Analysis of violin combination tones and their contribution to Tartini's third tone

Gabriele Caselli, Giovanni Cecchi, Mirko Malacarne, Giulio Masetti


It is widely accepted that the famous Tartini’s third tone, i.e., the appearance of an additional third tone of lower frequency when playing a dyad on the violin, is a subjective phenomenon generated by the listener’s cochlear nonlinearity. However, the recent demonstration that additional tones of audible amplitude can also be generated by the violin itself during playing of a dyad (violin combination tones), raises the question if these tones might have influenced Tartini’s third sound perception. The experiments reported here were made to ascertain this possibility. To this end, following Tartini experiments, several dyads played by either one violin or two violins playing one note of the dyad each, were recorded. The analysis of the spectra shows that violin combination tones are present in all the dyads investigated, but exclusively when the dyad is played by a single violin and not when the same dyad is played by two violins. Tartini found the third tones to be the same in both conditions, which means that violin combination tones in his experiments were either absent or too small to affect the perception of the subjective third tones arising from cochlear distortion. Cover Image

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Savart Journal

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  • Article published Oct 10, 2020.
  • This article has been accessed 700 times since publication.