Sound Science– Is the science of sound, a sound science? That is a bit of a complicated question. Rather than providing a straightforward yes or no answer let’s learn a little more about what sound is. First, let’s define sound? Sound is the concept of vibrations traveling through air that reach the ear of a human or animal and in then interpreted by the brain.
Pitch and Frequency
We are now going to focus on the concepts of pitch and frequency. There are several different types of waves that exist in the world. There are sound waves, light waves and there are even waves in the ocean. Sound waves, in the air, travel much faster than they do in the ocean. The frequency of these waves determines it’s pitch. The higher the frequency the higher the pitch. The lower the frequency the lower the pitch. Since sound waves travel faster through the air, people tend to hear pitches higher in the air than if they were listening to sounds that were traveling through water.
If we were to play the middle “A” on a piano we would hear “A” 440 HZ. What that means is that when the “A” was struck on the piano the “A” sound was created in which 440 measured vibrations occurred in the air per minute. It would be safe to assume that if I was to strike a higher note on the piano than the A 440 Hz then the frequency and pitch would both go up. For example, if I were to play the “A” an octave above “A” 440, it would have a frequency of 880 Hertz. In addition, if I were to play the “A” below 440 Hz on the piano it would have a frequency of 220 Hertz.
The human ear can hear sounds approximately 20 Hertz to about 20,000 Hertz give or take 100. Typically over someone’s lifetime, people tend to lose hearing in some of the higher frequency ranges. Some animals can also hear frequencies much higher than humans. An example of this is when dogs can hear high-pitched whistles.
Next, we’re going to talk about amplitude. Amplitude is how loud or soft a sound is. Be careful not to confuse amplitude with frequency. Amplitude affects sound which means it is carried and measured in a waveform.
For example, if we played “A” 440 Hertz on the piano we are using the frequency of 440 cycles per minute. “A” 440 Hz can have a high amplitude or a low amplitude and still use the same speed of cycles per minute. The speed of the frequency would be the same because it’s measurements of cycles per minutes relate to the speed of the frequency rather than the size of its peaks and troughs. A low amplitude would have a more flatline wave and sound softer. In contrast. a high amplitude wave would have higher Peaks and lower troughs and sound louder.
“A” 440 Hz would still include 440 cycles per minute, however, would look different. If you were visualizing the waveform, high amplitude waves would possess high peaks and low troughs whereas low amplitude waveforms would have small peaks and small troughs.
Sound can be as complex or as simple as you want to define it. Hopefully, you have a slightly better understanding of some of the basic components of sound and you can appreciate the science of sound.