Watch: Andrew Huang breaks down the harmonic series with incredible detail

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Watch: Andrew Huang breaks down the harmonic series with incredible detail

(Source: Alexander Chen)
Words by Sam McNiece

The little-known phenomena that produces unique sound qualities.

Did you know that the harmonic series is what allows instruments playing the same note to have completely different timbre?

Also known as an overtone series, the harmonic series is a sequence of integer multiple pure tones that exist above the base (fundamental) frequency. What makes these tones occur is based on the make-up and design of a musical instrument.

The harmonic series is seen as the base on which musical scales were birthed from. In this video, Andrew Huang breaks down all the complex terms used in describing the harmonic series, using numerous examples that allow you to better comprehend this phenomenon.

“The physical laws of the universe determined what these note relationships would be long before music existed” Huang explains adding “any resonant body vibrating at a consistent frequency would also include harmonics.”

As notes create standing waves, best illustrated by Huang’s use of a bass guitar, we can hear not only the fundamental frequency, but additional harmonics generated from the strings resonating at half, third and quarter the length of the string. This series theoretically goes on towards infinity but we as humans can only perceive the first handful.

Watch the full video below in which Huang goes deep into acoustic theory, providing helpful examples and educating in a digestible fashion.

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