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Waves and Sounds - Honors Physics: Great Resources

Resources to guide research for 3/2014 Take Home Assignment in Ms. Ormond's Honors Physics class.

Physics Flash Animation

These animations were written by David M. Harrison, Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Toronto , david.harrison AT They are Copyright © 2002 - 2011 David M. Harrison. Many thanks, Dr. Harrison!

Scroll through the list to find examples of beat, harmonic motion, Bell's Theorem, temperment, and so much more.

Physics Flash Animation

Music Acoustics

From Joe Wolfe, Department of Physics, University of New South Wales.

Music Acoustics

Fourier Series

This is done with a different program. Download this applet and run it on your computer. Be sure a microphone is connected to the input of your computer.

  • Sing a steady tone into the microphone, for instance a tone like “aah” in father. Watch the signal in the upper half of the screen and the Fourier spectrum of the tone in the lower half. Since it is hard to sustain the sound for the length of time needed to measure the spectrum, you can make use of another feature of the software. By clicking anywhere in the Fourier analysis window, you can freeze or release the waveform and frequency spectrum. You can then make measurements at your own pace. You may have to right-click (ctrl-click with one button mice) to bring up a popup menu in order to zoom in on the chosen part of the Fourier spectrum to analyze the data. Using the cursor, try to figure out the fundamental frequency of your voice. (Note: The fundamental is not always the first peak in the Fourier spectrum, nor is it always the highest! The oral cavity might amplify some overtones more than it does the fundamental. The fundamental frequency is determined by the rate of oscillations in your vocal cords, but only those overtones that are amplified by the oral cavity produce audible sound. Therefore, use the fact that if the harmonics are all multiple of the fundamental, they have to be equally spaced, with the spacing in frequency between them being equal to the fundamental! Remember, we use vocal cords, that is vocal strings, to produce sound.)
  • A frequency range amplified by your oral cavity is called a “formant.” In what frequency range is your formant when you sing “aah?”
  • Change the pitch of the “aah” an observe the change in the Fourier spectrum. Does the fundamental frequency change? Does the formant region change? To more easily observe the difference between two spectra, you can choose to save a waveform from the popup menu.
  • A more elaborate study of your voice, such as the analysis of different vowels, like “eeh” or “ooh,” can be used to find out what patterns of overtones makes one vowel different from another.

Sonic Visualizers

Sonic Visualization

Citations: If you are using Sonic Visualiser in research work for publication, please cite (pdf | bib) Chris Cannam, Christian Landone, and Mark Sandler, Sonic Visualiser: An Open Source Application for Viewing, Analysing, and Annotating Music Audio Files, in Proceedings of the ACM Multimedia 2010 International Conference.

How do woodwinds work?

From Joe Wolfe, Department of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia