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Why doesn't a guitar string vibrate at one frequency only? An ideal one carefully plucked at its middle would, but real-world guitar strings are not idealized strings. They are not massless, they have thickness, they're often twisted bundles of metal, inconstant tension, gauge, etc. And, probably most importantly, they're plucked somewhere close to one end ...


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For human ears, the relation of the overtone to the fundamental is perhaps not as important as the pitch area that the overtone sounds in. Our ears have evolved to pick out resonance peaks and valleys (see the concept of vocal formants) that are pertinent to distinguishing vowels. An "ah" sound, for example, has an "ah" quality regardless of the fundamental ...


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On a practical/engineering approach, once we have the spectral analysis (i.e. the characterization of the frequency spectrum along time in terms of transients, and harmonic and inharmonic partials, as explained in Todd Wilcox's answer), we need to compare our instrument to a reference database of previously catalogued instruments. This is done by using a ...


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A simple list of what overtones are present wouldn't tell you much. What you really want is the relative levels/intensity of each overtone. A list of the overtones with relative intensities for an instrument is called the instrument's spectrum. You might try searching for " spectrum" for the ones you are most interested in. Here's an example for a violin: ...



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