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Music Term: Partial

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 1-9


Definition and background:

When we hear the sound from a vibrating object (such as a musical instrument) we hear a complex sound that contains many different frequencies or pitches called partials. This collection of frequencies, pitches or partials is called the harmonic series or overtone series. This series is based on a fundamental frequency or pitch (first partial) with the series of harmonics or overtones comprising the remaining frequencies or partials. The fundamental is usually the strongest frequency to the ear and defines the pitch of that sound. The intensity (or volume) of the overtones or remaining partials provide the " tone color " or " timbre " of the sound which explains why a middle C on a trumpet sounds different from a middle C on a trombone or tuba. Many factors enter into the strengths and weaknesses (intensity or volume) of the partials. either the fundamental or an overtone in the harmonic series

An ill-defined word sometimes used for the modes of vibration (q.v.) of an air column above the lowest, sometimes for the spectral components (q.v.) of a sustained sound higher than the fundamental, and sometimes for the series of notes that can be sounded on a brass instrument with a given setting of any slide or valves (except the pedal note)

1) In acoustical instruments, a term with the same meaning as overtone. 2) In synthesizers literally "part of a sound patch;" circuitry in the synthesizer that generates and/or modifies elements of the sound to give timbre to the particular tone. 3) The sound element generated by #2.

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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology

Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary

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