When we hear the sound from a vibrating object (such as a musical instrument) we hear a complex sound that contains many different frequencies or pitches called partials. This collection of frequencies, pitches or partials is called the harmonic series or overtone series. This series is based on a fundamental frequency or pitch (first partial) with the series of harmonics or overtones comprising the remaining frequencies or partials. The fundamental is usually the strongest frequency to the ear and defines the pitch of that sound. The intensity (or volume) of the overtones or remaining partials provide the "tone color" or "timbre" of the sound which explains why a middle C on a trumpet sounds different from a middle C on a trombone or tuba. Many factors enter into the strengths and weaknesses (intensity or volume) of the partials.
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