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Can a solid sympathetically resonate at a harmonic?

  1. Sep 15, 2015 #1
    Hi everyone, first time post here.

    I know (or at least think I know) that strings can sympathetically resonate at harmonic intervals. For example, a string whose fundamental is 400Hz is able to resonate at 800Hz if it's excited by a 800Hz source. Maybe I'm wrong on that as well? heh..

    Anyways, what I'm wondering is if being able to resonate at harmonic frequencies is something that is just reserved for strings?

    Can a solid steel wire do the same, or can an xylophone key for that matter?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2015 #2


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    They certainly can. Glass isn't a good example (it's not really a solid). Bridges resonate. And your Xylophone too.

    Oh, I almost forgot : Hello MW, welcome to PF :smile: !
    Have fun here!
  4. Sep 15, 2015 #3
    Thanks BvU,

    I'm guessing that objects are less sensitive to sympathetically resonating at higher harmonics, compared to their fundamental right?

    I'm trying to design a musical instrument that has solid 'tines' (these can be made of any material, and any shape) for each note that resonate sypathetically to an audio input. I'm just wondering if I need a tine for every note, or if I can just have a smaller # of tines that are able to also resonate at their 1st, 2nd, 3rd harmonic, etc.

    I'm also wondering if there's any way to shape the tines to be more sensitive to resonating at their harmonics.

    Sorry, I know this is more of a musical instrument sort of question and not a physics question. But as far as I can find, there's no existing instrument to draw much knowledge from on this subject.
  5. Sep 15, 2015 #4


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  6. Sep 15, 2015 #5
    Perfect, thank you. So the first harmonic's frequency is 6.27 x the fundamental, and the second harmonic is 17.55 x the fundamental. That's definitely not "Musical" in the way strings' harmonic frequencies double the fundamental. Ruh Roh..
  7. Sep 15, 2015 #6


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    The higher modes of vibration of 'real' objects are more correctly called 'overtones' because the frequencies are not harmonics. Some are wildly out ( bells and cymbals) and some are quite near (woodwind and strings).
    A Harmonic is an integer multiple of a fundamental frequency.
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