Schottenbauer Publishing

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Easy Science of Music Experiment

With the assistance of a computer, microphone, and free program download, anyone with a musical instrument can explore the science of music! Even with a plastic soprano recorder costing $5 or less at a local music store, students can gather meaningful data for a school project or summer academic enrichment activity. Simply follow the steps below, to begin to collect and analyze data.

Science of Music Activity

  1. Download Audacity, a free internet program for recording and mixing sound.
  2. Open the program, and use a microphone and a musical instrument or voice to record a few notes. You may also record music with other software, and then open the file in Audacity for editing. It may be necessary to convert the file first to a format read by Audacity. Converting files is easy with a program such as DVDVideoSoft's Free Audio Converter.
  3. Explore the sound wave, using the zoom function (magnifying glass icon). What does the wave look like?
  4. Use these steps to compare several sound waves. Try comparing different notes or different instruments. Or, try comparing an instrument to voice.

Example: Flute Solo

The following flute solo was recorded and opened in Audacity.

Using the zoom function several times provides more detail, but the sine waves are still obscured.

Further use of the zoom function reveals the sine wave.

Individuals interested in comparing the sound waves of musical instruments may benefit from the following publications from Schottenbauer Publishing, which, as a group, contain samples from typical Western strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments, plus voice and conducting:

Other science of music publications from the same publisher include:

These educational tools can be integrated into music education curricula from late elementary school through high school and college/university. Additional information is available on the Schottenbauer Publishing website, and from the links below. A free pamphlet from the publisher is also available on the website.

Additional Information