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timbre (tone color, quality)
A sensory characteristic determined mainly by the degree of complexity of the vibration of a body. Many subjective terms have arisen to describe the differences in vibrating complexity (richness, brightness, full, brilliant, dark, etc.). Research has failed to find acoustical consistencies of timbre which match such subjective descriptions.
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 overtone will be higher than the fundamental frequency and a whole-number multiple of it. The fundamental is not an overtone.
harmonics (harmonic series)
A series of tones (overtones) caused by the complex vibration of a body. Each harmonic has a frequency which is a whole number 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. Often the terms overtone, harmonic, and partial are used interchangeably, although purists would argue that they should not.
A broad resonance region that enhances the upper harmonics lying in a fixed 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, i.e., in harmonic 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 (white sound)
The random occurrence of all pitches at equal amplitude within the audible frequency spectrum. The "hiss" is quite similar to the sound heard between stations on the FM radio band.
The composite of sound in a particular environment. Ambience 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 masking effect is usually expressed in decibels.
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 not at rest, yet standing still. The resonant cavities of most musical instruments are built in such a way that when excited, they set up standing waves, with loops in certain places and nods in others.
Points of minimum displacement in sound waves.
Points of maximum displacement in sound waves. Sometimes these are called antinodes.
Waves in which the molecules of the transmitting medium were distributed at right angles to the sound source. Some examples are waves produced by a tuning fork, waves on the surface of the water when a stone is dropped in, waves produced by vibrating strings and those made by vocal folds.
Waves in which the molecules of the transmitting medium are distributed in the same direction as the sound source. Some examples are sound from air columns and sound waves through solids.
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