Musical acoustics

Musical acoustics is a scientific discipline that attempts to put the entire range of human musical activity under the microscope of science. Because science seeks understanding, the goal of musical acoustics is nothing less than to understand how music “works,” physically and psychologically. Accordingly, musical acoustics is multidisciplinary. At a minimum, it requires input from physics, physiology, psychology, and several engineering technologies involved in the creation and reproduction of musical sound.

A course on musical acoustics may include the following topics:

  • Source, transmission, and receiver

  • Vibrations (mass and spring, damping, natural modes of vibration, the tuning fork, the spectrum, resonance, and so on)

  • Instrumentation (transducers, oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, frequency counter, function generator, and virtual instrumentation)

  • Sound waves (polarization, the speed of sound, sound waves in space and time, and so on)

  • Wave properties (wave addition, interference, beats, audio analogies, reflection, diffraction, and segregation)

  • Standing waves (standing waves on a string and standing waves in pipes)

  • Sound intensity (sound, power, intensity, the inverse square law, decibels, and absolute vs relative dB)

  • Loudness perception (loudness vs sound level)

  • Pitch (the pitch of sine tones, the pitch of a complex tone, and absolute pitch)

  • Distortion and noise

  • Audio systems and loudspeakers

  • Speech, brass musical instruments, woodwind instruments, string instruments, percussion instruments, and electronic music

  • Fourier analysis

  • The auditory system (optional)

For more details refer to the following book:

Hartmann, W. M. (2013). Principles of musical acoustics. Springer Science & Business Media.