Physics of musical instruments

2002 Words9 Pages
Physics is all around us, and yet we always overlook it. We see, hear or feel something happen but never stop to question why. Physics will tell us why. Music plays a part in everyone's lives. So much so that it is often overlooked and the technicalities of it are unappreciated. Sure there are times when we listen carefully to the music behind the songs we hear, we may focus on the rhythm or the harmonies, but we never think of what it took to make the sounds that we are hearing. In this paper, I will explain the physics musical instruments. I will describe and define sound in psychics terms and then describe how different instruments create their unique sounds.

There are so many different kinds of music, and thanks to the variety of instruments the combinations of sounds that we can make are limitless. Before we look at musical instruments we have to look at music itself. We need to know what it is made of and learn some basic terms.

In physics, music is essentially a form of energy and is transferred by a wave. There are two basic kinds of waves. The first is a transverse wave where the medium vibrates at a right angle up and down causing the wave to move to the right. A compressional wave (or longitudinal wave) moves to the right and left because the medium vibrates in the same direction. Sound waves take the form of compressional waves and are caused by vibrations. Sound waves are distinguished by their speed, pitch, loudness and quality (timbre) (Lapp, 2003).

There are a few parts of sounds waves that we should be familiar with to better be able to understand the physics of music. The crest is the highest point of a wave, while the trough is the lowest. The wavelength of a wave is the distance between two adjacent ...

... middle of paper ...

...s of physics makes it so much more awe-striking.


Fletcher, N. Martin, D. and Smith, J. (2008) Musical instruments, in AccessScience, ©McGraw- Hill Companies, Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

Henderson, T. (2011). Musical Instruments- Resonance. The Physics Classroom. Retrieved November 25, 2011, from

Hollis, B. (2011) How Brass Instruments Work. The Method Behind the Music. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

Lapp, D. (2003). The Physics of Music and Musical Instruments. Physics. Retrieved November 25, 2011, from

Tillery, B. (2012). Wave Motions and Sound. Physical science (9th ed., pp. 115-134). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

More about Physics of musical instruments

Open Document