Music Science: research projects and scholarships
- The player-instrument interaction in wind instruments.
Using the technique of real-time measurement of transfer functions
and impedance spectra, we are studying the interaction between
the player's vocal tract and the sound produced by wind instruments.
- The acoustics of the didjeridu. The
didjeridu is the wind instrument in which the vocal tract
plays the largest role. With colleagues Neville Fletcher and Lloyd
Hollenberg, we have begun a project to understand this interesting
instrument, about which we recently published a paper in Nature.
This work on lip-valve instruments led us to study:
- The acoustics of brass instruments. So far we have only
published one paper (on trombone), but see Introduction
to the acoustics of brass instruments.
- The acoustics of the flute. One
of the results of this project is our flute
site, a web-based resource of response spectra,
sound spectra for standard and alternative fingerings for
notes and multiphonics. We are also studying the effect
of the player's embouchure on the timbre and pitch of instruments
in the flute family, especially the shakuhachi,
where the effect is most dramatic. (Flute research is supported
by The Woodwind
Group and Terry
- Using our experimental database and a theoretical model
for the flute, the virtual
flute is a web service that examines 40,000 flute
fingerings. It is interrogated by flutists seeking alternative
fingerings, microtones and multiphonics.
- The acoustics of reed instruments.
"Why don't we do for the reed instruments what we have done
for the flute?" is a FAQ. We're currently working on the
and hope to do the conical woodwinds soon. Meanwhile, see
to clarinet acoustics and introduction
to sax acoustics. We are also working on vocal tract-instrument
interactions in this family.
- Percussion. So far, the only study we have made in this
family is the acoustics
of bell plates. We became interested in this just because
a student came to ask why it was that particular shaped plates
ring while others do not. We only have limited tools for studying
percussion, but if you have a question, don't hesitate to ask.
- Optimising transfer function measurements. Transfer function
measurements have a range of applications, including many beyond
musical acoustics. In this study we are working to optimise the
resolution, sensitivity and speed of measurement subject to different
conditions of transducer response and external noise.
- A system for the measurement and assessment of musical sounds,
including starting transients and the steady state. A tristimulus
method has been developed analogous to the system used for colour
measurement. Application of this method to both starting transients
and steady state parts of musical sounds has led to a scheme for
identifying and specifying the essential features of musical sounds.
We gratefully acknowledge support from the Australian
Research Council, the Australia
Council for the Arts and the University
of New South Wales, as well as that from the industrial collaborators
mentioned above. We also thank the many musicians who collaborate
Collaboration with the School of Music and Music Education
We are sometimes asked whether it is possible for musicians, who
are not physicists, to do research projects with the Music Acoustics
Lab. Our collaborations with the music specialists in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science are part of Music Science at UNSW. Current projects involve music
perception, but we are keen to expand the music-physics projects
to include performance and technical details of string and wind
instruments. Students who might be interested in collaborative projects
in the areas of music, acoustics, physics and computing are invited
to discuss their ideas with us.
In the past, students in Physics have been able to take advantage
of resources in the School of Music and Music Education. It would
similarly be possible for students to enrol for graduate study
in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and do experimental
research using the resources of the Music Acoustics Group. Contact
in the School of Music and Music Education or J.Wolfe@unsw.edu.au
in the School of Physics.
Projects for students, scholarships and part-time work:
Projects for graduate students (and practicum students) regularly
arise in some of our research areas. Sometimes these have scholarships,
Other scholarships for Australian citizens or permanent residents
are possible for students who have first or good second class
honours degrees in physics, engineering, mathematics or computing.
Apart from the Australian
Postgraduate Awards offered by the federal governement, there
Graduate Scholarships and others offered by the Faculty of
Science, the School of Physics or directly by the laboratory.
Three of our graduate students are supported by scholarships jointly
funded by industrial partners and grants the Australian government.
