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Air: The invisible sound artist
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Air: The invisible sound artist

It keeps us alive. And without it there would be no music.

Air doesn’t just affect the way wind instruments sound, it affects instruments of every kind. We stopped to listen closely to the air and made some amazing discoveries.

 

 

Sound is transmitted through air.

Air is a bit like magic—we cannot see it, and yet without it the music would never reach our ears. Without air there would simply be no music. Yet we take its presence for granted when creating sound. With the help of musical instruments, we generate sound in different ways. Sound is created by vibrations; vibrating strings in guitars, vibrating air columns in wind instruments, and a vibrating membrane in a kettledrum.

The violin is a perfect example of how air can influence our sound experience. A bow is drawn across the strings, causing vibrations. These vibrations are transferred to the wooden body of the violin via the bridge—this also causes the air inside the violin to vibrate. Because the sound is emitted both through the body of the violin and through the air from the sound holes, the volume of the sound increases. Different sounds are amplified in different ways. Each instrument has a unique timbre since vibration patterns differ depending on the composition of the materials.

 

Timbre—a true science.

For centuries, music scientists have not stopped talking about the timbre of an instrument. Even amateur musicians who buy an instrument know to pay close attention to the sound. Yet the factors influencing sound production are almost infinite. The composition of the sound box, the material, the paint on the instrument—they all influence the timbre and ultimately help to create those magical musical moments.

 

istockphoto by Getty Images