Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Musical Instrument Harmonics
Name: Joseph
Status: student
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A

Why does a piano string , or any other instrument , when produced a sound if a certain frequency, also produces sounds of different frequency? I think the best way to look at this is to see how a F note of a instrument look like in a graphic equalizer. There are frequencies scattered all over the equalizer, and why is this so? Shouldn't a note vibrating at a certain frequency have only one frequency?

Hi Joseph,

You might find the scattered frequencies are not really scattered at all if you realize the "other" frequencies are multiples of the musical note or fundamental frequency you are playing. These "other" frequencies are integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. These are called harmonics and have frequencies that are 2*f, 3*f, 4*f, 5*f...where f is the fundamental frequency or note you are playing. Furthermore, it can be observed that these additional harmonics reinforce or cancel each other, and the end result is a standing wave of the fundamental frequency or musical note you are playing.

-Alex Viray

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory