Sample chapters

This page contains sample chapters from the book The Science of Music by Mark Newman. You're welcome to download these chapters, print them out, use them in class, or just read them for yourself. Comments and questions are welcome.

Chapter 1: Sound – An introduction to the nature and properties of sound, air pressure, pressure waves, the speed of sound, sound production, and sound waveforms.

Chapter 2: Frequency and pitch – This chapter explains the role of sound frequency in determining the pitch we hear and its relationship to musical notes and scales. Topics include frequency and wavelength of sound, musical intervals and scales, and equal temperament and other tuning systems.

Chapter 3: Amplitude and loudness – This chapter explains how the amplitude of sound waves determines the loudness of the sound we hear. Topics include sound energy and intensity, the decibel loudness scale, variation of loudness with distance, obstruction of sound, and apparent loudness.

Chapter 7: Sound recording and reproduction – Most of the music we hear today is recorded. This chapter introduces the science behind sound recording. After an introduction to electricity and its use to represent sound waves, we explain the principles behind the three pillars of sound recording and reproduction: microphones to capture the sound and turn it into electrical signals, recording technologies for storing those signals, and loudspeakers and earphones that turn them back into sound again.

Chapter 9: Acoustic musical instruments – An introduction to the principles behind acoustic musical instruments. All acoustic instruments make use of some kind of mechanical vibration, as from a vibrating string or drum head, which is then turned into vibrations of the air in some manner. This chapter introduces the physics of vibration and describes the various types found in common musical instruments. Each class of musical instrument will be discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters.

Other chapters cover a range of topics, including musical timbre and harmonic analysis, the workings of the human ear, architectural acoustics, digital sound technology, and the science behind many specific musical instruments such as string, wind, and brass instruments, the human voice, pitched and unpitched percussion, the electric guitar, and the various types of synthesizers.