EMC Logo Early MusiChicago Discussion Forum

Welcome, Guest. Please Login or Register.
Nov 27th, 2014, 6:14pm
Early MusiChicago Home

EMC Logo
Home Home Help Help Search Search Members Members Login Login Register Register
Early MusiChicago Discussion Forum Wolf Tones
             
   Early MusiChicago Discussion Forum
   Early Instruments & Voice
   Recorder
(Moderator: Labattaille)
   Wolf Tones
« No topic | Next topic »
Pages: 1  Reply Reply Notify of replies Notify of replies Send Topic Send Topic Print Print
   Author  Topic: Wolf Tones  (Read 3975 times)
AmateurPlayer
Minstrel
*





   


Posts: 5
Wolf Tones
« on: Jul 21st, 2003, 9:58am »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

Are wolf tones inevitable?  Perhaps someone would like to explain their origin in the acoustics of our instruments.  The problem:  extra unpleasant notes that "appear" even though nobody is playing them.  Often they seem to be a harsh vibration inside your head rather than a definite pitch.  Most common when playing duets, especially when I tried playing recorder along with a flute.
IP Logged
MasquedPhoenix1
Minstrel
*



Music is life, and, like it, is inextinguishable.

   


Gender: female
Posts: 31
Re: Wolf Tones
« Reply #1 on: Jul 30th, 2003, 3:31pm »
Quote Quote Modify Modify

I don't know the acoustics behind wolf tones between instruments.  I imagine it's a kind of wave interference caused when the frequencies are similar but ever-so-slightly out of sync.   All I can tell you is that I always hate it when two wind players in orchestra are trying to tune very high notes- that can really peel the paint off the ol' ear canal, if you know what I mean!  When they are perfectly in tune, you don't hear that extra noise- it is only when they are very slightly off.  Maybe it shows up more on high notes because there is less distance between the sound waves due to the faster vibrations.  Wolf tones on individual instruments are a mechanical thing that can be fixed.  But I'm sorry to say that I know no way of fixing those awful vibrations that occur between instruments.  If someone out there knows, though, I hope they speak up, 'cause I'd like to know the answer, too!
IP Logged

-KK "Let me make the songs of a Nation and I care not who makes its laws."-Plato
Patrick O'Malley
Guest

Email

Re: Wolf Tones
« Reply #2 on: Sep 6th, 2004, 1:09pm »
Quote Quote Modify Modify Remove Remove

As I understand it from my past in playing viola, a "wolf tone" is an unpleasant sound on an individual note on a string instrument.  Makers try to build instruments without a wolf tone.
 
What I think you are describing is a buzzing in the ear when hearing two recorders simultaneously.  This is called a "difference tone."  It happens with all instruments but is more noticeable with recorders (and piccolos, etc.) because we are so high.  Tubas, etc. make difference tones that are too low in pitch for us to really hear them.
 
Sound is vibration in the air.  The speed of vibration can be measured.  For example, A above middle C is 440 Hertz (vibrations per second).  The A an octave higher vibrates exactly twice as fast, so 880 Hertz.  Our ears hear 880 and 440, plus the difference between them: 880-440=440.  So we hear another A that no one is playing.  Because it aligns with the other notes, we hear it as a reinforcement of the other notes rather than as a distracting buzz.
 
Whenever there are two pitches at once, we hear the "difference" in vibration.  On high instruments like recorders, the difference tone is high enough to be audible as a third note.  Sometimes this note fits in with the harmony of the pieces, essentially filling out the triad by playing the missing note!  Composers have used this to compose trios for two players, though I don't know any specific pieces.
 
Ways to minimize the difference tone: move somewhere else in the room or in relation to the other player, play outside, play in a larger room or in one with walls that are not all parallel (which is hard to find).  If you play larger recorders the tones will be there, but lower.
 
Another related phenomenon is the "wah-wah-wah-wah-wah" you sometimes hear with two players.  This means that you are somewhat out of tune.  The faster the "wah's", the more out of tune.  As you adjust your pitch, the "wah's" will either speed up or slow down (i.e. get closer to in tune).  When they stop, you are in tune.  This is what harpsichord tuners listen to when they tune the strings - the speed of the "wah-wah's".  This is also a difference tone.  For example, two tenor recorders playing two A's, with the first player slightly too high will produce  442-440=2.  So there will be two "wah's" per second.  Lowering the 442 to 441 will change it to one "wah" per second.  Zero "wah's " per second will be a perfect unison at 440 Hertz.
 
This can seem complicated.  Put simply:  
Wah-wah bad.
Mystery note good.
 
The slow "wah-wah-wah's" while you play is bad - you are out of tune (but close!).  Hearing a steady third note in a duet actually means that you are really in tune (a good thing).
 
This applies to larger ensembles as well.  If everyone is in tune on a chord, the audience and players will hear extra notes in the chord, making it sound even better.
 
A good reference on this is Kenneth Wollitz's book, The Recorder Book.  There's a whole section on difference tones.   Good luck!
 
Patrick
IP Logged
Pages: 1  Reply Reply Notify of replies Notify of replies Send Topic Send Topic Print Print

« No topic | Next topic »


Early MusiChicago Discussion Forum » Powered by YaBB 1 Gold - SP 1.3.1!
YaBB 2000-2003. All Rights Reserved.


Early MusiChicago Home