Date of Award

Spring 2020

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts




Thomas Moore

Committee Member

Whitney Coyle

Committee Member

Erik Kenyon


Phantom partials are anomalous frequency components identifiable in the sound of the piano and occur at the sum and difference frequencies of two overtones. For several decades they have been identified as crucial components to the sound of the piano and assumed to be generated by the forced longitudinal motion of the string. Recent work has identified that contrary to common belief, most of the power is produced in the non-string components with the most likely source being the wooden structural components. This work presents experimental results for two plausible theories that could explain the origins of phantom partials in the wooden components. Experimentation indicated that a contact nonlinearity is more likely than a pressure induced nonlinearity. A model describing a wooden contact nonlinearity is also presented and indicates that the theory of phantom partial generation resulting from wood-on-wood contact in the piano is plausible.

Rights Holder

Lauren Neldner