Fundamental Frequencies

What is similar -- and what is different -- when you hear different instruments play the same melody?

Recall the standing waves on a rope which we have seen and discussed before. Only particular frequencies create these standing waves -- these are called resonances.

The lowest frequency (and the longest wavelength) is known as the fundamental frequency. Remember,

speed = wavelength x frequency

The pitch of a sound is determined by this fundamental frequency, the lowest frequency that is present.

Changing the pitch usually means changing the length of a string or a pipe or a column of air.

You can explore these ideas of fundamental frequency and harmonic content in the Sound Module by clicking below.

| Sound Module |


Sound Quality

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