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Using Sound And Music In Technology

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.619.1 - 3.619.5

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Gerard N. Foster

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1547

Using Sound and Music in Technology Gerard N. Foster Purdue University - School of Technology at Kokomo

Introduction This paper presents work aimed at adding the aspect of sound, and music, to technical demonstrations, presentations and projects. The focus of this work is to explore the mathematics and technology of sound at a basic level, to create a background for later experimentation. To enhance the apparent relevance of technology to everyday concerns, the human voice and musical instruments are employed as sources of sound. It is postulated that by stirring the senses, the imaginations and motivations of students and teachers can be aroused. In its basic form, the vehicle for exploring sound can be the simple transduction of sound with a simple electret microphone procured from Radio Shack and the display of the resulting waveform on an oscilloscope. There are a myriad of more complex applications for sound including all sorts of analog and digital processing. On the path to these explorations, the author and students became involved in the production of musical instruments from ordinary soda straws and ten-foot PVC pipes.

Background One of the set of standard projects at the end of our introduction to microprocessors course is the programming of a music box that relies on creating data tables for the generation of various notes of the scale. This project also requires hardware to filter the squarewaves and to amplify and transduce them to sound waves. Knowing what the actual frequencies of the notes are is essential to developing such a project. While essential to this project, this knowledge may never be elucidated by either music teachers or physics teachers. The following discourse is a brief coverage linking the musical and the physical. In discussing the broad aspects of music and especially harmony and discord we are "dealing with subjects which lie partly within the province of science and partly within that of art, and the boundaries between the two provinces is not always perfectly clear." (Jeans, p. 152)

The ambiguities between art and science are immediately evident when we consider the frequencies of the notes in the diatonic and chromatic scales of western music. Musical instruments were played in the ancient world. Frequency relationships can be inferred from a knowledge of the lengths the strings of a lyre or of a pipe from ancient artifacts. The earliest musical knowledge was that of the octave. A note that has a frequency that is twice as great as another note is said to be an octave higher. Successive do's on a scale are an octave apart. If the lower note is called the fundamental, then the higher note is called the second harmonic. Let's assign the note signature C and C' to these notes in this discussion. The sounding of these two notes together has a pleasurable appeal to humans and they are said to be in consonance or in harmony with one another. The third harmonic is a frequency three times that of the fundamental C. It, too, sounds harmonic when sounded with the other two notes. Jumping one octave lower than the third harmonic, we derive a note in between C and C' that is our present day G.

Foster, G. N. (1998, June), Using Sound And Music In Technology Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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