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.

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The piano strings on my Yamaha piano.

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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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