Posted by: soundlounge | August 11, 2009

Overtones: The Secret Spices of Musical Sauce

musical_spiceIn sonic branding, much thought and effort goes into finding the perfect sounds to fit a brand’s style. Part of this process involves breaking these sounds into their essential ingredients and critiquing them: “That trumpet is a shade too mellow. Can we find one with more punch?” or “We need to decide if we want a brighter voice or a darker voice.”

Every musical detail counts in the advertising world. Think of the Intel Inside sound, one of the most memorable audio logos of all time – only three seconds long. Creator Walter Werzowa needed a keen ear to carefully design each sound. In the first note alone, he used over 20 different instruments and sounds!

intel-logo

Did you hear the anvil, tambourine, and electric spark? If you’re like most listeners, probably not (we’ll get to the reason for this later). But Werzowa hand-picked each of these sounds for a reason. He knew their unique sound “flavours” and was able to mix them perfectly into a memorable audio logo.

We can all tell when an instrument sounds right or wrong in a certain context. This is the “I’ll know it when I hear it” approach, which drives many sound branding decisions. But when it comes down to a few seconds of sound design, it’s important to understand why an instrument sounds mellow, punchy, bright, or dark.

With a little science and an open ear, we’ll explore some of the basic “spices” of sound undiscovered by the average listener – overtones.

Can you sing more than one note at the same time?

Tuvan musician Kongar-ol Ondar employs an age-old Tuvan tradition of overtone singing to sing two, three, or four notes at the same time in this clip from the Late Show with David Letterman:

“How did he do that?!” you might be thinking. Let’s take a closer look at overtones  – read on

Charlie McCarron
Sound Consultant
soundlounge

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