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Musical sounds

String harmonicsString harmonicsMusical sounds have wave patterns that are evenly spaced and regular, while noises—unpleasant sounds—usually have irregular patterns. Each musical note has a specific pitch that is the same for every instrument. The lowest pitch for each note is called the fundamental frequency (or, simply, fundamental). The note A, for example, is produced by 440 vibrations per second (440 Hz). No musical instrument produces a perfectly pure note. Each is coloured by the presence of other, fainter notes of higher pitch, called overtones. These are different for each musical instrument, and so give that instrument its characteristic sound, or timbre.


Violin playerViolin player

Musical instruments

Musical notes may be produced by bowing or plucking a string (string instruments, such as violin or cello), blowing into a pipe (wind instruments, such as the clarinet and brass instruments such as the trumpet) or striking something (percussion instruments, such as the drums or triangle). 

Concert pitch is now standard throughout the world, with the note A set at 440 Hz. This has not been the case in the past. Until 1939 when the standard was introduced, the pitch of A could vary from anything between 400 to 450 Hz.

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