We hear these differences in the relative strength of harmonics as differences in timbre. Timbre is the musical term that refers to the perceived sound differences between sounds with the same pitch but possessing different higher harmonics. Timbre provides the richness in sound we perceive when we hear a good violinist playing on a well-made violin. Well-made violins have a greater array of harmonics than do cheap violins. The relative loudness of different higher harmonics contributes to timbre, but there are other factors that contribute as well.
In this illustration, you can play a tone and change the intensity of several harmonics to see how the relative intensity of the sound alters the timbre or color of the tone.
To see the illustration in full screen, which is recommended, press the Full Screen button, which appears at the top of the page.
Below is a list of the ways that you can alter the illustration. The settings include the following:
Play: start the sound. The button will then change to Pause and
pressing it again will stop the sound.
Phase (deg): change starting phase for the second tone.
Frequency (Hz): change the frequency of the second tone.
Show 1 sec of Sound: if checked, plot a whole second of the sound waves on the graphs. If not, 50 msec of time is shown.
Show Intensity: If checked, draw a vertical line from the 0 value to the first peak. The height of this line is the intensity or amplitude of that wave.
Show Frequency: If checked, draw a line connecting the first two peaks of the wave. The longer the line, the lower the frequency.
Pressing this button restores the settings to their default values.