What Distinguishes Music and Noise?

Music is distinguished from noise by the intentional creation of sound through the vibrations of objects in musical instruments or human vocalizations in speech or song, whereas noise is characterized by unintentional sounds that emanate from sources like machinery, animals, and humans.

Noise lacks this organized structure and contains sounds that are not in accordance with one another. In general, all sounds can be placed into one of two categories: either a musical note or a noise.

Examples of musical notes include a song sung by a person or played on an instrument.

Examples of noises include the sound made when machinery malfunctions, someone snoring, or the background noise of a crowded room.

Key Takeaways

  • Music is the intentional arrangement of sounds created by instruments or vocals, characterized by rhythm, melody, and harmony. Noise is unintentional, often discordant sounds from various sources like machinery or environmental noise.
  • Music serves artistic, emotional, and ceremonial purposes, appreciated for its structured harmony. Noise is typically considered disruptive, lacking aesthetic value.
  • While noise has traditionally been viewed as undesirable, it has been increasingly incorporated into music for texture and innovation, blurring the lines between music and noise in modern compositions.
  • Music is often crafted for enjoyment and expression, using instruments designed for melodious sound. Noise, however, usually arises from non-musical activities and is rarely sought after for pleasure.

Music is an Art Form

Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence, occurring in time. In music, there is a specific pattern to which sounds are used that helps to establish a rhythm within a piece.

In noise, there is no determined pattern in which sounds occur, and in many cases, these sounds may not even be related to one another.

Generally, music is composed of a melody and harmony that goes along with the rhythm of the song. The sounds that comprise music often follow along with this pattern, including specific notes that may be used together or in conjunction to produce a sound such as an “A” played on a piano.

Music vs Noise in the Real World

Music is used for a variety of reasons, including the enjoyment it brings people, the effect it has on moods, and its use in religious ceremonies. One can also study or enjoy music for its own sake without considering the reason he or she enjoys it.

Noise is often viewed as something that disturbs or interrupts the peace and quiet of a setting. There is not often an intent to enjoy or study noise for its own sake, but instead, its purpose is to be annoying or disruptive.

Music is produced through the use of instruments such as a piano, guitar, drums, etc. In contrast, noise can be made from sources such as a broken electrical wire or a faulty piece of machinery

Noise can be Used Creatively in Music

Noise, which was once considered to be an irritating type of sound, has been used in music production as background effects or percussion for many years. Thanks to this change, there have been many albums created that are made up of great textures using noise.

For example, many synthesizers include layers of noise to make their sounds appear more ‘organic’ to the human ear and less “digital” sounding.


Music is essentially organized sound, while noise is the opposite. Music usually follows certain patterns of rhythm, melody, and harmony. It also tends to progress towards a climax or emphasize certain parts of songs more than others. Noise has no rules; it doesn’t follow any sort of pattern or organize its sounds in any way.