Fundamental vs. Overtone

By Jaxson

  • Overtone

    An overtone is any frequency greater than the fundamental frequency of a sound. Using the model of Fourier analysis, the fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics, or more precisely, harmonic partials, are partials whose frequencies are numerical integer multiples of the fundamental (including the fundamental which is 1 times itself). These overlapping terms are variously used when discussing the acoustic behavior of musical instruments. (See etymology below.) The model of Fourier analysis provides for the inclusion of inharmonic partials, which are partials whose frequencies are not whole-number ratios of the fundamental (such as 1.1 or 2.14179).

    When a resonant system such as a blown pipe or plucked string is excited, a number of overtones may be produced along with the fundamental tone. In simple cases, such as for most musical instruments, the frequencies of these tones are the same as (or close to) the harmonics. Examples of exceptions include the circular drum, – a timpani whose first overtone is about 1.6 times its fundamental resonance frequency, gongs and cymbals, and brass instruments. The human vocal tract is able to produce highly variable amplitudes of the overtones, called formants, which define different vowels.

  • Fundamental (noun)

    A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; an essential part

    “one of the fundamentals of linear algebra”

  • Fundamental (noun)

    The lowest frequency of a periodic waveform.

  • Fundamental (noun)

    The lowest partial of a complex tone.

  • Fundamental (adjective)

    Pertaining to the foundation or basis; serving for the foundation.

  • Fundamental (adjective)

    Essential, as an element, principle, or law; important; original; elementary.

    “a fundamental truth;”

    “a fundamental axiom”

    “A need for belonging seems fundamental to humans.”

  • Overtone (noun)

    A tone whose frequency is an integer multiple of another; a member of the harmonic series

  • Overtone (noun)

    An implicit message (in a film, book, verbal discussion or similar) perceived as overwhelming the explicit message. See undertone.


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