Harmonics

Most of the energy of natural sound is in the harmonics, which carry the information or consciousness.

Harmonics give a musical instrument its voice or tone . In music, harmonics are referred to as partials, and enable us to tell the difference between various instruments. If a violin and a piano, both playing the same note, are electronically processed to filter out the harmonics, they eventually sound the same – a dull sine tone.

Harmonics are created by the multiple ways in which the string (or air column, etc) of an instrument can vibrate when the note is played. The structure and material of an instrument determine which harmonics will be emphasised, giving its tonal colour.

Mathematically, harmonics are multiples of the actual note or frequency that the instrument is playing. If the piano strikes a C (256 Hz), then the partials produced are:
Harmonic Freq (Hz) Note – Musical Interval
Fundamental tone 256 C
2nd Partial 512 C – octave up
3rd partial 768 G – fifth
4th partial 1024 C – 2nd octave up
5th partial 1280 E – major 3rd
6th … and so on

Vowels are also produced by emphasising harmonics. The mouth and tongue position create a sophisticated resonating chamber, changing the raw buzz produced in the back of the throat into intelligent speech. The harmonics carry the energy, which is the information or consciousness.

Exercise – tone an elongated journey through the vowels, staying on the one note. Change your mouth from one into the next, and try to notice the effect of a gradually rising pitch hidden in the vowels: OOO-AWE-AAA-AYE-EEE (a bit like saying a stretched out “why”).

By concentrating on the shape of the mouth and tongue it is possible to emphasise certain harmonics so they sound louder than the fundamental, like a bell or whistle. This skill is highly developed in the Tuvan (Mongolian) and Tibetan cultures, but it is becoming popular in the West. See how to make harmonics.

Although this can be performed musically, these sounds directly resonate areas inside the brain of – producing measurable physiological changes and releasing endorphins. This can effect quite a “high”, but safely and without the side effects of drugs. Sounding is a very safe, self-limiting process. Your body knows how far it can safely go.

Next: Toning »

2 thoughts on “Harmonics

  1. Anytime! Although its best as part of a regular practice. Start with a good in-breath right down into the diaphragm, I feel this also gets your conscious awareness into the start point for the first sound. As I wrote above, you’re toning a gradual change through all these vowel sounds – OOO-OOH-AYE-EEE, carefully listening for the harmonics behind. Also be sensitive to the feeling in your body. As I make this sound I am aware of the sensation moving upwards through my body. Its an exercise in sensitive feeling as much as the sound. The more you taughten your cheeks so they become more of a resonating cavity, the better you can produce harmonics.
    And remember always with any toning to be sensitive to your neighbours and housemates – not everybody loves toning!

  2. Hi Neil.
    When do we use the “WHY” chant and how?
    Thank you.

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