Psychoacoustics / Music
Timbre or tone QUALITY is determined by the behaviour in time of the FREQUENCY content or SPECTRUM of a sound, including its TRANSIENTs which are extremely important for the identification of timbre.
The presence and distribution of these frequency components, whether HARMONIC or INHARMONIC, and their onset, growth and DECAY in time (see FOURIER ANALYSIS), together with PHASE relations between them, combine to give every sound its distinctive tonal quality or timbre.
Compare: SONORITY, TONE. See also: PARAMETER, RESIDUE, WAVEFORM.
Often qualities of timbre are described by analogy to colour or texture (e.g. bright, dark, rough, smooth), since timbre is perceived and understood as a 'gestalt' impression reflective of the entire sound, seldom as a function of its analytic components.
See: GRAIN, SOUND OBJECT, VIBRATO.
With musical instruments, timbre is a function of the range in which the sound has its PITCH (see MASS), as well as its LOUDNESS, duration, and manner of articulation and performance. The same applies with speech, where timbre is the basic quality which allows one to distinguish between different voices, just as between different instruments or other sounds.
See also: FORMANT, OVERTONE, PARTIAL. Compare: VOLUME.
Sound Example: Cello note.Sound Example: Gamelan instrument.
Sound Example: School bell.
Sound Example: Steam whistle.