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the quality of sound (its “color”) that makes it possible to distinguish between sounds of the same pitch when made on different instruments or by different voices.
Timbre is associated with the complex nature of sound vibrations and depends on such factors as the overtones or partial tones that accompany the fundamental tone and the regions of the sound spectrum in which they are particularly intense. These factors are determined by the material and shape of the body emitting the sound, the resonators that help form the sound, and the means of producing the sound. The times of sound production and decay also have a large effect on timbre.
In speech, timbre makes it possible to distinguish between vowels and other sonorants; here, the first and second formants play the main role. Speech sounds of the same timbre may be of any pitch and intensity. At the same time, the relationship between the frequency of the fundamental tone and the formants and overtones determines the individual characteristics of a given person’s speech; here, the third and higher formants play the leading role. In intonation in running speech, timbre makes it possible to distinguish between shades of emotion, such as joy, displeasure, and hostility.