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Sound for music technology: An introduction
Whether you're a professional musician, play music with your friends on the weekends or...
Whether you're a professional musician, play music with your friends on the weekends or just like to listen to CDs, music technology affects your life. In this unit, you will learn some of the basics of music technology, starting with what sound is, how it is created and how it travels.
After studying this unit, you should be able to:
- explain correctly the meaning of the emboldened terms in the main text and use them correctly in context;
- describe simply what a pressure wave is and give a simple explanation of sound in terms of a travelling pressure wave;
- explain ‘cycle’ in terms of an oscillating source and the pressure wave it produces;
- relate amplitude (including peak-to-peak and r.m.s.), frequency, period and wavelength to a sinusoidal waveform;
- calculate the wavelength of a pressure wave from a graph of pressure against distance;
- relate the distance that a pressure wave travels to the number of cycles of oscillation performed by the source in a given length of time;
- calculate the period of a pressure wave from a graph of pressure against time, and hence calculate the frequency;
- perform simple distance and time calculations for sound, given the speed of sound;
- use the formula v = f × λ perform simple calculations relating speed, frequency and wavelength of sound;
- explain phase difference and how it is quantified, and be able to relate cancellation and reinforcement to phase difference;
- calculate phase difference in seconds, degrees or fractions of a cycle from a graph showing two sine waves;
- read or calculate the amplitude, peak-to-peak amplitude and r.m.s. amplitude of a sine wave from its graph, given data relating amplitude to r.m.s. amplitude;
- discuss the relationship between amplitude and loudness, and between frequency and pitch;
- discuss the significance of the octave in terms of frequency and in terms of pitch, and the role of the octave in relation to musical scales;
- perform simple frequency calculations in connection with octave-related pitches;
- specify approximately where in the human frequency range the sounds used in music lie, in terms of both their pitches and the extent of the frequencies spanned by their harmonics;
- explain the use of the decibel as a way of representing sound pressure level;
- perform simple decibel calculations, given a table or graph relating decibels to ratios.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Sound basics
- 2 Sinusoidal pressure waves
- 3 Frequency
- 4 The speed of sound
- 5 Phase
- 6 Amplitude
- 7 Pitch and loudness
- 8 The octave
- 9 The ranges of human hearing
- 10 The decibel
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Sound for music technology: An introduction
This unit contains material that is essential to learning about music technology. Here you will explore the concept of sound and be introduced to the physics behind travelling pressure waves as the physical manifestation of sound. You will also learn about the subjective perception of pitch and loudness, in particular their relationship to frequency and amplitude.
This free course is an adapted extract relevant to The Open University course TA212 The technology of music, which is no longer taught by the University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 7th July 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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