If we don’t hear individual overtones, why study them?
Think of a delicious pasta sauce. The average taste-tester can say, “It’s sweet. It’s salty. It’s delicious.” But that’s about it. A good cook, on the other hand, can tell you exactly what seasonings were used, based on the flavours of the end product. A cook could then recreate this sauce exactly, or vary it slightly to suit any type of pasta dish.
Overtones are a little like the spices that go into a pasta sauce. A unique blend of overtones emanate from every instrument, giving each a deliciously different sound. These distinctive overtone flavours (or timbres) explain why the same note sounds different on a clarinet, an oboe, and a flute.
Just like individual spices in a sauce, individual overtones are difficult to hear, but simply being aware of these musical ingredients is one step towards becoming a good sound “cook.” In the end, that’s what sound branding is all about: knowing which sound spices create which musical flavours and emotions, to cook up the perfect sound for a brand.