Vibrational ModesIt is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same. - Sir Philip Gibbs
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Vibrational Modes

An object will vibrate at a natural frequency or frequencies when strummed, plucked or otherwise disturbed. In this section, we're going to look at vibration more carefully.

The easiest case to consider, as Pythagoras did thousands of years ago, is a string in tension. When you pluck a string which is held in tension with both ends firmly fixed, you will find that, with practice, it can be made to resonate in several different ways.

The fundamental vibrational mode of a string

This shows the string in its most normal vibrational mode. The whole string goes up, the whole string comes down. This is the fundamental or base mode. It occurs at the lowest frequency.

Second vibrational mode

Here the string is vibrating in two places. Notice that the point in the middle does not move. In effect, it is the same as having a string half as long.

Third Vibrational Mode

Now we have essentially split the original length into three equal length sections, all vibrating independently.

Circular Membrane Vibrational Modes

This effect becomes especially interesting when we look at objects which are more complex. In this case we'll use a drum, known technically as a circular membrane.

The drum has several modes of vibration.

Vibrational Modes

It is interesting to note that although this is a loud vibrational mode because the membrane surface is in contact with many air molecules, the vibrational energy is quickly absorbed and the vibration stops. This is the "thump" that you hear when you strike a drum near the middle.

In this mode, a part of the membrane is rising while another part is falling. This mode transmits much less sound energy into the environment and, therefore, takes longer to decay providing an extending sound. See more vibrational modes of drums.

Vibrational Modes

Superposition of Modes

An object can and usually will vibrate in multiple modes simultaneously. This fits with our understanding of sound, which supports superpositioning of waves.



Longitudinal Wavelength Sound Waves Pitch and Frequency Speed of Sound Doppler Effect Sound Intensity and Decibels Sound Wave Interference Beat Frequencies Binaural Beat Frequencies Sound Resonance and Natural Resonant Frequency Natural Resonance Quality (Q) Forced Vibration Frequency Entrainment Vibrational Modes Standing Waves Law of Octaves Psychoacoustics Tacoma Narrows Bridge Schumann Resonance Animal BioAcoustics More on Sound


Law Of Octaves Sound Harmonics Western Musical Chords Musical Scales Musical Intervals Musical Mathematical Terminology Music of the Spheres Fibonacci Sequence Circle of Fifths Pythagorean Comma


Drum Vibrational Modes


Aristotle Copernicus Einstein Fibonacci Hermann von Helmholtz Kepler Sir Isaac Newton Max Planck Ptolemy Pythagoras Thomas Young
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Understanding the Physics of Sound
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