Category Archives: Musical Acoustics

Jonathan Kemp: Matching the pitch sensitivity of guitar strings

When: Wednesday 11th April, 2018 @ 5:10 PM

Where: Room 4.31/4.33, Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Matching the pitch sensitivity of guitar strings

Seminar Speaker

Dr Jonathan Kemp (University of St Andrews)

Seminar Abstract

When sounding a chord and moving the tremolo/vibrato arm on guitar, the strings typically go out of tune in relation to each other. Surprisingly, to a first approximation, the gauge of the string doesn’t have any effect on the pitch sensitivity when the player alters the string length using a tremolo arm or conventional pitch bend. In this talk I will show how varying the ratio of winding and core diameters can be used to match the sensitivity of strings of different nominal pitches.

Speaker Bio

Dr Jonathan Kemp is Head of Music Technology at the University of St Andrews. He received his PhD in theoretical and experimental study of wave propagation in brass musical instruments from the University of Edinburgh in 2002. He holds a teacher’s diploma in electric guitar LLCM(TD) and has teaching experience in the University of Edinburgh, The University of Abertay, Dundee and the Open University. http://www.kempacoustics.com

Colin Gough: Violin acoustics – An introduction and recent developments

When: Wednesday 5th April, 2017 @ 5:10 PM

Where: Lecture Room A (A2.04), Alison House, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Violin acoustics – An introduction and recent developments

Seminar Speaker

Prof Colin Gough (Professor Emeritus at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham)

Seminar Abstract

A brief introduction will first be given to the acoustics of the violin, including an overview of recent advances in measurements and understanding of the acoustical characteristic of many fine Italian instruments from the times of Stradivari and Guarneri . This will be followed by an overview of a model for the vibro-acoustic modes of the violin and related instruments, treating the violin as a shallow, thin-walled, guitar-shaped, box-like, shell structure, with arched orthotropic top and back plates supported around their edges by thin ribs. The modes of such a structure are computed using finite element software as a quasi-experimental tool, varying the physical properties of the component sub-structures over a much wide range than is physically possible by the violin maker. This elucidates their individual roles in determining the acoustic properties over the whole radiating frequency range up to 10 kHz.

Speaker Bio

Colin Gough is an Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham (UK), where he researched the quantum wave-mechanical, ultrasonic and microwave properties of both normal and high temperature superconductors. As a “weekend” professional violinist, Musical Acoustics has always been an added interest – publishing papers on various aspects of violin acoustics, teaching and supervising courses and projects for Physics students and more recently at the annual Oberlin Violin Acoustics Workshops. He contributed Chapters on Musical Acoustics and The Electric guitar and violin for Springer’s Handbook of Acoustics and The Science of String Instruments.

Federico Fontana: What do we play in the piano? (and) What in the piano do we hear?

When: Wednesday 29th March, 2017 @ 5:10 PM

Where: Atrium, Alison House (Nicolson Square), University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

What do we play in the piano? (and) What in the piano do we hear?

Seminar Speaker

Federico Fontana (Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics, University of Udine, Italy)

Seminar Abstract

Both the versatility of the piano’s keyboard-based interface, and the peculiarity of its sound generation mechanism, make it an extremely interesting musical instrument from a research viewpoint. A successful audio engine, capable of synthesising state-of-the-art piano sounds in real time, will be presented. An overview of the development process that led to an industrial product will also be outlined. Research questions follow, about what pianists perceive during playing. Partial answers to these questions have come from recent research, now in press, about the role of tactile feedback during piano playing, and about the (yet to be understood) role of kinesthetic and visual feedback in the auditory lateralisation of piano tones.

Speaker Bio

Federico Fontana received the Laurea degree in electronic engineering from the University of Padova, Italy, in 1996 and the Ph.D. degree in computer science from the University of Verona, Italy, in 2003. During the Ph.D. degree studies, he was a Research Consultant in the design and realisation of real-time audio DSP systems. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and Physics, University of Udine, Italy, teaching audio-tactile interactions, computer networks and object-oriented programming. In 2001, he was Visiting Scholar at the Laboratory of Acoustics and Audio Signal Processing, Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo, Finland. During summer 2017 he has visited the ICST at the Zurich University of the Arts. His current interests are in interactive sound processing methods and in the design and evaluation of musical interfaces. Professor Fontana coordinated the EU project 222107 NIW under the FP7 ICT-2007.8.0 FET-Open call from 2008 to 2011. He is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing. He coordinates the PhD program in Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics at his university. He is Secretary of the Italian Association of Musical Informatics.

