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Notice that the actual frequencies of the notes do not matter. What matters is how they compare to each other - basically, how many waves of one note go by for each wave of the other note. Although the actual frequencies of the notes will change for every harmonic series, the comparative distance between the notes, their interval , will be the same.
For more examples, look at the harmonic series in [link] . The number beneath a note tells you the relationship of that note's frequency to the frequency of the first note in the series - the fundamental . For example, the frequency of the note numbered 3 in [link] is three times the frequency of the fundamental, and the frequency of the note numbered fifteen is fifteen times the frequency of the fundamental. In the example, the fundamental is a C. That note's frequency times 2 gives you another C; times 2 again (4) gives another C; times 2 again gives another C (8), and so on. Now look at the G's in this series. The first one is number 3 in the series. 3 times 2 is 6, and number 6 in the series is also a G. So is number 12 (6 times 2). Check for yourself the other notes in the series that are an octave apart. You will find that the ratio for one octave is always 2:1, just as the ratio for a unison is always 1:1. Notes with this small-number ratio of 2:1 are so closely related that we give them the same name, and most tuning systems are based on this octave relationship.
The next closest relationship is the one based on the 3:2 ratio, the interval of the perfect fifth (for example, the C and G in the example harmonic series). The next lowest ratio, 4:3, gives the interval of a perfect fourth . Again, these pitches are so closely related and sound so good together that their intervals have been named "perfect". The perfect fifth figures prominently in many tuning systems. In Western music, all major and minor chords contain, or at least strongly imply, a perfect fifth. (See Triads and Naming Triads for more about the intervals in major and minor chords.)
The Pythagorean system is so named because it was actually discussed by Pythagoras, the famous Greek mathematician and philosopher, who in the sixth century B.C. already recognized the simple arithmetical relationship involved in intervals of octaves, fifths, and fourths. He and his followers believed that numbers were the ruling principle of the universe, and that musical harmonies were a basic expression of the mathematical laws of the universe. Their model of the universe involved the "celestial spheres" creating a kind of harmony as they moved in circles dictated by the same arithmetical relationships as musical harmonies.
In the Pythagorean system, all tuning is based on the interval of the pure fifth. Pure intervals are the ones found in the harmonic series, with very simple frequency ratios. So a pure fifth will have a frequency ratio of exactly 3:2. Using a series of perfect fifths (and assuming perfect octaves, too, so that you are filling in every octave as you go), you can eventually fill in an entire chromatic scale .
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