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Listen to recordings of different instruments playing alone or playing very prominently above a group. Some suggestions: an unaccompanied violin or cello sonata, a flute, oboe, trumpet, or horn concerto, Asaian or native American flute music, classical guitar, bagpipes, steel pan drums, panpipes, or organ. For each instrument, what "color" words would you use to describe the timbre of each instrument? Use as many words as you can that seem appropriate, and try to think of some that aren't listed above. Do any of the instruments actually make you think of specific shades of color, like fire-engine red or sky blue?

Although trained musicians will generally agree that a particular sound is reedy, thin, or full, there are no hard-and-fast, right-or-wrong answers to this exercise.

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Where do the harmonics, and the timbre, come from? When a string vibrates, the main pitch you hear is from the vibration of the whole string back and forth. That is the fundamental , or first harmonic. But the string also vibrates in halves, in thirds, fourths, and so on. (Please see Standing Waves and Musical Instruments for more on the physics of how harmonics are produced.) Each of these fractions also produces a harmonic. The string vibrating in halves produces the second harmonic; vibrating in thirds produces the third harmonic, and so on.

This method of naming and numbering harmonics is the most straightforward and least confusing, but there are other ways of naming and numbering harmonics, and this can cause confusion. Some musicians do not consider the fundamental to be a harmonic; it is just the fundamental. In that case, the string halves will give the first harmonic, the string thirds will give the second harmonic and so on. When the fundamental is included in calculations, it is called the first partial , and the rest of the harmonics are the second, third, fourth partials and so on. Also, some musicians use the term overtones as a synonym for harmonics. For others, however, an overtone is any frequency (not necessarily a harmonic) that can be heard resonating with the fundamental. The sound of a gong or cymbals will include overtones that aren't harmonics; that's why the gong's sound doesn't seem to have as definite a pitch as the vibrating string does. If you are uncertain what someone means when they refer to "the second harmonic" or "overtones", ask for clarification.

Vibrating string

The fundamental pitch is produced by the whole string vibrating back and forth. But the string is also vibrating in halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, and so on, producing harmonics . All of these vibrations happen at the same time, producing a rich, complex, interesting sound.

A column of air vibrating inside a tube is different from a vibrating string, but the column of air can also vibrate in halves, thirds, fourths, and so on, of the fundamental, so the harmonic series will be the same. So why do different instruments have different timbres? The difference is the relative loudness of all the different harmonics compared to each other. When a clarinet plays a note, perhaps the odd-numbered harmonics are strongest; when a French horn plays the same note, perhaps the fifth and tenth harmonics are the strongest. This is what you hear that allows you to recognize that it is a clarinet or horn that is playing. The relative strength of the harmonics changes from note to note on the same instrument, too; this is the difference you hear between the sound of a clarinet playing low notes and the same clarinet playing high notes.

You will find some more extensive information on instruments and harmonics in Standing Waves and Musical Instruments and Standing Waves and Wind Instruments .

Questions & Answers

can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
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ninjadapaul
20/(×-6^2)
Salomon
okay, so you have 6 raised to the power of 2. what is that part of your answer
ninjadapaul
I don't understand what the A with approx sign and the boxed x mean
ninjadapaul
it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
Salomon
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
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I got X =-6
Salomon
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
ninjadapaul
oops. ignore that.
ninjadapaul
so you not have an equal sign anywhere in the original equation?
ninjadapaul
Commplementary angles
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The answer is neither. The function, 2 = 0 cannot exist. Hence, the function is undefined.
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Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
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No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
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J, combine like terms 7x-4y
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At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
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Source:  OpenStax, Understanding basic music theory. OpenStax CNX. Jan 10, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10363/1.3
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