David Antony Reid: The Luthier’s Approach Guitar Making

When: Wednesday 15th March, 2017 @ 5:10 PM

Where: Room 4.31/4.33, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

The Luthier’s Approach Guitar Making

Seminar Speaker

David Antony Reid (David Antony Reid Guitars, Perth, Scotland)

Seminar Abstract

At a seminar for the students and researchers of The University of Edinburgh, through demonstrations, examples of nature and the people who inspired him, David hopes to appeal to the scientific community to consider in detail some of the handmade musical instruments he shall display. He will explain why a scientific approach has been so difficult to pursue in lutherie, and why the guitar as an instrument has barely changed since its conception, in what is an extremely conservative market. David will discuss some of his own innovations, and will encourage audience participation and debate as to their scientific validity. His perspective draws on the famous words of Richard Feynman: “The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth’ “. A demonstration of his diffraction slits shall be given, as will a demonstration of tuning wood itself, and the different sounds different materials produce. He will outline why he feels that a blend of wood needs to be used in current guitars, and also why we may need to change the materials guitar makers use in the future. The talk shall be coupled with a slide show and full explanation of the mechanical function of, and inspiration behind, the integral components of his instruments. A Q&A shall follow with the opportunity for any guitarists to try-out one of David’s multi award winning instruments.

Speaker Bio

David Antony Reid is a true “hand-maker” of bespoke, contemporary and innovative stringed, fretted instruments. He uses a mixture of traditional, self developed, and scientifically-based construction methods. As a multi award winning luthier, David takes up to 400 hours to craft and sculpt each of his guitars – an approach employed due to strong feelings regarding a constant touch-and-feel understanding of his materials and overall construction method. David has, in past times, developed what he feels to be a more energy efficient, multi reflection guitar back and sides design, increasing reverberation times; a multi modal guitar top, separating most frequencies delivered from the fretboard/strings in a more balanced manner; and diffraction slits around the peripheral of his vaulted backed guitars, further allowing for complete and utter control over bass, mids, and treble – within the realms of the given size of the instrument – when opening or closing different configurations of said slits. As well as these progressions, David has also developed a few other ergonomic and energy efficient innovations for the steel strung acoustic guitar, a musical instrument that has barely changed in a commercial sense for over 180 years. Forced in to retirement after 19 years of lutherie, as he is now suffering severe work-related repertory issues, instead of selling and exhibiting his wares world wide, David now wishes to venture in to the real scientific acoustic research of what is the world’s second most popular musical instrument (after the human voice!).

Claudia Fritz: Stradivarius – Myth or Reality?

When: Wednesday 22nd February, 2017 @ 5:10 PM

Where: Room 4.31/4.33, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Stradivarius – Myth or Reality?

Seminar Speaker

Claudia Fritz (Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS)

Seminar Abstract

Old Italian violins from the 18th century are so famous that Stradivarius has entered common language. Who has never heard of this Cremonese violin maker, and the astronomical prices reached by his instruments at widely broadcast auctions? Players are loquacious about their amazing qualities and consider that the superiority of many of these instruments remains unrivalled. However, numerous blind listening tests since the beginning of the 20th century have shown a preference for new violins. These tests have been criticised for being too informal, not rigorous enough, and in listening rather than playing conditions. After all, who can judge the instruments better than the players themselves? Scientific studies involving blind playing tests were thus conducted. The aim was to explore whether, when the identity of the violins was not revealed, old violins were still preferred and could be distinguished from their new counterparts. The results speak for themselves …

In addition, some correlations between perceptual evaluations and acoustical measurements as well as future developments using motion capture and bridges instrumented with piezoelectric sensors will be briefly presented.

