All fees from subs and sales are supporting musicians suffering hardship due to COVID-19
SYOS

Harmonics, partials, overtones & fundamentals

Zugzwang

Member
Subscriber
Messages
512
While we're on the Naming of Parts (or partials), let me add my personal annoyance, which comes from Top Tones for Saxophone (and no disrespect intended to the OMG :eek:Rascher, whom I'm assuming wrote it in German first). In English he conflates "Partials" with "Overtones" and calls the fundamental the first overtone.........
just needed to get that off my chest - where's @Targa?
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,574
While we're on the Naming of Parts (or partials), let me add my personal annoyance, which comes from Top Tones for Saxophone (and no disrespect intended to the OMG :eek:Rascher, whom I'm assuming wrote it in German first). In English he conflates "Partials" with "Overtones" and calls the fundamental the first overtone.........
just needed to get that off my chest - where's @Targa?
In my understanding the fundamental is the first harmonic, the octave above is the second harmonic, a fifth above that is the third harmonic and so on. In that case the second harmonic is the first "overtone".

In acoustics the lowest octave of a note is called "mode one" and the note an octave higher "mode two". In "mode two" the frequency of the note doubles, and the wavelength is reduced to one half.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,025
In my understanding the fundamental is the first harmonic, the octave above is the second harmonic, a fifth above that is the third harmonic and so on. In that case the second harmonic is the first "overtone".

In acoustics the lowest octave of a note is called "mode one" and the note an octave higher "mode two". In "mode two" the frequency of the note doubles, and the wavelength is reduced to one half.
Difficult isn't it. Back in the day when I learned about the harmonic series, there is the fundamental of course, then all other notes were named overtones. I take a harmonic to be a pitch derived from the fundamental, not the fundamental itself. But that was just the terminology I learned at the time.
 

randulo

Playing alto 2.25 years
Subscriber
Messages
3,754
So much depends on what you consider authoritative. Wikipedia is convenient and useful, but it is not authoritative. I have had experience where an "editor" directly contradicts a fact registered in official documents. He wanted to argue about it and continued to do so even after published proof was furnished. (It was regarding a sale of property, an official recored is an official record.) We won in the end, because those are the rules. Some editors are over zealous.

Miriam Webster defines harmonic, thusly:

a component frequency of a complex wave (as of electromagnetic energy) that is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency

This is also per my education from my amateur radio (and later, First Class Operator License) days. On a string, you can't hit a harmonic that is the fundamental. Makes no sense at all, but it's semantics and I get that people think what they like.

On the other hand there's this:


I give up. Sill want the definitive answer to C0 or C1. Is it C1?
 

Hipparion

Member
Messages
242
It is part of my education/formation and job to know about harmonic decomposition of waves (whichever you want, pick your poison... let's talk about music, so... acoustic waves then).

Harmonic decomposition of waves comes from Fourier signal analysis, a mathematical tool which asserts that any periodic signal (which implies a frequency of oscillation/repetition), regardless of how complex it is, can be decomposed into a sum of simple periodic signals (sine waves). It also establishes that, in the case of musical notes, there is a lowest frequency, which is called fundamental - or first harmonic, since it is the first sine wave in the sum decomposition - and that all the other harmonics (the other sine waves in the sum) have a frequency which is a multiple of that fundamental frequency. Each sine wave in the sum has a proper 'contribution', i.e. an individual amplitude which depends on (and can be computed from) the whole signal/note.
Whether one harmonic has an amplitude of 0 (the corresponding frequency being actually not represented in the whole signal/note) is only relevant for the application of the theory/method to real cases. Hence, the numeration of harmonics is only dependent on the frequency it represents.

It is my understanding (but I may be wrong here) that the term 'overtone' comes from music, which is a different approach for the same objects : harmonics. The approach is different in the sense that a musician is only interested in what he/she can hear. There is no point in acknowledging the theoretical existence of an harmonic which cannot be heard, thus overtones numeration skips the absent harmonics. I may be wrong about etymology but it seems to me that the very term 'overtone' implies 'a tone over [another one: the fundamental]', and as such the fundamental cannot be an overtone.

@randulo :
1) I didn't read all the page of your link but for what I have seen there is no contradiction with what you said previously in your post,
2) I think somebody nailed it when he said : you count up from the lowest note you can produce, and you count from 1 onward. So, the lowest C you can play would be C1 regardless of the sax you're playing.
Edit: 'somebody' was in this case @Nick Wyver...
Edit(2): lowest C (on the sax, not concert)
 

randulo

Playing alto 2.25 years
Subscriber
Messages
3,754
Ok, so from now on, we seem to have a consensus on B1 (Sorry, @nigeld!). The semantics of the harmonic thing go against what I thought I learned, but if someone says the fundamental is the first harmonic, so be it, I'm over it :)

What is much more interesting to all of, of course, is the effect of harmonics on our sound. The number of different combinations of harmonics gives us Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Albert Ayler with very different sounds. It's one of the fun features of saxophone, being able to make such differences in tone.

 
Last edited:

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,025
It's one of the fun features of saxophone, being able to make such differences in tone.
What, you mean - rich in:
a) harmonics
b) overtones
c) upper partials
d) a lovely shiny finish with cool mother of pearl buttons

another coffee please, and don't spare the brandy.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,025
The semantics of the harmonic thing go against what I thought I learned, but if someone says the fundamental is the first harmonic, so be it, I'm over it :)
Yep, let's run away before those sciencey maths people go on and on about jibber jabber.
 

randulo

Playing alto 2.25 years
Subscriber
Messages
3,754
Standing waves are also observed in physical media such as strings and columns of air. Any waves traveling along the medium will reflect back when they reach the end. This effect is most noticeable in musical instruments where, at various multiples of a vibrating string or air column's natural frequency, a standing wave is created, allowing harmonics to be identified. Nodes occur at fixed ends and anti-nodes at open ends.

I particularly enjoyed:

If fixed at only one end, only odd-numbered harmonics are available. At the open end of a pipe the anti-node will not be exactly at the end as it is altered by its contact with the air and so end correction is used to place it exactly. The density of a string will affect the frequency at which harmonics will be produced; the greater the density the lower the frequency needs to be to produce a standing wave of the same harmonic.

In other words, it's better to play sitting down?
 

randulo

Playing alto 2.25 years
Subscriber
Messages
3,754
Beware that I can do much worse... I could start writing... EQUATIONS ! >:)
Who was shouting 'BRAIN ! BRAIN !' earlier... ? :w00t:;)
Let's not and say we did? The sun is far enough over the yardarm, I'm going to the upper deck for a rum and soda.
 

Pete Effamy

Senior Member
Messages
2,025
One of my maths teachers at school tried to get me more into lessons with that oft repeated "music is maths" stuff. The fact remains that I'm crap at maths and she's crap at music!
 
Saxholder Pro

Members OnlineStatistics

Help!

Sign up to the Mailing List

Latest posts

Top Bottom