Timbre

As well as pitch and volume, all musical notes have a tonal colour known as timbre. Timbre is what differentiates the sound of one instrument from another. It is a somewhat loose term compared to words like pitch and volume which we use to describe sound, but it can still be broken down and understood.

There are many ways to analyse timbre. Some of the components we might describe include:

  • The strength of the note’s harmonics, and how these change over time (think of a muted trumpet, or wah-wah guitar)
  • Overtones and noise components (including clicks, scrapes and breaths)
  • The “Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release (ADSR) envelope”