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I find it easier to hear beats on a guitar (when two strings do not form a P4/P5) than on a cello when bowing. Is there a reason for this, or is it just me?

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Beats are easier to hear when the strings are vibrating freely and with sustain -- e.g. two guitar strings, or two adjacent piano strings.

With the cello, the bowing action doesn't let the strings vibrate freely, but continuously forces them into a particular type of induced vibration. And if you pluck the strings instead of bowing them, there isn't nearly as much sustain as with a guitar or a piano.

Perhaps you can experiment with either plucking the strings and paying a lot of attention to the sound even if it quickly decays in volume, or by giving them a short bowing and then letting them vibrate freely, and see if you can hear the beats a little better in those brief moments that follow.

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  • As a cellist, I disagree that it's particularly difficult to hear a beat during a double-stop. But then again, I've had 50+ years of playing one instrument or another and thus have a lot of ear-training to hear beat frequencies. Jun 12, 2020 at 14:28
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After experimenting further, I've found that I can hear the beats clearly: what was missing was that because I'm a beginner, my bow technique isn't smooth yet, so the fluctuations in my bowing are messing with the production of the beats. On the occasion when I've been able to get smooth bowing on double stops in, I can hear the beats fairly clearly.

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