Glenbrook South Year-End Projects

The Physics of Musical Instruments

Internet Links

The following World Wide Web sites offer information relevant to your project. Depending on your particular research interest, some sites will obviously be more relevant than others. To optimize the efforts of your web search, each site has been described so that you might judge its usefulness in advance. As you proceed with your World Wide Web search, document your progress (both successes and failures) using the Web Site Trail sheet.



Snacks: Sound



The Exploratorium museum is an excellent site with a wealth of interactive information on a variety of topics. This link will allow you to browse an index of the variety of areas which are included in the museum. A few topical areas in the museum include "Sound and Hearing" and "Waves and Resonance." Clicking on one of the areas will allow you to view a list of exhibits in that area. And clicking on one of the exhibits will allow you to view information about that exhibit accompanied by a graphic and an explanation. Very useful and highly recommended.



Snacks: Sound



The Exploratorium museum is an excellent site with a wealth of interactive information on a variety of topics. The Exploratorium publishes a book known as the Science Snackbook. The book contains a variety of ideas for build-it-yourself experiments for science enthusiasts. Some of these experiments are available on-line. This link will allow you to browse some of these Snackbook ideas.


Why do Sounds Sound

the Way They Do?



This is an actual paper written by a student at Southern Methodist University. The paper is based on an experimental/literature study of the comparison of a trumpet to a trombone to a tuba. A purpose, equipment list, procedure, data, calculation. discussion of results, conclusion and bibliography section are included in the paper. (Does this sound familiar??) With the exception that we expect you to collect more data than was collected in this study, you might consider this paper to be an exemplar for your own Physics 163 musical instrument project. The introduction to the paper is actually at another page at this same site.


Harmony Central


This commercial web site lists a wealth of information about the physics of music. This particular page is titled "Understanding Harmonics" and is packed with a discussion of the physics of guitar strings. Familiar terms which you will encounter on the page include pitch, natural frequencies, the harmonic series, nodes, anti-nodes, fundamental frequency, etc. An awesome resource site for your project.


High School Physics

Program in



The province of Saskatchewan in Canada publishes a syllabus and on-line curriculum guide for their high school physics program. The Physics 20 course discusses many of the topics which we discuss in our second semester of Physics 163. The material is very easy to understand, colorful, and well-writtten. This table of contents page includes links to a wealth of information on waves, light, sound, hearing, harmonics, and resonance. You should find this to be a very useful site.


GM Arts Home Page


This site includes a complete discussion of harmonics, timbre, tone color and their applications to electric guitars. Charts of the frequency composition for a single note played on the guitar are included and discussed. Waveforms for the various harmonics of a guitar string are shown. Explanations of how an electric guitar pickup is able to reproduce the sound generated by the guitar string is discussed. Further information on relevant topics are available from links at the end of this page. The author is a musician (not a scientist) with a science interest. At one time his science writing contained some errors; those errors appear to have since been changed, making the site a very worthwhile experience.




This page is an actual lab report produced by some students in an integrated science course at Northwestern University. The report discusses the differences between music and noise, a dsicussion of the question "What makes music sound musical?", an explanation of the mathematics of music, a comparison of musical harmonics to planetary harmonics, etc.


Acoustic Society

of America

The ASA is the premier scientific society dedicated to increasing and diffusing the knowledge of acoustics and its practical applications. Their web page contains both information and links. Useful information at this site includes lengthy and informative pages on the topics of "wave theory of sound," careers in acoustics, and an entire section called "Lay Language Papers" (which you must visit). The site also contains several excellent whale sounds which can be listened to online.


Giltronics Corporation


Giltronics is a manufacturer of music amplifiers. This page contains a wealth of information on the topic of timbre or tone color. The page discusses the importance of harmonics to the beauty of a musical sound; and as such, has direct relevance to your project. The effect of different harmonics accompanying the fundamental note is discusses; the relationship between these harmonics and the quality of the subsequent sound is explained. While this page is useful, other pages at the site might not be worth the time.


Bill Nye Labs: Sound


Bill Nye ("the science guy") provides a wealth of information about a variety of scientific topics. Use this site to find information on sound and music. The information includes home experiments and links to sites associated with sound and music. This could be a very useful site.


University of Indiana

Physics 105


The first year physics course at University of Indiana devotes an entire section of the course to a discusssion of the physics of music. There are a wealth of pages posted on the web about the topic. This page discusses harmonics, the harmonic series, interference of waves, etc. Other pages (which might even be more useful) are found at the same site and can be accessed from a good search engine such as with the key words "harmonics AND timbre" or "sound AND resonance" (as mere examples).


The Voice Center


This web site is operated by the Eastern Virginia Medical School and isdevoted to describing disorders of the voice and larynx. In addition to a discussion of the disorders of the larynx, the site discusses the mechanism by which the larynx produces sound. Vocal fold vibrations and articulation are explained. New this year (1998) is a section on the topic of "Voice Science." If this is an area of interest for you, then it is an excellent site.



Exhibit: Voice



Live from the Exploratorium Museum. Everything you always wanted to know (and probably more) about how the vocal tract creates its various sounds. This page represents one of the museum's actual exhibits. If interested in the topic, it might trigger some ideas of some experiments you might be able to pursue. Includes downloadable images and sounds.


