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Physics and musical instruments

  1. Dec 28, 2004 #1
    does anyone know of any websites or books relating to the physics of musical instruments (particularly brass instruments)?

    i have a book by moravcsik called musical sound, but it is pretty elementary and non-mathematical.

    if anyone is aware of any threads already posted here on this topic, i'd appreciate the link - or perhaps this will grow to fit the bill :approve:
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2004 #2


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    Best book I've found: "measured tones" by Ian Johnston
  4. Dec 30, 2004 #3


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    I have a fantastic book on the subject:

    Music, Physics and Engineering, 2nd Ed. by Harry F. Olson

    ISBN 0-486-21769-8

    I bought it for $7.95 about 15 years ago. It was printed by Dover Books.
  5. Dec 30, 2004 #4
    hey thanks fred and krabs!

    i just found a treasure lying around on our bookshelf - the scientific american collection "The Physics of Music" with excellent articles on the physics of pian, woodwinds, brasses, violins as well as architectural acoustics. the stuff is pretty thorough and reasonably mathematical too.

    i will check out the books you guys suggested too!
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2004
  6. Jan 19, 2005 #5
    i've been looking at my sciam book and i was just wondering if there are some people who want to look into the topic of the physics of music in a more extensive way. if so, i can present parts of what i read from the sciam in this thread and others can elaborate on the ideas or just ask questions that someone on the thread may be able to answer.

    here are the topics in the collection:

    1. physics and music intro (including harmonic analysis relating to instruments and voice)
    2. acoustics of the singing voice
    3. physics of the piano
    4. physics of woodwinds
    5. physics of brasses
    6. physics of violins
    7. physics of the bowed string
    8. architectural acoustics

    any interest in this?
    any ideas on the best way to do this if there is interest?
  7. Jan 19, 2005 #6


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    I'm interested but my physics is poor and I know nothing about music. I have almost every issue of SA from early 1952 to present and very definitely recall some of the music articles. In particular, I recall the violin issue wherein it explained the friction of the bow across the string that generated a saw-toothed waveform. That article must have appeared in the early seventies as I used the info to write a little music program soon after I bought an Atari 800 home computer in 1977. It came with BASIC and assembler (6502 chip) language cartridges. I wrote most of the small program in BASIC (enter notes and their attributes, etc...) but used assembler to get the speed necessary to attempt to simulate an instrument (rise time, decay time, wave form). To my untrained ear, I thought I did well with the violin but my trumpet was really bad. Brasses must have much more complex waveforms than the violin.

  8. Jan 20, 2005 #7
    that's great! my physics is pretty rusty and this seems like a great way to get the debris off. we have recently become very interested in music and have acquired several instruments to play with and upon.

    neat stuff!! my first computer was a kim1, but i did nothing as elaborate as you.
    that article on the physics of the bowed string was from jan 1974. there is also one in my collection on the physics of the violin from 1962.

    well i'm looking forward to finding out! one of those music programs like audacity may be sufficient to display the full waveform.

    let's give it a couple of more days to see who else is interested.
    i'm looking forward to this now that i have some company :smile:
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