/tam"beuhr, tim"-/; Fr. /taonn"brddeu/, n.1. Acoustics, Phonet. the characteristic quality of a sound, independent of pitch and loudness, from which its source or manner of production can be inferred. Timbre depends on the relative strengths of the components of different frequencies, which are determined by resonance.2. Music. the characteristic quality of sound produced by a particular instrument or voice; tone color.[1325-75; ME tymbre < F: sound (orig. of bell), MF: bell, timbrel, drum, OF: drum < MGk tímbanon, var. of Gk týmpanon drum]
* * *Quality of sound that distinguishes one instrument, voice, or other sound source from another.Timbre largely results from a characteristic combination of overtones produced by different instruments. This distinctive combination (which usually varies across the range of pitches) is what principally permits a listener to distinguish a clarinet from a flute, an alto from a tenor, or even a Stradivarius violin from a Guarneri violin, when both are sounding the same pitch. One element of timbre results from the differing methods of producing the sounds (blowing, bowing, striking, etc.), especially audible at the moment a note begins.
* * *▪ soundalso called timberquality of auditory sensations produced by the tone of a sound wave.The timbre of a sound depends on its wave form, which varies with the number of overtones, or harmonics, that are present, their frequencies, and their relative intensities. The illustration—> shows the wave form that results when pure tones of frequencies 100, 300, and 500 hertz (cycles per second) and relative amplitudes of 10, 5, and 2.5 are synthesized into a complex tone. At the right is the resultant of the three sine curves when their ordinates are added point by point along the time scale. In equation form, the amplitude y of the wave form at any time t would be represented by y = 10 sin (2π 100t) + 5 sin (2π 300t) + 2.5 sin (2π 500t). The timbre of this form would be recognizable and different from others having a fundamental tone of 100 hertz but a different harmonic amplitude.In music timbre is the characteristic tone colour of an instrument (musical instrument) or voice (vocalization), arising from reinforcement by individual singers (singing) or instruments of different harmonics, or overtones (q.v.), of a fundamental pitch. Extremely nasal timbre thus stresses different overtones than mellow timbre. The timbre of the tuning fork and of the stopped diapason organ pipe is clear and pure because the sound they produce is almost without overtones. Timbre is determined by an instrument's shape (e.g., the conical or cylindrical pipe of a wind instrument), by the frequency range within which the instrument can produce overtones, and by the envelope of the instrument's sound. The timbre of spoken vowels or of a singing voice is modified by constricting or opening various parts of the vocal tract, such as the lips, tongue, or throat.
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