Acoustics in Music

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Acoustics in Music

Through out the history of music, acoustics have played a major role. After all if it were not for acoustics the quality of sound that we know today would not exist. The word acoustics comes from the Greek word akouein, which means, “to hear”(Encarta Encyclopedia). Since music has to be heard in most cases for enjoyment, acoustics obviously take on a very important role in the pleasure that music brings to the ear. Acoustical architecture and design are two key elements in the way music sounds. For example, an electric guitar played in a concert hall would sound very different compared to the sound produced in a small room. These differences can be explained by the acoustical design of the room and the reverb created by both the instrument and the room in which it is played. These differences signify the importance of acoustics in music.

A Roman architect named Marcus Pollio, who lived in the first century BC, was the first to study the acoustics of buildings. “He made some pertinent observations on the subject and some astute guesses concerning reverberation and interference”(Encarta). Reverberation and interference are two of the more important aspects of acoustical architecture. Both deal with the sound waves music or instruments make. By understanding reverberation, which is the echoing of sound waves, early architects could better construct buildings and auditoriums that would produce better acoustics. An architect has two types of material he can use to modify a building to deal with reverberation and the quality of sound. In many buildings such as meeting halls and auditoriums where echoes are not wanted, absorption materials such as cork and felt are used to absorb reverberations. On the other hand, in buildings such as concert halls and opera houses where reverberation is important reflecting material is used. Materials such as metal and most stones can be use to reflect sound waves to the audience. With these materials an architect can modify the way sound travels in his building.

Another aspect of acoustics that architects and conductors most take into consideration are the number of people seated in the audience.
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