The mathematics and science of sound is truly one of the most underrated mysteries of all time. We are often consumed by that sharp electric guitar solo or crooning of our favorite artist's heartfelt lyrics, but what about the nitty gritty of what's really behind the way we interpret the sound around us? There's much to explore. Let's dive in.
We’re all familiar with the notable and often quotable Wikipedia, who takes on the role as physics teacher for this lesson, stating “In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. In human physiology and psychology, sound is the reception of such waves and their perception by the brain.” Enter the concept of the sound wave. A sound wave is actually “a wave of compression and rarefaction, by which sound is propagated in an elastic medium such as air.” Yes, our heads are already hurting too. Perhaps this is why so many of us choose to stick to the magical aspects of music and are more comfortable leaving these scientific stones unturned, as it’s incredibly hard to imagine these theories in actuality, due to the fact that unless we have specific technology, it’s quite difficult to see these soundwaves in action.
If one would like to do a bit of a test to see sound in action in the physical world, you can take an amplifier into consideration. Much like how you can see heat waves move on a hot day through the hazy air, one can witness a bit of the physical manifestation of sound when a piece of paper, for example, is placed in front of something that is expected to boom when reproducing sound that it’s connected to, such as an amplifier. However, much of sound is mostly theory and we trust that this all makes sense, but we can rest easy, because it does indeed all checkout.
When exploring the deeper aspects of the vibrations within sound, one of our favorites and seemingly most interesting is what differentiates between a pitch. Did you know that the variance in pitch is actually dependent on the frequency of the soundwave? Us neither. How Music Works helps us out with breaking it down a bit with “Frequency and pitch describe the same thing, but from different viewpoints. While frequency measures the cycle rate of the physical waveform, pitch is how high or low it sounds when you hear it. This is directly related to frequency: the higher the frequency of a waveform, the higher the pitch of the sound you hear.” This is slightly mind blowing while also making a whole lot of sense, as the lower the pitch does seem to have a heaviness to it, while in actuality it is indeed traveling slower, at a slower rate of frequency.
There is truly an art to even the science of the way sound travels and this is one that is not to be underestimated or overlooked, as many of us are guilty of taking the beauty of it for granted. That feeling of chills when a powerful chord is struck or the tears that erupt from you when a beautiful chorus sings in harmony, these are the vibrations of sound hard at work. Be sure to join us in the coming lessons where we'll dive deeper into the magic behind the music.