Monochord
Overview
 
A monochord is an ancient musical
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 and scientific laboratory instrument. The word "monochord" comes from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and means literally "one string." A misconception of the term lies within its name. Often a monochord has more than one string, most of the time two, one open string and a second string with a movable bridge. In a basic monochord, a single string
Strings (music)
A string is the vibrating element that produces sound in string instruments, such as the guitar, harp, piano, and members of the violin family. Strings are lengths of a flexible material kept under tension so that they may vibrate freely, but controllably. Strings may be "plain"...

 is stretched over a sound box. The string is fixed at both ends while one or many movable bridges are manipulated to demonstrate mathematical relationships between sounds.
Encyclopedia
A monochord is an ancient musical
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 and scientific laboratory instrument. The word "monochord" comes from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and means literally "one string." A misconception of the term lies within its name. Often a monochord has more than one string, most of the time two, one open string and a second string with a movable bridge. In a basic monochord, a single string
Strings (music)
A string is the vibrating element that produces sound in string instruments, such as the guitar, harp, piano, and members of the violin family. Strings are lengths of a flexible material kept under tension so that they may vibrate freely, but controllably. Strings may be "plain"...

 is stretched over a sound box. The string is fixed at both ends while one or many movable bridges are manipulated to demonstrate mathematical relationships between sounds. With two strings you can easily demonstrate how a consonant
Consonance and dissonance
In music, a consonance is a harmony, chord, or interval considered stable, as opposed to a dissonance , which is considered to be unstable...

 just
Just intonation
In music, just intonation is any musical tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by ratios of small whole numbers. Any interval tuned in this way is called a just interval. The two notes in any just interval are members of the same harmonic series...

 chord
Chord (music)
A chord in music is any harmonic set of two–three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. These need not actually be played together: arpeggios and broken chords may for many practical and theoretical purposes be understood as chords...

 sounds. Both open strings are tuned equal and then the movable bridge is put in a mathematical position to demonstrate, for instance, the major third
Major third
In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions , and the major third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. It is qualified as major because it is the largest of the two: the major third spans four semitones, the minor third three...

 (at 4/5th of the string length) or the minor third
Minor third
In classical music from Western culture, a third is a musical interval encompassing three staff positions , and the minor third is one of two commonly occurring thirds. The minor quality specification identifies it as being the smallest of the two: the minor third spans three semitones, the major...

 (at 5/6th of the string length).

The monochord can be used to illustrate the mathematical
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 properties of musical pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

. For example, when a monochord's string is open it vibrates at a particular frequency
Frequency
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency.The period is the duration of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency...

 and produces a pitch. When the length of the string is halved, and pluck
Pizzicato
Pizzicato is a playing technique that involves plucking the strings of a string instrument. The exact technique varies somewhat depending on the type of stringed instrument....

ed, it produces a pitch an octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

 higher and the string vibrates at twice the frequency of the original (2:1). Half of this length will produce a pitch two octaves higher than the original—four times the initial frequency (4:1)—and so on. Standard diatonic Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning is a system of musical tuning in which the frequency relationships of all intervals are based on the ratio 3:2. This interval is chosen because it is one of the most consonant...

 (Ptolemy’s Diatonic Ditonic) is easily derived starting from superparticular ratios, (n+1)/n, constructed from the first four counting numbers, the tetractys, measured out on a monochord.

Monopipe is a wind instrument which serves the same purpose as the monochord.

Monochord practitioners

In 1618, Robert Fludd
Robert Fludd
Robert Fludd, also known as Robertus de Fluctibus was a prominent English Paracelsian physician, astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Qabalist, Rosicrucian apologist...

 devised a mundane monochord (also celestial or divine monochord) that linked the Ptolemaic
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 universe to musical intervals. An image of the celestial monochord was used on the 1952 cover of Anthology of American Folk Music
Anthology of American Folk Music
The Anthology of American Folk Music is a six-album compilation released in 1952 by Folkways Records , comprising eighty-four American folk, blues and country music recordings that were originally issued from 1927 to 1932.Experimental filmmaker and notable eccentric Harry Smith compiled the music...

