The aim of this essay is to discuss what sound is. Based on my research I will be discussing what sound is, the physical and perceptual properties of sound, how sound is produced and how sound is measured. Sound is a crucial part of our everyday lives. Living in a world without sound is almost unimaginable. The organ of the body responsible for the perception of sound in the ears. A sound is a form of energy. According to Rumsey and McCormick 2005 sound is a vibrating source produced when an object vibrates and causes the air around it to move. Sound waves can travel through compressible mediums such as water air and solids. As sound moves from molecule to molecule it spreads out in all directions. The further the sound waves the weaker the sound. When sound bounces it is called an echo. According to Ellinger 2014, there are six basic physical properties of sound. These include frequency which can also be referred to as pitch amplitude or loudness spectrum or timbre location duration and envelope. Pitch is the highness or lowness of a tone or voice. Ballora 2006 lets us know that pitch and frequency are related even though they are not equivalent. When one changes the other will change in the same direction. According to Mott 2014 frequencies are grouped as low bass sound in the low-end area mid sound in the midrange and high treble sound in the high-end area.
The low frequencies give the sound warmth and make it sound powerful. The mid frequencies give the sound energy while the high frequencies give the sound presence. Loudness is the level of a sound. Loudness can be different for everyone. If a listener has lost some sensitivity in a critical band they will hear any signal in that band at a lower level in comparison to someone with good hearing according to Ballou 2015 Mott 2014 lets us know that the loudness of a sound is determined by the intensity of the sound. Timbre is the color of music and it is one of the basic elements of music according to Schmidt Jones. Timbre helps distinguish the difference between two instruments that are playing the same note at the same time. For example, if a piano and a guitar are playing the same note at the same time, timbre helps us tell the difference between the two. According to Wolfe if you change a sound without changing its pitch or loudness you are changing its timbre.
The size of the different spectra components determines the timbre Wolfe lets us know that a sound spectrum shows the different frequencies in a sound. A sound spectrum is presented as a graph of either power or pressure as a function frequency. The power is measured in decibels dB and the frequency is measured in hertz Hz, which is vibrations per second. We are made aware that sound spectra are measured by microphones that measure the sound pressure of a period of time in intervals, an analog-digital converter that converts this to a sequence of numbers as a function of time, which represents the microphones voltage and a computer which calculates these numbers. The envelope of sound is made of attack decay sustain and release. According to Mott 2014 attack is the way a sound starts off. There is fast attack and slow attack. Examples of fast attacks are door slamming and slap. Examples of slow attacks are a thunderclap and a door closing slowly. Thelen 2013 lets us know that decay sets a duration and it shows the length of time it takes to drop to the sustain level when it reaches the initial peak of the attack. Sustain doesn’t represent time. It is a level of amplitude the signal stays on for as long as a key is held down in relation to a keyboard. Release shows a change over time. As soon as a key on the keyboard has been released the release phase begins.
Thelen 2013 tells us that the release parameter decides how long it takes for the sound to fully fade out from the sustain level. According to Howard and Angus 2009 psychoacoustics is how humans perceive sound. Our ears are the organs that allow us to perceive sound. The hearing system consists of three sections the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Howard and Angus 2009 tell us that the outer ear consists of the pinna the concha and the eardrum. The outer ear helps us locate sounds as well as enhance certain frequencies. The pinna and the concha help with sound localization. The pinna and the concha work together to help us determine whether a sound is coming from behind or in front. The tympanic membrane also known as the eardrum is an elastic thin layer of tissue between the outer ear and middle ear One of the functions of the middle ear according to Howard and Angus 2009 is to give the hearing system some protection from loud sounds. This happens when two muscles in the middle ear the tensor tympani and the stapedius muscle contract automatically in reaction to sounds greater than 75dB. These muscles also have the ability to increase the impedance of the middle ear by hardening the ossicular chain. Howard and Angus 2009 make us aware that the inner ear consists of the cochlea Its function is to convert vibrations into nerve impulses which is then translated by the brain. The basilar membrane analyses the frequency of input sounds. The basilar membrane vibrates in reaction to stimulation caused by signals in the audio frequency range.
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