Can someone explain how rolling on/off tone changes sound of a note. How can a note change?

Peegoo

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Pitch and envelope are two separate, distinct tonal qualities of any single note produced by any musical instrument.

Think about it this way: a wah pedal is a variable dynamic envelope filter. You can sustain a single note while rocking the pedal up and down, changing the EQ of the original note. The pitch of the note does not change--but how the note sounds certainly does.
 

Tonetele

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Vibroluxer ( comment in response to the OP ) got it correct. You don't change the frequency nor the note but it's timbre ( said: tombre) that is te tone. If you play say a Martin close to the bridge it will sound very ice picky.
 

TheCheapGuitarist

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I have used the tone knobs and I know what they do, give it some more bass or roll it off. But every note vibrates at a certain frequency. An 'A' is an 'A'. When you turn the tone knob and add more bass, is it still considered an 'A'? or is it like a pitch shift. How can an A be modified when it has its own frequency of say 440Hz. I mean to me, speaking in terms of a piano, all the keys are in a spectrum going from bass, to alto, to treble etc. I know all note to the right become higher or more trebley and to the left become more bassey. I guess there is no exact line you cross where you are not in bass anymore and now it treble. Anyways to me going more bass, means going down the SCALE using DIFFERENT notes to the left with a different wavelength. If an A vibrates at a certain pitch and you roll the tone knob adding or removing bass/treble how is it still an A? Is it still an A? Or is it moving the note down a half step or something? I'm just confused at what is going on here. I don't even know if I'm making any sense. It's hard to explain.
Or... does every note contain characteristics of lows mids and highs? That's the only thing I can think of. But aren't lows mids and highs also different frequencies? So if an A resonates at the assigned 440Hz, that is the frequency isn't it? A bass note would have a different frequency. How can a note contain multiple frequencies.
I know a perfect midi tone sounds terrible. It's perfect but all analogue instruments are imperfect yet sound way more beautiful than a midi.
Or is this a case of improper words being used? Like how people call a whammy bar, aka, vibrato tailpiece a tremelo arm, which it isn't tremolo. That is an actual case of the frequency of the note changing.
I never thought about this before - but now I'm questioning everything I thought I knew about the universe.
 

Guitarteach

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A joyous phenomenon, is to hear the way the tone changes coming from an accordion as the player passes your balcony on their way down after having been thrown from a higher flat, it gets flatter as it passes, then, when completely flattened, sounds best.
Yes. You need to throw the player off with it to fully appreciate the doppler effect. Same for bagpipes and banjos.

Although i would argue it is a pitch, not a tone change, but higher frequencies and harmonics will attenuate with distance.
 

schmee

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I have the same thoughts thinking about EQ vs Tone function. Adjusting an EQ band is not the same result as adjusting a Tone pot.
With a multi band EQ you can add more of say.... a low frequency zone without making it warm, soft and round. With a tone control, even a bass-mid-treble system, you roll more "bass" in and it gets 'warm', not clear and sharp edged. In other words, the same note can be warm or sharp edged and clear..... but the same note. It confuses me.

Someone mentioned why a Sax sounds different than a Guitar on the same note. Is this due to the many "peripheral" sounds involved? The sax may be playing an A note, but what is there around the edges?
Is it like this?: when a drummer hits a cymbal, there is a note there, but there is a sssssssss or sssshhhhh there etc. Those super high frequencies are "in the mix" of sound produced. Lay a cloth over the cymbal and those are gone and it is a very different sound. Is that why each instrument sounds different? Or what is it?

So many questions....

The problem with guitar controls is BASS = WARM. I want BASS = Enhanced clear clean lows.
 
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Bendyha

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Yes. You need to throw the player off with it to fully appreciate the doppler effect. Same for bagpipes and banjos.

Although i would argue it is a pitch, not a tone change, but higher frequencies and harmonics will attenuate with distance.
To fully appreciate the effect, someone else must do the throwing, so that the approach as well as the withdrawal may be observed.
It is true that the perceived pitch will alter, but the harmonic makeup of the tonality can also be drastically varied. A dedicated series of field trails would help to clarify the tone vs pitch significance. Unfortunately, the accompanying screaming of the player can make it hard to hear the subtle differences, and a suitable way to minimize this disturbance remains to be found.
 

Swirling Snow

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I have used the tone knobs and I know what they do, give it some more bass or roll it off. But every note vibrates at a certain frequency. An 'A' is an 'A'. When you turn the tone knob and add more bass, is it still considered an 'A'? or is it like a pitch shift. How can an A be modified when it has its own frequency of say 440Hz. I mean to me, speaking in terms of a piano, all the keys are in a spectrum going from bass, to alto, to treble etc. I know all note to the right become higher or more trebley and to the left become more bassey. I guess there is no exact line you cross where you are not in bass anymore and now it treble. Anyways to me going more bass, means going down the SCALE using DIFFERENT notes to the left with a different wavelength. If an A vibrates at a certain pitch and you roll the tone knob adding or removing bass/treble how is it still an A? Is it still an A? Or is it moving the note down a half step or something? I'm just confused at what is going on here. I don't even know if I'm making any sense. It's hard to explain.
Or... does every note contain characteristics of lows mids and highs? That's the only thing I can think of. But aren't lows mids and highs also different frequencies? So if an A resonates at the assigned 440Hz, that is the frequency isn't it? A bass note would have a different frequency. How can a note contain multiple frequencies.
I know a perfect midi tone sounds terrible. It's perfect but all analogue instruments are imperfect yet sound way more beautiful than a midi.
Or is this a case of improper words being used? Like how people call a whammy bar, aka, vibrato tailpiece a tremelo arm, which it isn't tremolo. That is an actual case of the frequency of the note changing.
bananashushi, welcome to the TDPri!

