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Fundamental, overtone and tone colour

Fundamental, overtone and tone colour

Item no.: P6011800

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If one plays a note, e.g. the concert pitch A, on different instruments, it will sound different from instrument to instrument. This is called the tone colour or timbre. Since every instrument has a typical tone colour, this particular tone colour can be recreated with electronic tone generators, e.g. synthesizers or keyboards.

In this experiment, the students examine the frequency spectra of their voices and of two instruments. They learn that the various overtone spectra are responsible for the different tone colours (timbres) while the fundamental tones determine the pitch. In addition, they try to simulate the sound of an instrument with a sequence of pure tones.


  • Experiment is part of an experiment set with a total of 22 experiments about generation, propagation and perception of sound, oscillations and waves
  • Particularly appropriate as an experiment for first contact with physics in general
  • With graphic student worksheets
  • With detailed instructor information
  • Optimized for tight schedules, i.e. minimum preparation time required


Examine the tone colour of different tones in this experiment. Analyse the frequency spectrum of your voice. Compare the tone colours of various different instruments. Simulate the sound of an instrument with the PC.

What you can learn about

  • Concert pitch
  • Tone colour
  • Timbre
  • Frequency spectrum
  • Overton spectrum
  • Fundamental tone


Document     Filesize
p6011800e.pdf Experiment guide, English 372.31 KB

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