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1. Describe the quality of sound that acoustic instruments produce

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4 Answers

To dive a bit deeper into what give the instrument it's timbre:
 
As we know from experience, each instrument as well as voices have different timbres. 
 
BUT WHY?!
 
Well, sit down for this one....
 
Science time!
 
When sent into vibration, all matter in the universe will in turn vibrate the air around it and reach our ears and be processed as the phenomenon of sound. 
 
BUT not only is their this single vibration coming from the object, but also AN INFINITE SERIES OF TONES ABOVE THE MAIN TONE WE CALL THE OVERTONE SERIES.
 
Science time is over!
 
Okay, once more - when ever we hear a pitch (vibration) from an instrument or voice, or even an untuned piece of wood or metal, we will also hear a bunch of other really quiet pitches above the fundamental tone.
 
AND DEPENDING ON THE SPECIFIC MAKEUP OF THE AMPLITUDE (HOW LOUD) OF EACH OF THESE TONES IS, THAT WILL GIVE THE SOUNDING OBJECT ITS TIMBRE!
 
 
for example: maybe all flutes have the even overtones louder (2nd 4th 6th), while clarinets have all odd overtones  louder (3th 5th 7th), this would process in our brain as the difference in sound between a flute and clarinet.
 
And perhaps, the ever so slight difference in sound between my clarinet and your clarinet is determined by a small difference in my overtone's amplitudes and your's
 
Lastly, each of these overtones gets more are more relatively quiet than the last, 2nd is the loudest, then 3rd, then 4th, ect.
 
I hope I didn't loose you in their talking about vibrations and tones and whatnot, but just remember, music is vibrations.
We tune these vibrations and set them in fancy orders to create music. 
What gives us so many beautiful different timbres is the differences in the loudness of each tone in the overtone series, which sounds over any and all vibrations.
 
If you want to keep going on this topic, visit my blog! 
This lesson goes on to talk about how the overtone series affects the way all music harmony in our universe works!
 
See you there
 
-Matthew
The musical term is "timbre."  I am not too sure what you are referring to with the question.  The quality of sound is similar to a palette of colors.  You can use the quality of sound in any way you decide to.  This is what creates beauty in music.  The quality of sound of acoustic instruments is wide but fun.  You should listen to chamber music for this.  The mix of sounds coming from a flute, a violin, a cello, and a guitar altogether is just one way of mixing different sounds (qualities of sound) together.  If you believe it's the right sound for a piece of music, then nothing stops you from creating something unique.
Let me know if this helps.
 
CESAR
Hi Michelle,
Gretchen is correct...
 
Furthermore different instruments WILL produce different sounds for the same pitch because they are made of different materials.  Materials in instrument A has various sound-wave qualities that differ from instruments B, C and D.  This is why an A note plucked on an acoustic guitar sounds different as compared to the same exact A note blown through say a trumpet.  The guitar is mostly made of wood and the trumpet is made of brass metal.  Wood and metal have different sound qualities.  Furthermore an A note plucked on an acoustic guitar sounds different as compared to the same exact A note that is plucked on an electric guitar because of the soundhole on the acoustic guitar which vibrates air molecules slightly different from that produced by the electric guitar pickups/amplifier combination.
 
The physics of sound wave theory is beyond the scope of this discussion but an instrument's sound quality can be computed mathimatically by it's Fourier series which reveals odd and even harmonics associated with a tone produced by instrument A.  The Fourier series of odd and even harmonics will be different between instruments for the same exact pitch note played , - like an A note.
 
In addition a guitar can be made to sound the same note (say A note) differently depending on the techniques applied before plucking the note.  Guitar attack on plucked notes is high, - so a technique called "volume swell" in which the guitarist plucks the note with volume OFF and then turns UP the volume will dampen the attack of this plucked A note; - thereby creating a different sound quality.
 
-Albert B.  West Nyack NY

Hi Michelle,

Each instrument and voice has its own unique timbre, a psychoacoustic term used to refer to a specific tone quality or "tone color." For example, a guitar sounds different from a piano, which sounds different from a saxophone, even when they are all sounding the same pitch. The "quality of sound" of any given acoustic (or electric) instrument will be dependent on its unique construction; you would need to clarify which instrument in particular you would like to describe.