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Accurate temporal resolution of harmonic content in both amplitude and phase

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 09:07 authored by Damien HollowayDamien Holloway
Frequency content of a periodic signal is easily computed using fast Fourier transforms (FFT). While the magnitude is well predicted, phase information is usually meaningless and temporal changes are difficult to resolve accurately over short time periods, even with techniques such as discrete time Fourier transforms or wavelets. These problems arise in the analysis of musical sounds and should be solvable since a well trained human ear can detect subtle and rapid changes to timbre and pitch that occur with expressiveness, techniques such as ‘vibrato’, and lack of tone control exhibited by music students. Starting with the premise that a musical sound is truly periodic, we obtain much more accurate information from a Fourier series than from a Fourier transform. In this article the Fourier series of a periodic signal is evaluated using a least squares fit, as was done before the popularisation of the FFT algorithm, but the difference is that the frequency is precisely defined before fitting the coefficients, which succeeds with as few as three or four cycles. The proposed technique achieves the above objectives and opens up the possibility of exploring the role of phase in the quantification of musical sound, a critical component that is traditionally ignored.


Publication title

ANZIAM Journal




M Nelson, T Hamilton, M Jennings, J Bunder






School of Engineering


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

Cambridge, United Kingdom

Event title

11th Biennial Engineering Mathematics and Applications Conference

Event Venue

Brisbane, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2014 Austral. Mathematical Society

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in engineering

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    University Of Tasmania