The Physics of Musical Instruments 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.
About the Author
Fletcher-Australian National University, Canberra, Australia --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
But I have a major complaint about the format. The printer--Springer, who ought to know better--screwed up badly:
* The paper is too small. Margins on the bound side of the pages are fine, but on the opposite sides, they range from 3-4 millimeters! There is nowhere to put your thumbs to hold the book open. Worse, there are at least a dozen diagrams that fall off the edge of the page. You can guess what the content is, since not much is cut off, but that's ridiculous! The binding is stiff enough that you _need_ the generous inside margins so that the text lies on a relatively flat part of the page, so just shifting the printed page inward would not work. They desperately need to print on larger paper.
* The paper is cheap, causing the fonts to look jagged. For a $100 book, you'd think they could have printed it on decent-quality paper. It looks only a small step up from a Dover Press economy edition that would cost $20.
At least the typesetting is great--all in TeX, like any good physics text :)
I don't see how this could be isolated, but perhaps it is...?
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.