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The Explanation of Sound


Everyday we hear and make sounds but have you ever wondered What is sound ?

Sound is made through vibrations in the particles of air (Oxygen, Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide)
and is created when the particles in air are disturbed travels in all directions and we call this
omnidirectional. Sound has a mixture of High and Low air pressures, The High air pressure is
called Compression and the low known as Rarefaction.
It can be defined by describing some of the elements such as Pitch, Dynamic, Timbre and
The Pitch of sound is
also known as
Frequency and is
measured as the
distance between the
sound wave itself. The
distance between the
sound waves determine
whether the sound is a
High or Low frequency.
This is different in every
sound for an example;
when the pitch of a
sound is High the
distance between the
waves are very short
and close together as
shown to the right. So
when a Low sound is
produced the distance
between the waves are
very long and spaced
out. The reason for
these different
frequencies is through
the speed of the
vibrations that caused
the sound. This can be
seen when tuning a
stringed instrument
such as guitar. When a
string is loosened the
tuning of the string is a
lower note and when
tightened the note is
higher. This allows
musicians to have a
different range of notes
on every string.

Most people can recognise different


sounds and instruments this is because
each one has its own different timbre.
Timbre is a French word which is used
to explain how a sound actually sounds
such as a Piano has a sharp Attack
and the sound will end shortly after.
Where as a string instrument or an
organ can hold its sound for as long as
they want too.
However the timbre can change on the
same instrument due to different ways
of playing, strings can be plucked or
played with a bow which both sound
extremely different. The Velocity can
also effect the sound it could be a
sharp sudden sound or it could be a
soft gradual sound.

The Dynamics of sound is how loud


or quiet it is and is also known as
Amplitude. We measure sound in
Decibels, when a sound is loud the
waves height is tall and when the
sound is softer the waves height is
shorter. There is also the Dynamic
Range which is the difference
between the softest and loudest
sounds in an audio signal and the
range a device can handle.
Below are some example of the
different types of dynamic range:
The dynamic range of digital audio at
16 bit is 96dB
Magnetic tape is around 60 to 70dB.
AM Radio 40dB
FM Radio 70dB
Now as music has changed whether
it be the style itself or the recording
techniques we use, they all have
different effects on the dynamic
range. Classical music is written to
have an exaggerated feel and has a
wide dynamic range. This shows
when a piece goes from quiet to
extremely loud suddenly. Where as
modern music is very compressed
and with use of dynamic processors
the range can become small. How
ever some processors such as Gates
can increase the dynamic range of an
audio signal.

The Envelope (articulation) shows how a sound changes its amplitude. It is broken up in to four
sections,
Attack - This is the first part of the sound and how long it takes from the sound being made till it
reaches its full amplitude. An instrument with a short/ quick attack would be Kick or Snare drum,
were as a wind instruments can have a fairly gradual attack to the sound.
Decay - The Decay of the sound is the length the sound takes to come down to the main middle
sound called the Sustain.
Sustain - The Sustain is where the sound has stabilised which can be extremely short if the
instrument is a drum with a short fast sound were as a cello could have a long sustain to its sound.
Release - The release is the closing of the sound and how long it takes from the end of the sustained
note till its silent level.

Having two ears allows us to sense the perception of the sound. Without the
ear we would not be able to hear. The Outer Ear known as the Pinna is
shaped to capture the direction of the sound once in through the auditory
canal, the sound then reaches the tympanic membrane also known as the
ear drum a thin membrane around 10mm wide. As the sound hits the ear
drum the Middle Ear uses the energy through the Ossicles ( Malleus, Incus
and Stapes ) making movement in the fluid of the Inner Ear. This is the
Cochlea, this has tiny fibres that pick up the correct frequency creating
energy. However the signal is from tiny hairs when the fibres resonate the
fairs begin to move and sends an electrical impulse out through the Auditory
Nerve into the brain. Some pitches will resonate in different locations and
sounds that are louder will move more hairs. The Brian uses the energy and
can register it so that we are aware of the sounds.