We have such scholarships from time to time. If you are a permanent
resident of Australia or New Zealand and are interested in graduate
study in the lab, please write to J.Wolfe@unsw.edu.au
about projects and scholarship possibilities.
The School of Physics
scholarships: honours or graduate students do an agreed amount
teaching in return for an agreed stipend. These can be held in
conjunction with a scholarship.
Scholarships for overseas students are more difficult
to obtain, so they are competitive and require a very good record.
postgraduate research scholarships. Again, the School
of Physics offers teaching scholarships. Whereas Australian
and New Zealand students do not pay tuition fees for research
degrees, other students must. This makes it very difficult to
survive on a scholarship.
Part time and distance study. One of our students is
doing an experimental research MSc by distance education, using
occasional visits, web conferencing and a home laboratory.
vacation scholarships are offered by the School of Physics
to high quality students who have finished third or second year
in physics. Let us know if you are interested in such a scholarship
to study music acoustics.
Honours relocation scholarships are also offered to Australian undergraduates.
Part-time work. A number of students have done paid part-time
work in the laboratory on some of our research projects. These
are usually senior undergraduate students in physics, engineering
or computer science who are musicians, who are good at experimental
science and/or computing, and who are interested in the work that
we do. These jobs are irregular. They depend on the stage of projects
and of course on whether we have grant money to support them.
Post-doctoral fellowships are advertised on our home page when we
have them. It is also possible to propose a project and to apply
for funding for it from various agencies in Australia or abroad,
but this requires more lead time.
Some researchers visit us for scientific collaborations. There
are exchange agreements between the Australian Academy of Science
and similar bodies in several other countries. Funding from such
agreements is possible, but far from certain, and takes time to
Jobs. What happens to students from this lab?
The lab is relatively young, and we have/have had only six PhD students.
- Robert Fearn, who graduated in 2001, was the first. His scholarship
was in part supported by Cochlear Ltd. The company offered him
a job during the last year of his PhD and he finished his thesis
part-time. He is now working in Cambridge.
- Claudia Fritz, a French student who did a joint PhD UNSW-Université
Pierre et Marie Curie, graduated in 2005. On finishing, she
obtained a short term position in acoustics research in Paris.
She now has a 3 year research fellowship in Cambridge studying
violin acoustics and perception and is a fellow of Wolfson College.
- Ra Inta had a scholarship that was also part of an industrial
collaboration (Gilet Guitars). Towards the end of his study
he successfully applied for a research job in the Acoustics
and Vibration Lab at ADFA in Canberra and finished his thesis
- Paul Dickens also had a scholarship that was part of an industrial
collaboration (Terry McGee flutes and the Powerhouse Museum).
In his third year, he was headhunted by a medical company for
an acoustical research position and suspended his scholarship to work for the company
while he works on his thesis part time.
- John McLennan is a retired engineer who decided to do a PhD
in his retirement. He is in the second year of his doctorate.
- Chen Jer Ming is from Singapore. He has just begun his doctorate
Of our honours students, Manfred Yew quickly found a job in
Ventracor, the artificial heart company, and Andrew Botros went
straight to Cochlear Ltd, the artificial ear company. Elizabeth
OConnor became a physics teacher at Sydney Girls High School.
Nicole Dwyer found a job as an engineer in Belgium. Julien Epps
and Annette Dowd both did PhDs in other areas and are now academics.
Most of the other students have been undergraduates visiting for
short research periods in the lab, and then went back to their
We are happy to see that some of our students return. Nathalie
Henrich came to do part of her masters project with us. She
is now a researcher in the French CNRS and has been back twice
for collaborative research. Claudia
came to do experimental studies both for her masters and doctorate.
Botros sometimes takes a 'sabbatical' from the world of industry
to come back to the lab.
Some pages for non-specialist readers:
Acknowledgements. Our research is supported by the Australian
Research Council, as well as by the industrial collaborators and
musicians who are acknowledged on the pages concerning the relevant