Speaker Bio

After a PhD in cotutelle between France and Australia, and a post-doc at the University of Cambridge (UK), Claudia Fritz has been a CNRS-researcher at Institut Jean le Rond d’Alembert, at University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, since 2009. Her main research interest is to correlate the mechanical properties of musical (bowed string) instruments with their perceptual properties, as evaluated by players and listeners. This involves all kinds of perceptual tests, as well as physical measurements to characterise the interaction of the players with their instruments (for instance speed, movement and force of the bow relative to the instrument) and vibro-acoustical measurements to characterise the response of the instruments that are studied. She was awarded the prestigious Bronze medal from her employer (CNRS) in 2016 for her recent work consisting in double-blind studies involving new and old Italian violins, which had gained widespread international attention.

Thomas Hélie: New tools for modelling musical systems and exploring musical sound

When: Wednesday 20th January, 2016 @ 5:10 PM

Where: TBC, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

New tools for modelling musical systems and exploring musical sound. 

Seminar Speaker(s)

Dr. Thomas Hélie (Project-Team S3: Sound Signals and Systems, Laboratory of Sciences and Technologies for Music and Sound, IRCAM-CNRS-UPMC, Paris, France).

Seminar Abstract

In this presentation, I will present a few scientific and technological tools that we develop to model physical systems and to process sound signals. The introduction will be devoted to a short description of some activities of the Project-Team S3 in physical modelling, nonlinear systems, robotics, sound synthesis and sound analysis. Then, selected works will be deepened.

  1. Port-Hamiltonian systems: sound synthesis based on the guaranteed-passive simulation of physical models.
  2. Fractional filters: modelling and simulation of a class of low-pass filters, the slope of which can be continuously tuned from 0 (unit gain) to -6 decibel per octave (1 pole filter).
  3. SnailAnalyser: a frequency-domain analyser that delivers in real-time an intuitive representation of sounds based on the chromatic alignment of spectral active zones.

Sound examples and demonstrations will be given along this presentation.

Speaker Bio

Thomas Hélie received the Dipl. Ing. degree from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne (1997), the M.S. degree in acoustics, signal processing, and informatics applied to music, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (1999), the M.S. degree in control theory and signal processing from the Université Paris-Sud (1999), and the Ph.D. degree in control theory and signal processing of Université Paris-Sud (2002). After a postdoctoral research in the Laboratory of Nonlinear System at the Swiss Federal Institute of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland (2003) and a Lecturer position at Université Paris-Sud (2004), he has been, since 2004, Researcher at the National Research Council (CNRS) in the Analysis/Synthesis Team of the Laboratory of Sciences and Technologies for Music and Sound, IRCAM-CNRS-UPMC, Paris. He passed his “Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches”, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (2013) and founded the Project-Team S3 “Sound Signals and Systems” (2015). His research topics include audio processing, physics of musical instruments, physical modeling, nonlinear dynamical systems, and inversion processes.

Jim Woodhouse: Why does a lute sound different from a guitar?


When: Wednesday 16th December, 2015 @ 5:10 PM

Where: Room G.07, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Why does a lute sound different from a guitar?

Seminar Speaker(s)

Prof. Jim Woodhouse (University of Cambridge)

Seminar Abstract

The vibration of a stretched string is a classical problem, and the simplest version of a physics-based description is a familiar part of undergraduate courses. However, things are more complicated in the world of real musical instruments. This talk will explore the various influences on sound quality in plucked strings, and will show that while many aspects are quite well understood, there remains a puzzle.

It is well known to players of plucked-string instruments that lighter-gauge stringing gives a brighter sound, exemplified by the typical difference of sound between a lute and a classical guitar. However, the usual undergraduate theory has no dependence whatever on the diameter or tension of the string. Detailed measurements on plain nylon strings of different gauges will be used to explore this phenomenon, and probe the limits of idealised theories, both linear and nonlinear. Finally, a tentative explanation of the puzzle will be advanced, which has implications for players and instrument makers.

Speaker Bio

After a first degree in mathematics at Cambridge, Jim Woodhouse did a PhD and post-doctoral work on the acoustics of the violin in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge (this work being inspired by a hobby interest in building instruments). He then worked for several years on a variety of structural vibration problems for a consultancy firm before joining the Engineering Department of the University (in 1985) as Lecturer, then later Reader and Professor. His research interests all involve vibration, and musical instruments have continued to play a major role.

