Harmonics, and a Basic Visual Guide To Understanding Them!

Hey everyone. This is a visual guide to help you understand harmonics, the way I understand them. If anything is this guide is incorrect, please contact me at, or shoot a message at me in our discord. The last thing I want to do is spread false information!

The spectrum analyzer I’m using in this guide is Voxengo Span, and is free to download here.

What are harmonics?

Harmonics are a “series of overtones accompanying a fundamental frequency, at fixed intervals”.

Sure, but unless you’re already familiar with harmonics, that sentence made no sense. Let’s put it into pictures and make it easy to understand!

The above picture is a sine wave playing C5. If you notice, the peak of this frequency is at 524hz.

This is the fundamental frequency - the one tone that is being played without any harmonics or overtones.

Overtones are tones played on top of a frequency.

Harmonics are the overtones that are played in integer multiples of the fundamental.

Frequencies, including fundamental: 524; 1572; 2620; 3668 and so on. All odd integer multiples!

Frequencies, including fundamental: 524; 1572; 2620; 3668 and so on. All odd integer multiples!

In the above image you can see that there are now more overtone frequencies being played (I ran the C5 sine wave through Serum’s FX Tube distortion). All of the frequencies here are in odd integer multiples of the fundamental.

Knowing this, we can even say that the fundamental is a harmonic frequency as well, because it is an integer multiple of itself! If you’re an audio nerd like me, that’s pretty cool.

And for those who like math (there are dozens of us!):

524 x 1 = 524

524 x 3 = 1572

524 x 5 = 2620

524 x 7 = 3668

Cool harmonics bro, but how do I get them?

Harmonics come in to play naturally with some sounds, instruments, or wavetables.

If you are using something without any natural harmonics (like a normal sine wave), you can add Saturation (read: d i s t o r t i o n) to your sound through various fx plugins. You can use saturation to ‘fill’ up your sound if it’s sounding empty (too much will leave it sounding distorted instead of fuller).

That’s another topic entirely though, so I’ll leave you with your new knowledge of harmonics and samples of Serum’s various distortion algorithms.

Each distortion mode adds different harmonics to your instruments. (different plugins use different algorithms, so Serum’s distortion might not sound like Softubes’ Saturation Knob!)

Careful!!! This gets loud and the upper frequencies are not eq'd out. Even though I did apply some slight compression, have a hand on the volume knob just in case.

The Ultimate List of Resources (for Beginner and Intermediate Audio Engineers)

Last updated: 5/27/2019 - audio myths workshop

I felt that the internet was lacking a big list of resources for new and intermediate producers, mixers, and designers to reference when they want to grow their skillset. My goal here is to create a list of resources that I wish I had when I was just starting out in music production. These are resources I’ve personally found helpful.

I plan on updating this every time I come across a good resource for a particular technique or skill in mixing. Note: none of the articles here will be mine. You can find my tutorials here.

If there are any empty categories, just know that I’m looking to fill them! You can suggest articles in the comments below, or send me an @ in the SoundPaladin Discord.