How to Read Music – Lesson 22 – Overtone Series

In this lesson we will learn about the overtone series.

Musical tones with pitch are actually comprised of several higher and quieter sounds called overtones.

Overtones are the upper frequencies that resonate when a tone is played. If a piano plays the pitch C3 then the overtones C4, G4, C5, and E5 can be faintly heard.

In this example C3 is the fundamental, or the main frequency heard in this pitch. The fundamental frequency is the lowest frequency of a pitches overtone series.

The overtone series is also known as the harmonic series.

The frequencies of a pitch’s overtone series can be calculated by multiplying the fundamental frequency by the numbers 1 through 16.

Each instrument resonates different overtones, which contributes to the instruments timbre; the unique quality of the instrument’s sound.

Let’s look at an the overtones of the pitch C3, which has a frequency of 130.81 Hz, in the chart below.

  • Fundamental = 130.81 * 1 = 130.81
  • Overtone 1 = 130.81 * 2 = 261.62
  • Overtone 2 = 130.81 * 3 = 392.43
  • Overtone 3 = 130.81 * 4 = 523.24
  • Overtone 4 = 130.81 * 5 = 654.05
  • Overtone 5 = 130.81 * 6 = 784.86
  • Overtone 6 = 130.81 * 7 = 915.67
  • Overtone 7 = 130.81 * 8 = 1046.48
  • Overtone 8 = 130.81 * 9 = 1177.29
  • Overtone 9 = 130.81 * 10 = 1308.1
  • Overtone 10 = 130.81 * 11 = 1438.91
  • Overtone 11 = 130.81 * 12 = 1569.72
  • Overtone 12 = 130.81 * 13 = 1700.53
  • Overtone 13 = 130.81 * 14 = 1831.34
  • Overtone 14 = 130.81 * 15 = 1962.15
  • Overtone 15 = 130.81 * 16 = 2092.96

To learn more about overtones I have a created a free overtone series poster you can download here.

 

Until next time,

Keep up the good practice,

Leon Harrell

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