by Harry Everett Smith
Harry Everett Smith
Harry Everett Smith was an American archivist, ethnomusicologist, student of anthropology, record collector, experimental filmmaker, artist, bohemian and mystic...

 and in the 1977 book The Cosmographical Glass: Renaissance Diagrams of the Universe (p. 133) by S.K. Heninger, Jr., ISBN 9780873282086. A reproduction of the monochordum mundanum (mundane monochord) illustration from page 90 of Robert Fludd's "Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, Metaphysica, Physica, Atque Technica Historia" ("Tomus Primus"), 1617, was used as the cover art for Kepler Quartet's 2011 audio CD, Ben Johnston
Ben Johnston
Benjamin Burwell Johnston, Jr. is a composer of contemporary music in the just intonation system.-Johnston's music:...

: String Quartets Nos. 1, 5 & 10
(New World Records
New World Records
New World Records is a record label based in New York City specialising in American music. The label was established in 1975 through a Rockefeller Foundation grant to produce a 100 disc anthology covering 200 years of American music....

 Cat. No. 80693), which is classical music that uses pitch ratios extended to higher partials beyond the standard Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning is a system of musical tuning in which the frequency relationships of all intervals are based on the ratio 3:2. This interval is chosen because it is one of the most consonant...

 system.

A modern playing technique used in experimental rock
Experimental rock
Experimental rock or avant-garde rock is a type of music based on rock which experiments with the basic elements of the genre, or which pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique....

 as well as contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s with the retreat of modernism. However, the term may also be employed in a broader sense to refer to all post-1945 modern musical forms.-Categorization:...

 is 3rd bridge
3rd Bridge
The 3rd bridge is an extended playing technique used on some string instruments , that allows a musician to produce distinctive timbres and overtones that are unavailable on a conventional string instrument with two bridges...

. This technique shares the same mechanism as used on the monochord, by dividing the string into two sections with an additional bridge.

See also

  • Đàn bầu
  • Duxianqin
    Duxianqin
    The duxianqin , also yixianqin , is a Chinese plucked string instrument with only one string...

  • Ektara
    Ektara
    Ektara is a one-string instrument used in Bangladesh, India, Egypt, and Pakistan.thumb||EktaraIn origin the ektara was a regular string instrument of wandering bards and minstrels from India and is plucked with one finger...

  • Moodswinger
    Moodswinger
    The Moodswinger is a twelve string electric zither with an additional third bridge designed by Yuri Landman. The rod which functions as the third bridge divides the strings into two sections to cause an overtone multiphonic sound...

  • Musical bow
    Musical bow
    The musical bow is a simple string musical instrument most archaic cultures as well as in many in the present day. It consisting of a string supported by a flexible stick 1.5 to 10 feet long, and strung end to end with a taut cord. Usually made out of wood...

  • Berimbau
    Berimbau
    The berimbau is a single-string percussion instrument, a musical bow, from Brazil. The berimbau's origins are not entirely clear, but there is not much doubt about its African origin, as no Indigenous Brazilian or European people use musical bows, and very similar instruments are played in the...

  • Ichigenkin
    Ichigenkin
    An is a Japanese single-stringed zither. Its slender, flat body is carved from kiri wood. Its silk string is plucked with a pointed tubular plectrum placed on the index finger of the right hand while the rokan slightly depresses the string—though not so hard that...

  • Diddley bow
    Diddley bow
    The diddley bow is a string instrument of African origin made popular in America, probably developed from instruments found on the Ghana coast of west Africa. The diddley bow is rarely heard outside the rural south...

  • Long string instrument
    Long string instrument
    The long string instrument is an instrument where the string is of such a length that the fundamental transverse wave is below what we can hear as a tone . If the tension and the length result in sounds with such a frequency the tone becomes a beating frequency ranging from a short reverb to...

  • Langeleik
    Langeleik
    The langeleik also called langleik is a Norwegian stringed folklore musical instrument, a droned zither.-Description:The langeleik has only one melody string and up to 8 drone strings....

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