In an orchestra scenario, under what circumstances, when the piano and violins are tuned to 440Hz (as shown on the tuner) together, will the harmonic series between the two differs and make the sound produced less harmonious?

  • The harmonic series of a piano and a violin playing a given note will always be different - not only in the average levels of each harmonic, but also in the way the levels of each of those harmonics (and even their exact frequency) changes over time. However, I'm don't see why you think that the harmonic series of notes differing necessarily makes the sound less harmonious? Jan 3, 2019 at 9:09
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    Also bear in mind that as violins are played with vibrato, this changes the exact note played, which is going to be in variance to the (theoretical, but unrealistic) single note a piano will produce. Chorus pedals, mainkly for guitars, were invented for just the purpose of subtly varying the pitch of a note played. It makes it sound richer, and not usually perceived as 'out of tune'.
    – Tim
    Jan 3, 2019 at 9:19
  • "Less harmonius" is almost entirely a function of consonant vs. dissonant intervals, not the fundamentals & overtones thereof. Jan 3, 2019 at 14:35
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    @CarlWitthoft It is the overtones that cause us to hear a "clashing" between fundamentals. Have you read Helmholtz's work on this?
    – user50691
    Jan 3, 2019 at 16:28
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    @CarlWitthoft, You are referring to sum and difference tone and you are incorrect in stating that this, applied only to fundamentals, is the cause. A M7 is almost as far apart in pitch as an octave but as dissonant as a m2. This is only due to the clashing of overtones with each other and or the fundamental.
    – user50691
    Jan 3, 2019 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


In acoustic instruments, the fundamental is always stronger than the harmonics so this is an extremely implausible scenario during live performances.

However, subharmonics can occur if the intonation is off, thus resulting in a dissonance that deviates from the intended tone. (



As has already been said in the comments on the question, any difference between the harmonic series of tones on the piano and on violins has nothing to do with the agreed upon pitch of A.

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