The physics of music

Jyri Pakarinen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


This chapter discusses the central physical phenomena involved in music. The aim is to provide an explanation of the related issues in an understandable level, without delving unnecessarily deep in the underlying mathematics. The chapter is divided in two main sections: musical sound sources and sound transmission to the observer. The first section starts from the definition of sound as wave motion, and then guides the reader through the vibration of strings, bars, membranes, plates, and air columns, that is, the oscillating sources that create the sound for most of the musical instruments. Resonating structures, such as instrument bodies are also reviewed, and the section ends with a discussion on the potential physical markup parameters for musical sound sources. The second section starts with an introduction to the basics of room acoustics, and then explains the acoustic effect that the human observer causes in the sound field. The end of the second section provides a discussion on which sound transmission parameters could be used in a general music markup language. Finally, a concluding section is presented.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStructuring Music through Markup Language
Subtitle of host publicationDesigns and Architectures
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

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