Fractal Music



This site gives references to music and chaos research. Some of it may be relevant to your project if you are interested in fractals, chaos, or synthetic music. You can also find links to other physics sites here.


An Archive of Files


The AUDITORY listserve is a mailing list for researchers interested in the topics of sound, music, and auditory perception. This page provides access to the individual messages posted to the list over the past few years (since its creation, but not all the postings prior to 1993 have been retained). Many of the letters may be more technical than you wish; for sure, there will be a good deal of science involved. Searching for the information may be tedious; nonetheless, you will find it here.


Physics Demonstrations


You may remember Professor Sprout from the Science Bag video ("The Physics of Musical Instruments") which was shown in class. This home page is a list of his many demonstrations with explanations of safety considerations. The section on sound should be of some use to you in figuring you what types of equipment will be of use to you in making various measurements.


Auditory Perception:



This site offers a multimedia presentation of selected topics in Auditory Perception, including auditory demonstrations, discussion and experiments in perception. Interesting and fun demonstrations which illustrate principles about the way we understand the sound/music world around us are presented and explained.


Index for Cycles

in the Universe


I have to admit my ignorance in that I do not know who Ray Tomes is. But one thing is for sure: Ray is sure into harmonics in a big way. On this page, you will find links to everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about the topic of harmonics. Of particular interest to your project, you might want to try the links to "Resonance", "Birth of the Harmonics Theory" and "Harmony in Music.


Music 101


This page is part of a lengthy tutorial on the mechanics of guitar playing. Not all the pages at the site pertain to the science of this topic. Though, this page discusses harmonics for guitar strings and how beats are used to tune a guitar.If you're pursuing a study of the guitar, then this site is a must.


Dan Russell's Links


I have never met Dan; yet there is one thing that I know about Dan - he is really into Acoustics. Dan is a professor of acoustics at Ketterling University in Michigan. And given that fact, this is an excellent site to visit in order to link to sites on the Web which provide information about acoustics. You will find loads of links to useful sites as well as specific information and content concerning the physics of waves, sound and light. To access the content (as opposed to the links), link back to Dr. Russell's home page and then click on the Vibration and Waves Demos and Animations. Once there, you are guaranteed to find useable information. Enjoy!


Cochlear Mechanics


Heres a small and developing site devoted to explaining the mechanics of hearing. The mechanisms by which the inner ear separates the frequency components of complex sounds is explained in detail.



Course Notes

~mu_s454/ godric/


This is likely the best site on the Web for basic background information on the topic of the physics of sound. The information is understandable and at the appropriate level for a first-year high school physics student. The emphasis on attractive and informative graphics makes the site visually appealing. Topics are well-organized and accompanied by a glossary of terms. Finally, the site targets many of the essential background research of which you should be familiar with.


Acoustics FAQ


WOW! Here's a lengthy lists of questions (many of which are the very ones which you should be answering) with accompanying responses. The information is technical in nature and pertains to both basic acoustic concepts and a variety of applications. You'd be foolish to ignore this site.



Pilot Project


This site provides an online tutorial on acoustics and the perception of sound. There is a wealth of information (mostly textual in nature) on the physics of sound and hearing.


Njmegen Institute

for Cognition

and Information

This site describes the research of the Music, Mind, Machine group. This project is about the computational modeling of music cognition with an emphasis on the temporal aspects of music perception and music performance such as rhythm, timing and tempo. The site contains papers with sound examples, Quicktime animations, and other material.


Nick Drozdoff's

Home Page


Nick Drozdoff is a physics teacher at Newt Trier High School and formerly an engineer and a musician. Subsequently, this site is an excellent site which excels both from its physics and its music expertise. The information is accurate and easy to understand. Most of the physics-related information pertains to air column instruments.


Physics and


of Music


This is an excellent site providing background information about waves and sound and proceeding to a discussion of the phyiscs and psychology of music. The information is well-organized and relevant to the subject of your research project.


Musical Instruments



There are a variety of lessons at this web site, most of which pertain to the geographical, cultural, and material aspects of musical instruments. You may not find much information pertaining to the physics of musical instruments. Nonetheless, the site offers the option of searching a vast array of instruments according to the materials which they are made of. The materials used in the construction of the instrument is described. Perhaps this will trigger ideas on how you might be able to use everyday household materials to construct a home-made musical instrument.

Return to:

The Physics of Musical Instruments Project

Project Home Page

Music Project

Musics Links

Basic Research Qs

Collabor'n Ideas

The Lab Report

Project Pitfalls

Scoring Rubrics

Project Timeline

Other GBS Resources

GBS Physics Page

Physics 163 Page

Physics Projects Home Page

The Refrigerator

The Physics Classroom

Multimedia Physics Studios

The GBS Physics staff invite you to send electronic mail:

Tom Henderson

Howard Jenewein

John Lewis

Neil Schmidgall

Dave Smith

Suzanne Webb

Brian Wegley

Questions and comments can be sent to Tom Henderson.

This page last updated on 4/14/98.