Why do same notes from different musical instruments sound different?



Why do same notes from different musical instruments sound different?

In: Engineering


If you looked at the wave on an oscilloscope the shape of the wave would be different, the amplitude and frequency are the same.

The difference in sound quality you hear from different sources is called [*timbre*](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbre) (pronounced “tam-ber”).

Although the have the same note, they have sound different because of a thing called “timbre” which is the thing that makes each sound unique. Think of the human voice as an instrument. 2 people can sing the same note, but they will sound different because if the different timbre of their voices. Hope that makes sense

Its like making lemonade. Everyone has a different lemonade recipe that makes different tasting lemon-drinks, but most of us can still recognize that its lemonade. Every musical instrument has a different mixture of sounds that it makes when we play it, but in the end most of us hear the same note.

Here’s a little music theory: When we play a note on an instrument, we are trying to create a sound with a specific pitch. This target is called the fundamental tone (or first harmonic). But when we pluck a string or blow air through a chamber, we actually create a mixture of tones (called overtones or higher harmonics) that accompany the fundamental tone. Each instrument has a different mixture that it makes, causing the overall note we hear to sound different. We call this quality the sound’s timbre.

[Here’s a video graphing the tones of different instruments playing the same C3 note.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRAXK4QKJ1Q) See how even though the note played is the same, the overtones (number, size, shape of the peaks on the right) are different.

[Andrew Huang does some neat demos in his video about harmonics.](https://youtu.be/Wx_kugSemfY)

* [At 3:27](https://youtu.be/Wx_kugSemfY?t=208), he compares the tones from a clarinet against a guitar.
* [At 5:35](https://youtu.be/Wx_kugSemfY?t=336), he plays with overtones to create different synth sounds.