Magazine article Science News

String Trio: Novel Instrument Strums like Guitar, Rings like Bell

Magazine article Science News

String Trio: Novel Instrument Strums like Guitar, Rings like Bell

Article excerpt

At the heart of many of the world's musical instruments is the same, simple component--a string stretched tight between two points. Plucked, bowed, or struck, each of an instrument's strings creates ear-catching vibrations.

Now, mathematicians in Canada say that they have invented a family of music-making devices based on a network of three or more string segments--for instance, a Y-shaped string anchored at three endpoints. The extra segments supply exotic overtones that a single string doesn't, say the researchers.

The first, and so far only, member of this new family of instruments is the tritare--rhymes with guitar--devised by mathematicians Samuel Gaudet and Claude Gauthier of the University of Moncton in New Brunswick. Resembling a guitar with two extra necks, the tritare hosts six Y-shaped strings. As in an ordinary guitar, each tritare string runs from a tuning peg along a fretted neck. However, the familiarity ends at an unanchored juncture point where the string branches. From there, one string segment runs along each of the two extra, unfretted necks.

Gaudet notes that a conventional, two-anchor musical-instrument string generates a fundamental sound frequency plus harmonics. Those frequencies are two, three, or other-integer multiples of the fundamental frequency.

The tritare generates not only those harmonic overtones but also nonharmonic ones, he says. Listeners typically hear such nonharmonic overtones from percussion instruments--for instance, bells or gongs--which vibrate in more-complicated patterns than simple strings do. …

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