The presence of non-classical dissipation in a general discrete dynamic system is investigated through a perturbation method for the eigenvalues and vectors. Results accurate to second-order are obtained, with corrections to the base solution being expressed in terms of readily-calculated quadratic forms. Exact solutions, and the derived asymptotic ones, are compared with the predictions of the so-called method of approximate decoupling, in which certain non-classical dissipative terms are omitted from calculations in the eigenvalue problem. The perturbation method is discussed through its application in several examples, indicating circumstances in which a non-classically damped system can be well-approximated by an “equivalent” classically damped one. Somewhat surprisingly, the addition of non-classical damping does not necessarily increase the stability of all vibration modes, and the perturbation method is shown to be useful in identifying those critical modes.

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