The answer to your question has been posted several times, and yes it's partly a matter of many misused terms.

Yes, every "note" contains many frequencies. See what schmee just wrote. While he's asking a question, he's got the right idea and it might be be clearer than some of the explanations. ;)

You, on the other hand, need to listen. A tone control "rolls off the treble" it doesn't increase the bass.

Nevertheless, this is an important question. Thank you for raising it.
 

Tim E

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When you play an A 440Hz, you aren't playing just 440Hz. The note also has lots of harmonics, the stuff that makes it sound like a distinctive instrument. It's a full spectrum that are, in this case, mostly harmonically related to that A 440.

The heart of a tone control is a capacitor. A capacitor acts like a resistor that impedes the flow of that A 440. The neat thing about capacitors is that they impede lower frequencies more than higher frequencies. How much they impede specific frequencies depends on the value of the capacitor. A typical tone control connects your signal, the full volume A 440 frequency, to ground, a point where that full volume is nullified to zero. Being a capacitor (as opposed to a resistor), it passes the higher frequencies more easily to ground. It doesn't change the frequency you play, which is dictated by the mass, tension, and length, of the string you pluck. Instead, the tone control is essentially acting like a volume control for the higher end of the spectrum, but not so much the lower end.

This is a pretty simplified, but hopefully gives an idea of what's going on.
 
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Chester P Squier

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The 6th overtone is an out-of-tune minor 7th. Trumpet players will recognize that the overtone pattern is that same as the open notes on their instrument, and that the 6th overtone is that out-of-tune high Bb that they have to play with the first valve down.
(The trumpet cannot its fundamental tone, a low C down in the bass clef.)

I have read that SS amps emphasize even-numbered overtones and that tube amp emphasize the odd ones. Tube amps will have less if any of that offending 6th overtone and will thus sound more pleasant than SS amps.
 

schmee

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bananashushi, welcome to the TDPri!

The answer to your question has been posted several times, and yes it's partly a matter of many misused terms.

Yes, every "note" contains many frequencies. See what schmee just wrote. While he's asking a question, he's got the right idea and it might be be clearer than some of the explanations. ;)

You, on the other hand, need to listen. A tone control "rolls off the treble" it doesn't increase the bass.

Nevertheless, this is an important question. Thank you for raising it.
I assume you mean a "guitar tone control"? On say.... my stereo.... the treble doesn't decrease, the bass increases when I turn the bass up....?
 

Chester P Squier

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When you play an A 440Hz, you aren't playing just 440Hz. The note also has lots of harmonics, the stuff that makes it sound like a distinctive instrument. It's a full spectrum that are, in this case, mostly harmonically related to that A 440.

The heart of a tone control is a capacitor. A capacitor acts like a resistor that impedes the flow of that A 440. The neat thing about capacitors is that they impede lower frequencies more than higher frequencies. How much they impede specific frequencies depends on the value of the capacitor. A typical tone control connects your signal, the full volume A 440 frequency, to ground, a point where that full volume is nullified to zero. Being a capacitor (as opposed to a resistor), it passes the higher frequencies more easily to ground. It doesn't change the frequency you play, which is dictated by the mass, tension, and length, of the string you pluck. Instead, the tone control is essentially acting like a volume control for the higher end of the spectrum, but not so much the lower end.

This is a pretty simplified, but hopefully gives an idea of what's going on.
Tweeters in 2-way and 3-way stereo systems have capacitors to reduce lower frequencies. Woofers have inductance coils to cut the highs. Midrange speakers in 3-way systems have both.
 

Ben Harmless

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When you play an A 440Hz, you aren't playing just 440Hz. The note also has lots of harmonics, the stuff that makes it sound like a distinctive instrument. It's a full spectrum that are, in this case, mostly harmonically related to that A 440.
This is, I believe, the simplest and most direct explanation of the phenomenon. It took me forever to wrap my head around this stuff.

The only thing I'd add is that the way the tone control acts is rolling off part of what helps you identify the note. A 440 fundamental is great, but our ears are often more sensitive to some of its higher harmonics, like 880 and other multiples. When you get rid of some of the higher harmonics and other parts of the sound that are related to them, you start losing the things that made you identify the A and an A. Your tuner is probably looking in a specific range though, so it'll probably still just say "it's an A."

There are psychoacoustic applications to this. Most historical digital music compression algorithms lean heavily on the way that our brains identify sounds - and then they remove the rest. They actually remove significant portions of the entire spectrum and then let the cues that remain trigger our brains to fill in the rest. It's mostly black magic.

Now, if your tone knob really is shifting the pitch significantly, then something else might be going on. Like, maybe you're accidentally turning a tuner instead. We've all been there.
 

TheCheapGuitarist

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SO if I understand this correctly, high-end treble on a note is simply harmonics of the original note, and rolling the tone knob back lowers the volume of those harmonics?
 




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