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The harmonic series is the key to understanding not only harmonics, but also timbre and the basic functioning of many musical instruments.

Introduction

Have you ever wondered how a trumpet plays so many different notes with only three valves , or how a bugle plays different notes with no valves at all? Have you ever wondered why an oboe and a flute sound so different, even when they're playing the same note? What is a string player doing when she plays "harmonics"? Why do some notes sound good together while other notes seem to clash with each other? The answers to all of these questions will become clear with an understanding of the harmonic series.

Physics, harmonics and color

Most musical notes are sounds that have a particular pitch . The pitch depends on the main frequency of the sound; the higher the frequency, and shorter the wavelength, of the sound waves, the higher the pitch is. But musical sounds don't have just one frequency. Sounds that have only one frequency are not very interesting or pretty. They have no more musical color than the beeping of a watch alarm. On the other hand, sounds that have too many frequencies, like the sound of glass breaking or of ocean waves crashing on a beach, may be interesting and even pleasant. But they don't have a particular pitch, so they usually aren't considered musical notes.

Frequency and pitch

The higher the frequency, the higher the note sounds.

When someone plays or sings a note, only a very particular set of frequencies is heard. Imagine that each note that comes out of the instrument is a smooth mixture of many different pitches. These different pitches are called harmonics , and they are blended together so well that you do not hear them as separate notes at all. Instead, the harmonics give the note its color.

What is the color of a sound? Say an oboe plays a middle C. Then a flute plays the same note at the same loudness as the oboe. It is still easy to tell the two notes apart, because an oboe sounds different from a flute. This difference in the sounds is the color , or timbre (pronounced "TAM-ber") of the notes. Like a color you see, the color of a sound can be bright and bold or deep and rich. It can be heavy, light, murky, thin, smooth, or transparently clear. Some other words that musicians use to describe the timbre of a sound are: reedy, brassy, piercing, mellow, thin, hollow, focussed, breathy (pronounced BRETH-ee) or full. Listen to recordings of a violin and a viola . Although these instruments are quite similar, the viola has a noticeably "deeper" and the violin a noticeably "brighter" sound that is not simply a matter of the violin playing higher notes. Now listen to the same phrase played by an electric guitar , an acoustic guitar with twelve steel strings and an acoustic guitar with six nylon strings . The words musicians use to describe timbre are somewhat subjective, but most musicians would agree with the statement that, compared with each other, the first sound is mellow, the second bright, and the third rich.

Questions & Answers

what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
what school?
Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
sciencedirect big data base
Ernesto
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
Daniel
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Source:  OpenStax, Understanding your french horn. OpenStax CNX. Apr 03, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10219/1.4
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