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An "overtone" is a sinusoidal component of a waveform, of greater frequency than its fundamental frequency. Usually the first overtone is the second harmonic, the second overtone is the third harmonic, etc.

Use of the term ''overtone'' is generally confined to acoustic waves, especially in applications related to music. Despite confused usage, an overtone is either a harmonic or a partial. A harmonic is an integer multiple of the fundamental frequency. A "partial" or inharmonic overtone is a non-integer multiple of a fundamental frequency.

An example of harmonic overtones:


| ''f''

| 440 Hz

| fundamental tone

| first harmonic


| 2''f''

| 880 Hz

| first overtone

| second harmonic


| 3''f''

| 1320 Hz

| second overtone

| third harmonic


Not all overtones are necessarily harmonics, or exact multiples of the fundamental frequency. Some musical instruments produce overtones that are sharper or flatter than harmonics. The sharpness or flatness of their overtones is one of the elements that contributes to their sound; this also has the effect of making their waveforms not perfectly periodic.

Since the harmonic series is an a...

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