F YOU are like many other musicians who now find themselves with more time than usual on their hands, you might try using your newfound time to deepen your understanding of our shared musical craft. To that end, I offer what I consider to be the best explanation of the overtone series ever given by none other than Leonard Bernstein. This short clip comes from a lecture series he gave at Harvard University in 1973, titled The Unanswered Question.
The overtone series is the foundation of western music and its primal language. While other musical scales and musical traditions find their origin in the overtone series, only western civilization has developed nature’s original gift into one of the world’s great achievements: Western music.
If you desire to be truly magnanimous, listen to the entire series of talks (hours upon hours) offered free via YouTube. Bernstein is a master teacher and doesn’t disappoint.