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The Mathematics of Music and Harmonics

Maisy Wieman, Michael Lipman, Patrick Lee

Mathematics of the Information Age 9/20/2011

The Octave
Fundamental "distance" between tones Frequency doubles One wave is contained within the other Two notes sound similar

Semitones are the steps within an octave Western system uses 12 A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G Each step is the same distance apart Distance is measured as a ratio of frequencies Next semitone has frequency 21/12 times the previous one


A A# B

C C# D D# E

F# G G# A

Freq (Hz)

440 466 494 523 554 587 622 659 698 740 784 831 880

Intervals are generated by frequency ratios Small low number ratios sound best
Interval Perfect 5th Perfect 4th Major 3rd Minor 3rd Frequency Ratio 3/2 or 1.500 4/3 or 1.333 5/4 or 1.250 6/5 or 1.200 7 5 4 3 Semitones Note from A (440) E D C# C Frequency 659 587 554 523

All Intervals Come from Ratio

n 0 1 2 3 Minor Third 4 Major Third 5 Perfect Fourth 6 7 Perfect Fifth 8 9 10 11 12 2n/12 1.000 1.059 1.122 1.189 (1.200) 1.260 (1.250) 1.335 (1.333) 1.414 1.498 (1.500) 1.587 1.682 1.782 1.888 2.000

Other Options for Semitones

Harmonics: Fundamentals and Overtones

The fundamental (or first harmonic) is the lowest frequency in a given signal. The overtones (second harmonic, third harmonic, etc) have frequencies that are integer multiples of the fundamental (2F, 3F,...) Consider the Fourier series of a periodic function g(t):

Consonance Consonance is the musical description of an

interval with a pleasing, stable sound The overtones of two consonant tones coincide frequently

Our perception of consonance derives from the leaky integrate-and-fire mechanism of our neural networks

A justly tuned chord can be defined as a sequence of ratios a1:a2:a3....ak such that a1,a2,...ak are small integers Small ratios produce more harmonious sounds Ratios of some common chords: major- 4:5:6 minor-10:12:15 dominant seventh: 4:5:6:7 major seventh: 8:10:12:15 minor seventh: 10:12:15:18 half-diminished seventh: 5:6:7:9 http://www.iwasdoingallright. com/tools/ear_training/main/

Other interesting properties of chords

Dimitri Tymockzo proposed in "The Geometry of Chords" that chords can be represented as a point in an orbifold. a non-Euclidean space that for this purpose, has n dimensions, where n=number of notes in a chord more harmonically pleasing chords tend towards the center, dissonant ones lie on the outskirts Chopin's E minor prelude voice-leading, depicted as line segments, maps one chord to the other Inversion of a chord corresponds to reflection in this geometrical space. That is, all inverted chords project to one point

Dissonance is the degree to which an interval sounds unresolved

Dissonance can produce beats when the frequencies of the interval interfere
Beats occur at a frequency equal to the difference of the two frequencies in the interval.
Beats are heard when they do NOT overlap with the frequency of the original frequencies Beats are most prominent for beat frequencies between 10 & 60 Hz


Critical Band The critical band is a band of frequencies which has a central frequency and a bandwidth

Frequencies within the critical band sound dissonant

Dissonance Function
AfAg[e^(-.8(g-f)/s(g) )-e^(-1.38(g-f)/s(g))] s(g)= .021g+19

For musical tones with harmonics, we can compute the total dissonance by summing dissonance of each pair of harmonics

Base Frequency = 264 Hz

Base Frequency = 440 Hz

Base Frequency = 20,000 Hz