Michele Ducceschi: Sound synthesis of gongs using a modal scheme – development and examples

When: Monday, June 16th, 2014 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Where: Room G.07/a, Informatics Forum, Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Sound synthesis of gongs using a modal scheme – development and examples

Seminar Speaker(s)

Dr. Michele Ducceschi (UME ENSTA, Paris Tech, France)

Seminar Abstract

Sound synthesis of gongs can be obtained, in a first approximation, by solving the dynamical equations of a flat plate. In fact, despite a trivial geometry, a plate vibrating in a nonlinear regime shares the same salient characteristics as a gong or a cymbal. Particularly, the degree of nonlinearity can be given in terms of the amplitude of vibrations. In this talk, the nonlinear plate equations will be described and a solution in terms of the linear modes given.

Examples will range from typical linear feautures (bell-like sounds and plate reverb) to the most dramatic nonlinear effects (gongs struck at high amplitudes). The talk will feature video contributions as well as a web-app for wave visualisation (development by Theo Armour).

Speaker Bio

Michele Ducceschi is a post-doctoral researcher at the Unité de Mecanique at ENSTA (Paris). His current research focuses on the development of the dynamics of a permanently magnetised elastic beam for energy harvesting. In addition, he is continuing to improve a sound-synthesis algorithm for gongs developed during his PhD, based on modal decomposition. Michele received a BSc in Physics from the Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy (2008), an MSc in Acoustics and Music Technology from the University of Edinburgh (2010) and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from ENSTA and École Polytechnique, France (2014).

Federico Avanzini: A mixed structural modeling approach to personalized 3D binaural sound rendering

When: Thursday, May 15th, 2014 @ 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Where: Room G.07/a, Informatics Forum, Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

A mixed structural modeling approach to personalized 3D binaural sound rendering

Seminar Speaker(s)

Dr. Federico Avanzini (Sound and Music Computing Group, Dept. of Information Engineering, University of Padova, Italy)

Seminar Abstract

This seminar presents ongoing research on a novel approach to 3D sound rendering, that uses personalized head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) to synthesize binaural sound signals delivered through headphones.

We will briefly discuss issues related to HRTF measurement, processing, and modeling, as well as their implications in a 3D sound rendering pipeline. As these transfer functions are strongly subject dependent, special emphasis will be given to the problem of individual HRTF measurements and individual customization of HRTF models.

We will then introduce and formalize a novel approach to HRTF modeling, called Mixed Structural Modeling (MSM). This can be regarded as a generalization and extension of the structural modeling approach first defined by Brown and Duda back in 1998. Thanks to the flexibility of the MSM approach, a large number of solutions for building custom binaural audio displays can be considered and evaluated, with the final goal of constructing a HRTF model that is fully customizable depending on individual user anthropometry.

Possible solutions for building partial HRTFs (pHRTFs) of the head, torso, and pinna of a specific listener will described and exemplified. Some example applications in the design of personal auditory displays in multimodal virtual environments will be finally illustrated.

Speaker Bio

Federico Avanzini received the Ph.D. degree in Information Engineering from the University of Padova, Italy, in 2001. Since 2002 he has been with the Sound and Music Computing group at the Department of Information Engineering of the University of Padova, where he is currently Assistant Professor. His main research interests are in sound synthesis and processing, and multimodal interaction. He has been key researcher in numerous european and national projects, PI of the EU project DREAM (Culture2007) and of industry-funded projects.

He has authored more than 100 publications on peer-reviewed international journals and conferences. He has served in numerous program committees and editorial committees of international journals and conferences. He was the General Chair of the 2011 International Sound and Music Computing Conference. He is currently Associate Editor of Acta Acustica united with Acustica, journal of the European Acoustics Association, for the subject Musical Acoustics.

Vesa Valimaki: Virtual Analog Modeling Research at Aalto University

When: February 27, 2013 @ 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Where: Room 4.33, Informatics Forum, Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Virtual Analog Modeling Research at Aalto University

Seminar Speaker(s)

Prof Vesa Valimaki (Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland)

Seminar Abstract

Virtual analog modeling refers to computational methods that emulate electronic music synthesizers, guitar amplifiers, and other analog music equipment. This presentation deals with new methods to generate digital versions of classical analog synthesizer waveforms with reduced aliasing. A digital nonlinear model of the Moog ladder filter is also discussed. Additionally, results from recent projects conducted at Aalto University will be presented.

Presentation Slides

PDF document (<1MB)