Glenbrook South Year-End Projects

The Physics of Musical Instruments

Project Information Sheet


The Physics of Musical Instruments project involves the analysis of the tonal quality (or frequency composition) for the notes played by a musical instrument and a comparison of the tonal quality of several musical instruments. Additionally, a simple musical instrument will be constructed from available household items and its tonal quality (or frequency composition) will be analyzed and perfected.


By the end of this project, you should be able to:


Your teacher will provide:


The student is responsible for:


Some KEYWORDS to use in a literature search:


Musical acoustics

Vibrational systems

Vibrational modes

Mel scale

Musical pitch scale


Tone quality

Tone color

Spectral composition

Complex tones



Harmonic series

Natural resonance frequencies

Fundamental frequency

Chladni's law

Chladni plates

Holographic interferometry

Fourier analysis

Pitch perception

Gestalt theory of pitch perception

Psychophysics of music

Perception of musical tones



Sound box

Harmonic analyzer


Internet Resources

Collaboration Ideas


IMC RESOURCES (placed on reserve):


General Information:

How the World Works

500 REN

Experimenting with Science

507.8 GAR

Foundations of Modern Physics

530 HOL

How Things Work

530 CRA

Physics Projects for young...

530 GOO

Adventures in Physics

530 HIG

A Source Book in Physics

530 M

The Story of Physics

530 MOT

The Project Physics course

530 RUT

Phenomenal Physics

530 SWA

The complete Guide to...

797.1 EVA


Detailed Information about your specific topic:

How Things Work

530 CRA

The Science of Musical Sound

781 PIE

The Rock Synthesizer Manual

789.9 YEL

The Liberation of Sound

798.9 RUS


Other IMC RESOURCES (not placed on reserve)

Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedias

R503 VAN

Science and physics encyclopedias and reference materials

CD-ROMs (particularly the "Musical Instruments" and "How Things Work" CD-ROMs)


The folder (mentioned above) will be a very useful resource for technical information. The Internet contains much info about both musical instruments and the perception of musical tones. The encyclopedias, reference materials, both CD-ROMS are very useful. The "Musical Instruments" CD-ROM is useful and should be used; however, the quantity of technical information contained on it is slim. Quickly determine what is meant by tonal quality or frequency composition and how it can be analyzed using the ULI, microphone, and computer. Failure to do so will likely result in a miserable grade.

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 2/22/98.