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The Physics of Musical Instruments Hardcover – Dec 31 1991


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Hardcover, Dec 31 1991

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"Essentially everything you have ever wanted to know about the physics of musical instruments" PHYSICS TODAY "a rigor, graphical detail, and verbal description." AUDIO --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Mechanical, acoustical, or electrical vibrations are the sources of sound in musical instruments. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
The best reference work under this title. Oct. 13 2005
By Edward A. Fagen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the long-awaited second edition of Fletcher & Rossing. Note first that it really is a reference work, not a teaching text. There is no lesson plan, no problems, no solutions manual, no accompanying workbook Except for the first two foundation sections on vibrating systems and sound waves, there is no ongoing development. Nothing builds. It's just one topic piled on another.

But the great merit of reference works is that you can cherry-pick, i.e. seek information on isolated topics with little concern for what preceded them. As a reference work, F&R get the highest possible marks from me. They are clearly the masters of this field, not least because of their numerous important contributions to it. With the possible exception of the works of Arthur Benade, they own the business.

Despite its enormous size and great depth of coverage, however, it is not an encyclopedic study of musical instruments. It is exactly what the title says: a work on the PHYSICS of musical instruments. A rigid boundary has been drawn between physics and every other aspect of music-making. In particular, psychoacoustics is totally ignored. There are no entries in the index under loudness, Fletcher-Munson, combination tones, false bass, consonance, dissonance, etc. Even equal temperament tuning gets little more than one page out of 756.

The Preface says the work is addressed to "the reader...who is not frightened by a little mathematics." Well, some of the math is "little" but some of it is not. See for example the use of Green's functions to find the air load on a vibrating membrane, pp. 588-590. Perhaps at MIT, where incoming freshman are sorted out by the do-or-die killer course in mathematical physics from Morse & Feshbach, these methods are taught to undergrads, but not at most other schools. Almost everywhere else this would be considered first-year graduate material. These pages would not only frighten the average reader; they frighten me. I always hated Green's functions and considered it part of my mission in life to prune them away wherever they grew.

There are a few typos, mislabeled equations and the like. The next-to-last sentence of text on p. 232 says, "This is an adquate approximation provided the sound wavelength is small compared to the transverse dimensions of the ducts and cavities involved." Surely "small" should read "large."

In sum, not for beginners, and probably not for most musicians either. But within its compass it reigns supreme. There is no better book in this field.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Hard-core book on the physics of musical instruments Feb. 16 2006
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a one-of-a-kind book on the physics of musical instruments. However, be aware that it is a book about physics ONLY. There are no hints or exercises on how to model musical instruments, nothing on acoustics or psychoacoustics, synthesis, etc. In other words, do not expect an expanded version of Perry Cook's book "Real Sound Synthesis for Interactive Applications". If you can deal with these expectations, then this is a worthwhile read for those interested in the pure physics of musical instruments who are willing to do the work of implementing the synthesis themselves, if that is the reader's ultimate goal. The first eight chapters of the book provide some pretty good background material on vibrating systems and sound waves that should be read sequentially. However, from chapter 9 through 21 the author just presents the physics of each instrument with no real organization by chapter, unless you count the fact that the physics of the instruments are presented in groups organized as either percussion, wind, or stringed instruments. There is a final chapter on materials and their properties that doesn't really fit in with previous chapters. Each chapter has an extensive bibliography. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the physics of musical instruments and has the necessary mathematical maturity to handle the material. The reader who has taken a year of college physics with maybe a specific class on acoustics and who also is comfortable with calculus and both partial and ordinary differential equations would be best qualified to make the most of the information in this book. Having had a course in the EE topic of Signals and Systems wouldn't hurt either when it comes to the discussions of frequency analysis and response.
The books that helped me get through the math and physics of this volume were Kinsler's "Fundamentals of Acoustics", "Introduction to Partial Differential Equations with Applications" by Zachmanoglou, and finally, an out-of-print work: "Schaum's Outline of Acoustics" by Seto, ISBN 0070563284.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive and Well Written Jan. 25 2013
By A Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have not read the book beginning to end simply because it is quite a tome. However, I have studied those areas that I have some interest and ability in. The book is concisely written with just enough mathematics to make the qualitative discussion understandable...and the qualitative discussions are quite concise and understandable. It provides detailed references for all of the assertions. I find it an excellent reference and am happy to have it in my library.
Exactly what the title says Jan. 15 2009
By Michael A. Duvernois - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have never had the opportunity to teach a class in the physics of musical instruments, so have not been able to use this as a text, but it is the single volume to go to for "how does musical sound get produced by this instrument" questions. This book is one of the greats in musical acoustics.

Rossing's excellent introductory acoustics book Science of Sound, The (3rd Edition) is also recommended.
Everything you wanted to know about musical instrument but were afraid to ask March 26 2011
By Joe Bova - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book, first and foremost is a physics book. Do not be fooled by the title and look for a balanced treatment of concepts and function, this book goes deep. Using the basic concepts of sound propagation and vibrational modes from a purely mathematical perspective, Fletcher and Rossing develop the physical principles for various kinds of musical instruments. These however are not first order approximations, but rather a rigorous foray into the how and if possible, why a certain type of instrument works the way it does.

For me, the most fascinating part of the book were the sections that describe the modes of vibration and their interrelations in solid bars and the relationships that govern apparent length resonant modes in pipes such as flutes an recorders. If one has ever built a recorder and found that the hole placement just does not match the calculations, this book can show you why.

Caveat Emptor! This book contains advanced mathematical treatment of the physical aspect of vibrations and sound waves and is not for the faint of heart; the authors assume that you have a solid background in advanced mathematical concepts and offer no apology if you do not. If you are just interested in concepts, there are books such as "The Acoustical Foundations of Music" (Backus) or the "Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics" (Benade)which will fill that need well, but if you need a reference book that takes you beyond the threshold of theory, this book is for you.

It is unfortunate that I do not yet have my own copy as it is currently (20110326) still on back order from Amazon. I have had to resort to borrowing from the Library for this one. This is a reference book that has earned a spot on my shelf, now I just need to acquire my own copy.


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