Why does a piano sound like a piano? A similar question can be asked of virtually all musical instruments. A particular note-such as middle C-can be produced by a piano, a violin, a clarinet, and many other instruments, yet it is easy for even a musically untrained listener to distinguish between these different instruments. A central quest in the study of musical instruments is to understand why the sound of the "same" note depends greatly on the instrument, and to elucidate which aspects of an instrument are most critical in producing the musical tones characteristic of the instrument. The primary goal of this book is to investigate these questions for the piano. The explanations in this book use a minimum of mathematics, and are intended for anyone who is interested in music and musical instruments. At the same time, there are many insights relating physics and the piano that will likely be interesting and perhaps surprising for many physicists.
While the history of musical instruments is nearly as old as civilisation itself, the science of acoustics is quite recent. By understanding the physical basis of how instruments are used to make music, one hopes ultimately to be able to give physical criteria to distinguish a fine instrument from a mediocre one. At that point science may be able to come to the aid of art in improving the design and performance of musical instruments. As yet, many of the subtleties in musical sounds of which instrument makers and musicians are aware remain beyond the reach of modern acoustic measurements. This book describes the results of such acoustical investigations - fascinating intellectual and practical exercises. Addressed to readers with a reasonable grasp of physics who are not put off by a little mathematics, this book discusses most of the traditional instruments currently in use in Western music. A guide for all who have an interest in music and how it is produced, as well as serving as a comprehensive reference for those undertaking research in the field.
Why does a harpsichord sound different from a piano? For that matter, why does middle C on a piano differ from middle C on a tuning fork, a trombone, or a flute? Good Vibrations explains in clear, friendly language the out-of-sight physics responsible not only for these differences but also for the whole range of noises we call music. The physical properties and history of sound are fascinating to study. Barry Parker's tour of the physics of music details the science of how instruments, the acoustics of rooms, electronics, and humans create and alter the varied sounds we hear. Using physics as a base, Parker discusses the history of music, how sounds are made and perceived, and the various effects of acting on sounds. In the process, he demonstrates what acoustics can teach us about quantum theory and explains the relationship between harmonics and the theory of waves. Peppered throughout with anecdotes and examples illustrating key concepts, this invitingly written book provides a firm grounding in the actual and theoretical physics of music.