My Hypothesis on What Gives a
Sound Its Tone Quality.
This was written before I analyzed the experiment's results so as to make
this a true hypothesis rather than a simple statement of fact that I will show
to be true.
When thinking about a sound's color or timbre, what comes to mind is normally
a general characteristic tone produced by an instrument when played by a competant
player. However, as we all know, characteristic tone is not always an easy thing
to produce. The practice of playing a wind instrument without puffing the cheeks
is a learned action, not a natural one. In the same way, so is playing with one's
throat open, jaw dropped, back straight, both feet placed on the floor directly
in front of the performer, or doing anything else necessary to producing an instrument's
"natural" characteristic tone.
I then thought about all of the things normally considered necessary to producing
a characteristic tone, and realized that they are all about one thing: Removing
any obstruction to the flowing of air. The only obstruction that one wants is
the object which is supposed to vibrate: a reed on a woodwind or lips on a brass
instrument for instance. With this being the case, it seemed that the most probable
source of a bad sound would be extra vibrations in the air column produced by the
way that the player of the instrument was exhaling.
The concise hypothesis is thus stated. A good sound is one in which all of the
dominant harmonics are in tune with one another, in which there are not extraneous
vibrations which are canceling out any other harmonics, and in which there is no
masking of harmonics produced by the same player or horn.
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