AskDefine | Define unison

Dictionary Definition



1 corresponding exactly; "marching in unison"
2 occurring together or simultaneously; "the two spoke in unison"
3 (music) two or more sounds or tones at the same pitch or in octaves; "singing in unison"

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Together, in harmony, at the same time, as one, synchronized.
    Everyone moved in unison, but the sudden change in weight distribution capsized the boat.

Extensive Definition

In music, a unison is an interval, the ratio of 1:1 or 0 half steps and zero cents. Two tones in unison are considered to be the same pitch, but are still perceivable as coming from separate sources. The unison is considered the most consonant interval while the near unison is considered the most dissonant. The unison is also the easiest interval to tune.
The unison is abbreviated as P1.
A pair of tones in unison can have different "colors" (timbres), i.e. come from different musical instruments or human voices. Voices with different colors have, as sound waves, different waveforms. These waveforms have the same fundamental frequency but differ only in the amplitudes of their higher harmonics.
When several people sing together, as in a chorus, the simplest way for them to sing is to sing in "one voice", in unison. If there is an instrument accompanying them, then the instrument must play the same notes being sung by the singers (in order for there to be unison). Otherwise the instrument is considered a separate "voice" and there is no unison. If there is no instrument, then the singing is said to be a cappella. Music in which all the notes sung are in unison is called monophonic.
From this sense can be derived another, figurative, sense: if several people do something "in unison" it means they do it simultaneously, in tandem, in lockstep. Related terms are "univocal" and "unanimous".
Monophony could also conceivably include more than one voice which do not sing in unison but whose pitches move in parallel, always maintaining the same interval of an octave. A pair of notes sung one or a multiple of an octave apart are almost in unison, due to octave equivalency.
When there are two or more voices singing different notes, this is called "part singing". If they are singing notes at different pitches but with the same rhythm this is called homophony. An example is a barbershop quartet or a choir singing a hymn. If each voice is singing an independent line (either the same melody at a different time, or different melodies) this is called polyphony.
On synthesizers, the term unison is used to describe two or more oscillators that are slightly detuned in correspondence to each other, which makes the sound fatter. This technique is so popular that some modern virtual analog synthesisers have a special oscillator type called "super saw" or "hyper saw" that generates several detuned sawtooth waves simultaneously. This method is often used in techno and trance.

External links

unison in Danish: Unisono
unison in German: Unisono
unison in Estonian: Unisoon
unison in French: Unisson
unison in Italian: Unisono
unison in Hebrew: אוניסון
unison in Lithuanian: Unisonas
unison in Dutch: Unisono
unison in Japanese: 斉唱
unison in Polish: Unisono
unison in Portuguese: Uníssono
unison in Russian: Унисон
unison in Simple English: Unison
unison in Swedish: Unison

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acclamation, accompaniment, accord, accordance, affinity, agape, agreement, agreement of all, amity, assent, attune, attunement, bonds of harmony, brotherly love, cantata, caritas, cement of friendship, charity, chime, chiming, choral singing, chorus, coetaneity, coetaneousness, coevalneity, coevalness, coexistence, coherence, coincidence, common assent, common consent, communion, community, community of interests, compatibility, concentus, concert, concomitance, concord, concordance, concurrence, conformance, conformation, conformity, congeniality, congruence, congruency, congruity, consensus, consensus gentium, consensus of opinion, consensus omnium, consent, consentaneity, consistency, consonance, consonancy, consonant, consort, contemporaneity, contemporaneousness, cooperation, correspondence, diapason, empathy, equivalence, esprit, esprit de corps, euphony, feeling of identity, fellow feeling, fellowship, frictionlessness, general acclamation, general agreement, general consent, general voice, glee, good vibes, good vibrations, happy family, harmonics, harmonious, harmony, heavy harmony, homophony, identity, in harmony, intersection, isochronism, kinship, like-mindedness, love, madrigal, madrigaletto, meeting of minds, monochord, monody, mutual understanding, mutuality, one accord, one voice, oneness, oratorio, overlap, parallelism, peace, rapport, rapprochement, reciprocity, same mind, self-consistency, sharing, simultaneity, single voice, solidarity, symmetry, sympathy, symphony, sync, synchronism, synchronization, tally, team spirit, three-part harmony, timing, together, total agreement, tune, unanimity, unanimousness, understanding, uniformity, union, unisonance, unity, universal agreement
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