Please help explain how sound works
Could someone please explain to me how fundamentals/partials/harmonics work, and what they mean?
A specific scenario I would like to understand... If I compare playing on the fingerboard using lots of bow, with playing at the bridge with slow bow, both at the SAME decibel level: which will give me what combination/level of fundamental and harmonics?
This is a question you can answer for your self. Put a "spectrum analyzer" app on your smart phone and do the experiments.
A vibrating string (or column of air, in the case of a wind player), has the tendency to break itself into multiple parts, with each part vibrating like an entirely separate string. For example, the string will split in two and one can hear the octave, in 6 parts and one will hear an octave and a 5th, and so on. This series of tones produced is call the "harmonic series." Theoretically, it's infinite as the string divides and subdivides itself into smaller and smaller parts, but in reality the stiffness of the string interferes and the string can no longer divide itself. Thus, an upper limit is reached.
Thanks for that information Scott!
The reason the fundamental pitch of low tones is dwarfed by higher partials is because the instrument corpus and/or air-cavity cannot support vibrations of the low tones.
If you listen to a clarinet, the sound you are hearing is probably as close to a perfect sine wave (a single frequency) of any of the common orchestral instruments.
To me, a clarinet's sound is closer to a square wave than a sine wave. It has a good dollop of third harmonic in there, and if you listen closely you can hear a tone an octave and a fifth above the fundamental. Still, you're right that it doesn't have a lot of those higher harmonics that give a violin its characteristic sound.
To get that dense tone you need to load the weight of the hand onto the fingers, and onto the bow. Weight will be transferred through the middle fingers, rather than first finger, and distributed more evenly across all four fingers. And of course you adjust the sound point appropriately.
This is actually a rather complex topic.
Charlie yes the clarinet is the classic square wave but at least that's conceptually simple. The square wave actually should be an infinite series of overtones if I remember correctly.
A square wave only contains the odd-numbered harmonics, giving that warm, slightly hollow tone.