The Physics of Music

I’m quite a musician myself, playing the piano, oboe, and ukulele. Sound (and music) is a longitudinal wave, which is why a medium is needed to propagate these sounds (ie your instrument) and a vibration can be felt in the air when you (or you orchestra) plays. The three factors that affect all musicians is amplitude (or volume), frequency/wavelength (your pitch), and the velocity (speed) of the air you blow. The three have a direct relationship, when pitch goes up, so does the speed and the volume, and vice versa. Instruments each create music through vibrations, a piano vibrates many strings, while woodwinds and brass vibrate the air column, while a percussionists strikes an instrument. Each instrument can play harmonics, which are the natural frequencies of a vibrating string, which is why a lower note has a thicker string attached, while a higher note has a thinner string attached. A lower note has greater mass, which means the velocity decreases based on the equation Velocity of string equals the square root of Fn divided by (mass/length). When the velocity is lowered, the wavelength is longer, so a lower sound can be produced.


The piano strings on my Yamaha piano.


My F. Loree oboe, the best oboes are made of grenadilla wood, because the wood matures as the player continues to play on it.


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