes, but if you are asking whether people normally speak in a true monotone voice, no, they do not. Hitting exact notes in speech would be distinctly bizarre-sounding, which is why most people don't do it (perhaps there are some individuals who do so for effect).

Synthesized voices on the other hand used to do so quite regularly (in the olden days), because realistic pitch modulations are less important than control over formant transitions for the purposes of comprehension, and it is only in the past couple of decades (at most) that natural-sounding pitch profiles are to be expected.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.