Distinguishing notes?

Why can we distinguish between musical instruments playing the same note?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    As you know, a musical note can be defined by its frequency, or number of cycles per second.

    When a musical instrument plays a note, there are many frequencies present in the sound; there is the fundamental frequency, which is what we would call the note or pitch, and then there are second, third, fourth, etc. harmonics, which are whole number multiples of the fundamental. So, if a pianist plays an A, the fundamental frequency of which is 220Hz, the sound produced also contains some components at 440Hz, 660Hz, 880Hz, etc.

    The spread of harmonics in the sound is partly what gives different instruments their distinct sounds. For instance, a flute has weak, mostly odd-numbered harmonics, but a trumpet has strong high-frequency harmonics with odd and even numbers.

    There are other elements that give different instruments different sounds. One is the way the harmonics change over time as the note is played. Another is how the loudness of the note changes over time. Another is the way resonances in the body of the instrument, called formants, affect the strengths of the various harmonics. Yet another is the presence of non-tonal components in the sound, like the hiss of air across a flute mouthpiece or the harsh twang of a guitar string.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Because musical instrument tones are made up of harmonics. When a flute sounds a gentle note, it can sound quite pure because there fundamental frequency is vibrating and not much more. When a guitar plays a note, for example, there are much more harmonics vibrating.

    Consider if you strum a guitar exactly in the middle of the string gently with the soft part of your finger, the fundamental frequency of the note you played is predominant (makes it sound soft). If you strum near the ends (either end), higher-order frequencies are vibrating with the fundamental (making a more harsher sound).

    Key point here, different instruments play the same frequency notes with a different distribution harmonics.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    we can do that because of different pitch and frequency. effect is more for the more dominant frequency. higher the pitch ,higher he frequency.

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