One of the goals
of music acoustics is to provide practical assistance to musicians
and instrument makers. This is rather difficult to do: musical instruments
are complicated and subtle, and musicians and makers work to high
precision, are interested in very subtle effects, and are concerned
with hundreds of different acoustical configurations of the instrument.
So the acousticians must provide an accurate theory, based on precise
and detailed measurements, and very large data sets. Our work on
wind instruments is now reaching these goals.
group has developed a technique to produce precise, rapid measurements
of acoustical transfer functions with a large dynamic range. Using
such measurements, student Andrew Botros developed an accurate model
of the modern flute, which has been applied to all 39,744 possible
configurations or fingerings. For each fingering, the model ranks
several different notes for their intonation and playability. These
data have recently been incorporated in a web service, which is
regularly consulted by musicians in various different ways.
One tool allows
players to seek alternative fingerings that facilitate rapid passages
or trills where the standard fingerings are awkward. Another seeks
fingerings with improved or different intonations. Another tool,
popular with performers of contemporary music, seeks multiphonics
or chords. The capacity of wind instruments to play chords is still
being developed and, until now, there has been no systematic list
of the thousands of chords that are possible.
The next step
for this research is to predict, for the benefit of instrument makers,
the effects on all of the standard fingerings produced by small
changes to the geometry of the instrument.
Botros, John Smith
and Joe Wolfe