A normal mode of an oscillating system is a pattern of motion in which all parts of the system move sinusoidally with the same frequency and with a fixed phase relation. The motion described by the normal modes is called resonance. The frequencies of the normal modes of a system are known as its natural frequencies or resonant frequencies. A physical object, such as a building, bridge or molecule, has a set of normal modes that depend on its structure, materials and boundary conditions.
When relating to music, normal modes of vibrating instruments (strings, air pipes, drums, etc.) are called "harmonics" or "overtones".
The most general motion of a system is a superposition of its normal modes. The modes are normal in the sense that they can move independently, that is to say that an excitation of one mode will never cause motion of a different mode.
The concept of normal modes also finds application in wave theory, optics, quantum mechanics, and molecular dynamics.