[Smt-talk] Question About The First 16 Partials Of The Harmonic Overtone Series

Martin Braun nombraun at telia.com
Mon Apr 28 08:23:21 PDT 2014

Strength in an acoustical spectrum refers to the amplitudes of the peaks in the spectrum. If you add up the peaks sorted by pitch class, you will find in a harmonic spectrum that the pitch class of the fifth re the fundamental is the second strongest after the fundamental.

Nature does jump. I assumed that the special case of the octave had been sufficiently present in this discussion group. Otherwise Google or a link might help:


Martin Braun
Neuroscience of Music
S-66492 Värmskog

From: Nicolas Meeùs 
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2014 3:54 PM
To: Martin Braun ; smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org 
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Question About The First 16 Partials Of The Harmonic Overtone Series

Supposing that I understand what you mean, this is a very odd way to express it, to say the least. 

The only direct interval of a fifth in a harmonic series is that between partials 2 and 3; it also exists between any pair of partials multiple of these two, e.g. 4 and 6, 6 and 9, etc. Is this the "second strongest group"? In what sense, "strongest"? And what is a "group" within a harmonic spectrum? 

What you really mean, I suspect, is that the harmonic spectra of sounds distant by an octave, a fifth, a fourth, a major third, etc., in this order, are the most likey to attain some level of fusion, In other terms, the harmonic spectra of fifth-related sounds are the second most "fusionable" ones.

You seem also to mean that the fusion of spectra related by an octave is fundamentally different of that of sound related by a fifth ("Today there is a biology of the octave. But there is no biology of the fifth.") Natura non facit saltus: either there is a "biology" of none of them, or a biology of all of them. But what do you mean by "biology", here?

Nicolas Meeùs
Professeur émérite
Université Paris-Sorbonne
nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be
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