The beauty of twelve piano notes made visible on CymaScope

This CymaScope video makes visible the first twelve notes of a concert grand piano tuned to A4=440 Hertz.

All notes show the attack, sustain and decay phases. By pausing the video it is possible to observe great detail in the geometry created by each note as it is imprinted onto the CymaScope’s water membrane.

The sound of an individual piano note is not constant but varies due to the string’s partials (also known as harmonics) reflecting off the sound board and piano cabinet, adding tonal ‘color’ to the sound as the string receives some of the reflected sounds. The tonal color variations of each note are made visible, as evidenced by the evolving geometries in the video of each note. Because no two pianos are identical, every piano has a unique sound. The first octave of the piano, presented in this video, features single strings, while higher octaves have either two or three strings for each note.

(Piano recordings courtesy of Dan Koehler of Naples Piano Company.)