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  • Timbre

    A sensory characteristic determined mainly by the degree of complexity of the vibration of a body.

    Fundamental Frequency

    The frequency at which the sound source vibrates as a whole. This may also be expressed as the lowest pitch that the sound source is capable of producing.


    One of the frequencies produced by the complex vibration of a body. Any of these will be higher than the fundamental frequency and a whole-number multiple of it.


    A series of overtones caused by the complex vibration of a body. Each one has a frequency which is a whole number of times the frequency of the fundamental. The fundamental frequency may also be referred to as the first harmonic.


    Any component of the harmonic series including the fundamental.


    a broad resonance region that enhances the upper harmonics lying in a frequency range.


    The temporal shape of a tone consisting of an attack (or onset), initial decay, sustain, and release or final decay.


    Complex sounds which are not periodic and contain overtones which are not part of the natural harmonic series, inharmonic overtones.

    Inharmonic overtones

    Those frequencies above a fundamental tone which are not a whole-number multiple of the fundamental and therefore, not in the natural harmonic series of that fundamental.

    white noise

    The random occurrence of all pitches at equal amplitude within the audible frequency spectrum.


    The composite of sound in a particular environment. This is sometimes thought of as all sounds present except the sounds to which one is trying to attend.


    The process by which the threshold of audibility of one set of sounds is raised by the presence of another set of sounds. The amount of this is expressed in decibels.

    Standing waves

    When a string is set in motion by regular and repeated excitation, the energy traveling back and forth along its length produces an appearance that the string is standing still yet not at rest. The resonant cavities of most musical instruments are built in such a way that when excited, they set up these with loops in certain places and nodes in others.


    Points of minimum displacement in sound waves.


    Points of maximum displacement in sound waves.

    Transverse Waves

    Waves in which the molecules of the transmitting medium were disturbed at right angles to the sound source. Ex. waves made by tuning fork, rock in water, vocal folds, vibrating strings.

    Longitudinal waves

    Waves in which the molecules of the transmitting medium are disturbed in the same direction as the sound source. Some examples are sound from air columns and sound waves through solids.

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