How to manipulate Overtones

A scientific guide to the sound phenomenon
The Henderson International School Robert DeMangus, 6th Grade Science Report • Schau • March 2, 2006

In order to explain my project, I must start at the fundamental cause of sound, indefinably, vibration. Vibration is defined as mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point (starting point). These oscillations can be periodic such as the motion of a pendulum or random such as the motion of a bouncing ball on a bumpy road. There are two main types of vibration. There are free vibration and forced vibration. Free vibration occurs when something is set off by an initial input and is allowed to vibrate freely. An example of this is hitting a bell and letting it ring or holding a chain and letting it swing. Forced vibration occurs when an alternating force or motion is applied to something. An example of this is a shaking washing machine due to imbalance or the vibration of a building during an earthquake. Often, vibration is undesirable. It wastes energy and creates unwanted sounds such as in motors and engines. These vibrations can cause imbalances in moving parts. Certain designs are important to take into consideration and are sometimes necessary, in the making of vehicles, instruments, and various things because of this constant presence of sound. However, in recent years scientists have been working with sound as a form of renewable energy. Sound has often been forgotten and has been run over by hydro, wind, electric forms of energy. Now scientist are working on perfecting types of power such as thermoacoustics. In many cases vibration is very desirable. For example the motion of a tuning fork, the reed on a woodwind instrument, or the cone on a loudspeaker and is necessary for the correct functioning of various devices. Where would we be without sound. Give me a time during your day when you do not hear sound. Vibrations oscillate at what we call a frequency. But in order to understand them we must first understand the fundamentals of vibration analysis. We will start with a simple Mass-Spring-Damper model. Even a highly intricate structure such as an automobile can be modeled as a summation of a simple Mass-Spring-Damper model. A Mass-Spring-Damper model is a model of a simple harmonic oscillator as shown.

To start the explanation of the Mass-Spring-Damper model we will assume the damping is not a variable and that there is no external force applied to the mass. This is an example of free vibration. The simple harmonic oscillator above is an undamped spring-mass system (only in oscillation). The force applied to the mass by the spring is proportional to the amount the spring is stretched = X. The proportionality constant =K, is the stiffness of the spring and has units of force and distance. The mass obviously = M. “Observed from an inertial reference frame, the net force on a particle of constant mass is proportional to the time rate of change of its linear momentum” -Isaac Newton’s second law of motion as stated by’s_laws_of_motion.

This statement is often simplified as

If we assume that when we start a simple harmonic oscillator by stretching the spring by the distance of A and letting go, the solution to that describes the motion of mass

This equation says that it will oscillate with simple harmonic motion that has an amplitude of A and a frequency of fn. The number fn is one of the most important quantities in vibration analysis and is undamped natural frequency. For the simple spring-mass-damper system fn is defined as

This formula coverts vibration to a sound wave. A sound wave is at a certain frequency. Sound is transmitted through gases, plasma, and liquids, as stated by Sound is defined those vibrations composed of frequencies capable of being detected by an ear. Not just human ear, for a human can only hear frequencies from about 20 hz to 20,000 hz (20 khz). Dogs can hear frequencies much higher than 20,000 hz. Sound is a signal that is perceived as one of the five senses sound is used by many species to detect danger, find food, navigate, and most importantly communicate. Many species like ourselves have developed special organs to produce sounds which have evolved to produce speech and song. Humans have even evolved to create technology and culture such music, telephone, and radio. Now that we know this I can explain what exactly an overtone is? An overtone is a natural resonance of a system. What this means is that if a system, such as stringed or blown instrument, is in use, a number of different frequencies may be produced along with the fundamental frequency. In simple cases, like most musical instruments, the additional frequencies are the same as harmonics. What are harmonics? A harmonic of a wave, in acoustics and telecommunication, is a component frequency of the signal that is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency. This means if the fundamental frequency is the note F, the harmonics have frequencies F, 2F, 3F, 4F ... and so on. If you measure it in hertz and the fundamental frequency is 25 hz the frequencies of the harmonic are going to be 25hz, 50hz, 75hz, 100hz .... and so on. The harmonics have the property that they are all periodic at the fundamental frequency, therefore the sum of harmonics is also periodic at that frequency. Many oscillators can be decomposed into harmonics. Most oscillators, from a guitar string to a bell, or even a hydrogen atom, will vibrate at a series of distinct frequencies known as normal modes. The lowest normal mode frequency is the fundamental frequency. The others are overtones. The untrained ear will not be able to hear

these overtones as separate notes. They will perceive them as the timbre of the instrument. The timbre is what allows us for instance to distinguish a trumpet sound from a saxophone sound even if they are playing the same exact note at the same loudness. Types of different timbre can be described with words such as bright, dark, harsh, warm, and tinny. The timbre is created by the certain overtones it emphasizes. This is determined by the position of sound nodes on an instrument. Sound nodes are the spots on a sound wave or any wave in which there is no oscillation. The anti-node is where there is the most oscillation as shown.

