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Old 02-08-2018, 03:18 PM   #1
lumberjackpiper
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Default Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Hello all

I've been talking to a member of the physics department here at work (I work in the music department at a University) about helping to figure out the sound of drones, with the hopes of being able to quantify the drone sound mathematically.

Problem I'm having is translating the terms we use to describe tonal sounds into a more scientific language. We throw out terms like dark, bold, bright, mellow, blend, ring, buzzy, warm etc..... The question I have is this: is there a transfer between the more artistic terms we use to describe this audible sensation we as musicians use and a set of descriptors I could use to relay what those terms mean?
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Old 02-08-2018, 03:30 PM   #2
Pakeha
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Default Re: translating tonal characteristics to a non musician

If you look for the posts by Laap he made references to having acoustic analysis by some lab techs for some issues that went to legal hearing. The courts would not want a whole bunch of fluffy emotional terms so he would be able to tell you how the "sounds" were formally described for the formal records, I would think.
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Old 02-09-2018, 05:45 PM   #3
bwbees0
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Hello,

There may be some exchange of meaning in those terms to others outside the musical community. Your mileage may vary in that respect. My guess is that you are looking for something a bit more evolved than the math for the fundamental frequency of an "organ pipe". That said, physicists use math as the lingua franca of their community. They very well understand waveforms and all the bits associated with harmonics/distortion, filtering etc. that can come with any discussion of sound, electromagnetics, and other phenomena.

Your best bet may be to take some pipes over to the physics lab with a good microphone and hook the microphone up to a spectrum analyzer and an oscilloscope and just show the physicist what it looks like and then have a chat. A few audio files with your examples for warm, buzzy etc may help as well.

This should be an interesting journey. Keep us posted.

Ben
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Old 02-11-2018, 07:24 PM   #4
Dr D
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Interesting, indeed. That post is now over two years old. I hope there has been more since then. Anything to report?

(I'm a Physicist).
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Old 02-12-2018, 02:23 PM   #5
Pakeha
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Not sure about advertising being a Physicist, the profession got brutilised in an earlier thread but I do love physics, the core of our being.

The hearing details are closed because the Applicant withdrew and settled before the Commissioner handed down a decision.

All the terms like "dark, bold, bright, mellow, blend, ring, buzzy, warm etc....." were rejected as being subjective and of no quantifiable substance.

What was accepted is more simple than you would think, the overtone footprints.

The respondent was defending his work and because he agreed to settle and this included all costs, all the audio work became the property of the applicant and cannot be distributed.

I have asked for more details but will have to wait.

When I have discussed this with the Audio nerds they all seem to know exactly what happened even without specific details.

Instead of the "terms like dark, bold, bright, mellow, blend, ring, buzzy, warm etc.....", they used overtone numbers.

Does this make sense to you and if so, can you make some observations?
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Old 02-16-2018, 01:15 PM   #6
lumberjackpiper
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

So far, the best resource I've found is from an article for guitars.

https://blog.taylorguitars.com/buyer...u-need-to-know

Still need to figure out how to describe "buzzy" for drones, but it's a start
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Old 02-17-2018, 06:22 PM   #7
piper Q
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Frequency and Decibel readings are the physical and mathematical translations of how we describe the quality of sound the drones produce. I have two sets of GHB pipes made of different materials, ABW & Delrin/Poly, they both tune to the same frequency standard of 472 to 474 depending upon temperature, humidity, reeding, however the volume measured in decibels are quite different from the sets with the poly having a very bold dominant sound from the drones in comparison to the ABW set.

What we describe, can be measured, however, they way we use language to describe the sound can vary from individuals. and the looseness of which people use terms from various regions may not reflect adequately a specific aspect you want to describe.

You would need to have the measurements to precisely describe your individual sound pattern(s). As for myself, I have some midrange hearing loss. That means the way I hear the sounds of instruments is different from how others perceive the same tones. So my descriptors will vary form a person with undiminished hearing. I'll pay the same notes but they way the notes sound to me won't essentially correspond to how the next individual hears the same note.

I'm not tone deaf, but I do have a nice bucket to carry my tunes in.....
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Old 02-22-2018, 03:48 PM   #8
Peter.Bailey.Bagpiper
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Here's something an acquaintance once told me - stuff he remembered from Music Composition in college. Not sure if this is totally what you're after but might help

Quote:
Bagpipes are a double reed instrument, like the oboe, bassoon, English horn, etc. one of the peculiar things about the double reed family is that their unique sound is caused by the first overtone being louder than the fundamental.

Wait, lemme back up. Instrument sounds are combinations of many different notes, of different strengths. Our ears hear this as just one note, but it's actually many different notes; we can still sorta hear the other notes even though it all blends together, and that's why a trumpet sounds different than a flute.

For example, when a trumpet plays a A (440Hz), you're primarily hearing that A (the "fundamental"). But above it, there will also be notes above it (called "overtones", or "partials"): a faint A one octave higher (880Hz), and then an E above that, and then another A, then a C#, then another E, etc. If a flute plays the same A, you'll hear the same overtones, but they'll be much softer when compared to the fundamental. That's why it sounds like a flute--less pronounced overtones. A pure sine wave would have no overtones at all; just the fundamental.

Some instruments have weird "recipes". A clarinet, for example, is missing the first overtone entirely. Using the same example note as above, you'd hear the fundamental A (440Hz), but no A (880Hz) above it. You'd get the E above that, and then you'd hear another A above that, and so on.

But back to double reeds: as I understand it, part of the reason they tend to sound shrill and goofy is because unlike every other instrument, the fundamental is quieter than the first overtone. Using the same example note above, there would be a faint A (440Hz), and then a much louder A an octave higher (880Hz).
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:19 PM   #9
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: Translating tonal characteristics to a non-musician

Quote:
Originally Posted by lumberjackpiper View Post
Problem I'm having is translating the terms we use to describe tonal sounds into a more scientific language. We throw out terms like dark, bold, bright, mellow, blend, ring, buzzy, warm etc.....
I think the basic notion is more straightforward than those terms (in the order you listed them) makes it seem.

There's a continuum between fewer higher harmonics on one side, and more higher harmonics on the other side.

You'll hear tone having fewer higher harmonics variously called dull, round, tubby, dark, etc and tone with more higher harmonics called bright, ringing, nasal, buzzy, etc.

As you see some terms are pejorative and some are ameliorative. But what they're describing, the presence or lack of presence of higher harmonics, is measurable.

When I compare drone sound, say, comparing a number of different tenor drones by switching the same reed between them, I note the relative presence or lack of harmonics, the volume, and the pitch. All of these things are measurable.

What I find most interesting is how different sets of drones will support the various chanter notes to different degrees. Some drones come alive when the chanter plays B. Listening to a number of different drones, it seems to me (in my limited experience) that drones that strongly support D don't do much for F#, and visa versa.

One term that's inaccurately used by pipers all the time is "deep". They'll say a bass drone is "deeper" than another. Of course you can lengthen any drone and make it deeper.
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