Tip #64 – Natural Influences from the Harmonic Series

Sometimes, musical influence can come from nature, natural phenomenon, events, science, math, etc.

How about basing a piece, a scale, a harmonic progression… whatever you can think of, around the Harmonic Series of overtones.

The harmonic series comes from the production of sounded overtones which each fractional division of a vibrating string’s wavelength. It is an infinitely divergent series of wavelengths, pitches, and corresponding notes produced. Below is a small account of the first 12 overtones:

It should be noted that mathematically, some of the overtones do not fit exactly to what is should be in the tempered 12-tone system of Western notation. Those with extreme and noticeable deviations from the Western “norm” have been marked with a downwards-arrow symbol above the designated pitch of interest.

Regardless, one could take this phenomenon and use it as a scale, the underlining harmony to a progression, a start to a 12-tone row, etc. Be creative and have fun with it!


Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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