Musical drums with harmonic overtones

Raman, C. V. ; Kumar, Sivakali (1920) Musical drums with harmonic overtones Nature, 104 (2620). p. 500. ISSN 0028-0836

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It is well known that percussion instruments as a class give inharmonic overtones, and are thus musically defective. We find on investigation that a special type of musical drum which has long been known and used in India forms a very remarkable exception to the foregoing rule, as it gives harmonic overtones having the same relation of pitch to the fundamental tone as in stringed instruments. Five such harmonics (inclusive of the fundamental tone) can be elicited from the drumhead in this type of instrument, the first, second, and third harmonics being specially well sustained in intensity and giving a fine musical effect. The special method of construction of the drumhead which secures this result will be understood from the accompanying illustration (Fig. 1). It will be noticed (1) that the drumhead carries a symmetrical distributed load, decreasing in superficial density from the centre outwards (this appears as a dark circle in the middle of the membrane, the load consisting of a firmly adherent but flexible composition, in which the principal constituent is finely divided metallic iron); and (2) that a second membrane in the form of a ring is superimposed on the circular membrane round its margin.

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