On a stringed instrument the nodes are the end of the string or were the string is stopped by a bridge or a nut. The first overtone would be exactly twice the fundamental and would be created by creating a node at exactly half the length of where the two fundamental nodes are. This will create two anti-nodes instead of one. Creating a node is achieved by touching very lightly the string at the place in which you wish to create a node. Similar rules apply in the length of wind instruments. Wind musicians can achieve harmonic manipulation by a technique call multi-phonics. In this technique a wind musician can play multiple notes at once. Singers can use a psychoacoustic effect to create artificial overtones. These techniques are commonly used in barbershop music where they often sing different tones that are the same notes as the naturally occurring overtones. However our vocal cords use real overtones, too. We manipulate overtones everyday without realizing it. Overtones allow use to differentiate vowels like a, e, i, o, u, even if they are at the same pitch at the same loudness. I plan on manipulating these overtones, not only scientifically, for that’s as easy as singing your alphabet, but to manipulate them musically using my electric bass guitar. I plan on

recording my findings, make a chart of the fingerboard and list harmonics I could achieve and maybe a chart of the ones I couldn't. I plan on recording a song utilizing overtones(if successful), write my conclusions and discuss. (Exert from “Portrait of Tracy” by Jaco Pastorius) My hypothesis is that I believe I will be successful in achieving and displaying overtones, however I do not know if I will be successful in performing a song utilizing overtones. It requires precision and there is no room for errors in where you place the nodes. There is also a chance that I might no be able to hear the harmonics due to the nature of the instrument or the amplifier. The materials I will use to perform my experiment will be using will be my electric bass, my bass amplifier, my bass cable, and my musical ability. In my experiment I began by setting up my bass and my amplifier. I then began lightly pressing on where I wanted to create my sound node on the fret board of my instrument. I began with the first fret then the second fret, and the third, and so on… I wrote down my results and made a scale model of my fret board with results on the frets. I then had my scale model worked to decode the sheet music of a song called “portrait of tracy” by Jaco Pastorius into harmonic sequences. I then recorded myself demonstrating this song with harmonics. I was successful with proving overtones scientifically and experimenting with them musically, and recorded myself demonstrating it. I made an interesting discovery. My data results show something I did not expect to find. It became obvious that when I tried to create a node on the fifth fret (4th harmonic) when I was running off the neck pickup, a harmonic was not heard. The neck pickup worked with every other harmonic. You could only hear the 4th harmonic from the bridge pickup. I looked over all my variables and made an astonishing discovery. If you take the length of the strings and divide by 4 it equals 8.5 inches. It turns out that the neck pickup is exactly 8.5 inches from the bridge. The spot in which the 3rd of 4 sound nodes are created when creating a node at the 5th fret. As you know the node is the spot of no vibration, therefore the neck pickup was in-taking no vibration and would not create a sound. This could be a breakthrough in electric stringed instrument technology. I have honestly never found a source or

person who could relate to these “dead zones” on a stringed instrument. If what I have found stands true, I now wonder if you place a pickup at the anti-node you would get a different; and possibly better or more efficient sound. Over the summer, I tried to prove this theory with acoustic stringed instruments. I discovered when a bowed instrument is bowed at the half way point(1st harmonic) it emits no sound. this because I was trying to create a vibration at the node. When this happens the two antinodes would both turn into nodes at the same time. this would tell that there are three nodes and no antinodes. However this statement defies the laws of free vibration because the initial input in being stopped by no outside force but does not vibrate freely. It has to be that this is caused by imbalance with the opposite of itself. If we could use this imbalance in a normal sound wave traveling through the air we could turn sound as we know it off and on at our choosing. However, I can only cause this imbalance in physical objects acting as a wave. On the contrary, many other things besides strings can act as waves. I recently found an article by Wayne Hu and Martin White called “The Cosmic Symphony” stating that the cosmic microwave background radiation shows the early universe resounded with harmonious oscillations suggesting that there was one base frequency set of by one initial input believed to be the big bang. If you use Einstein's theory of “Timespace” stating that time and space are one put together in a continuum and you used this imbalance to stop the big bang acting like a wave by having another outside force make the node in the 1st harmonic of the fundamental vibrate, you theoretically stop time and space. I also came across a new radical theory called the String Theory. This theory bridges the gag when describing gravity with elementary particles, and basically under the second subatomic level is a string level in which vibrating string cause the existence of everything through additional dimensions. If you manipulated the string through the additional dimensions and stop the string and the energy in put you would stop the entire molecule at the lowest possible level. I plan to prove my imbalance by using a vibration wave motor to send electromagnetic wave through a workable medium, the medium will act as the electromagnetic wave itself and then i will be able to create the 1st overtone and somehow cause friction at the node if the electromagnetic wave still tries to travel but its stopped as long as he node is disturbed I have proved my theory. In conclusion, I believe that overtones are a fact of nature that we can use to our advantage.

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