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European Tribune - A Journey into Sound Part V - Timbre (with videos)
Timbre is the distinguishing quality of a SINGLE tone.  It is what makes a note on a piano sound different to the same-pitched note on a trombone or a violin.  Technically speaking, timbre is determined by the differing intensities of the harmonics or overtones produced by an instrument.  An A at 440 Hz will produce the same harmonic series on both the piano and the trumpet but certain overtones will be louder on one instrument than the other.

Timbre is also how the overtones change with time. They're not static, and if you freeze an overtone series you get a rather annoying buzzing sound, no matter which instrument it came from.

Also, overtones aren't necessarily harmonic. Woodwind instruments come closest to having a reasonably harmonic overtone series. Pianos don't - overtones are sharp at the bass end and flat at the treble end, which is why it's so damn difficult to tune a piano and make it sound good, and also why the scales are slightly stretched. Most percussion isn't harmonic at all.

And finally - these things

...and some music from them:

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 09:49:29 PM EST

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