University of Vermont

UVM Course Directory

PHYS 044 – The Physics of Music

Credits: 3.00

Course Description: Basic physical principles underlying the production, transmission and perception of musical sound. Vibrations, waves, elementary acoustics with applications to a wide range of musical topics. Prerequisite: High school algebra.

Section Description: Music is a special and wonderful manifestation of sound. In this course we will investigate the nature of musical sound from a physicist's perspective. We will start by learning the language and concepts that physicists use to describe vibrations, waves and sound. This language describes how sound is created, how it moves and how it is perceived by the human ear. We can use this language as a basis for discussion about music and musical instruments and to answer questions such as: How do we hear sound? What is the difference between music (pleasant sounds) and noise (unpleasant sounds)? What makes the sound of different musical instruments distinct from each other? Once we have mastered the basic concepts, we will look at the acoustic characteristics of wide variety of musical instruments, including bells, viols, reeds, drums, human voices, and organ pipes, to see how these instruments work and to see what makes each of their musical tones distinctive and unique. We will also touch on the acoustic properties of concert halls and auditoriums, to identify the characteristics of a good room as opposed to a bad one.

CRN: 95822

Section: A

Enrolled/Seats: 21/50

Days Time Location
MW 15:30 - 16:45 VOTEY BLDG 307

Instructor(s): Malcolm Sanders

Meeting Dates: 26 Aug 2019 - 06 Dec 2019