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On Timbre Phy103 Physics of Music. image by Hans-Christoph Steiner based on Grey, JM 1979, JASA, 61, 1270. Four complex tones in which all partials have been removed by filtering (Butler Example 2.5). One is a French horn, one is a violin, one is a pure sine, one is a piano (but out of order)

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on timbre phy103 physics of music

On TimbrePhy103 Physics of Music

image by Hans-Christoph Steiner based on Grey, JM 1979, JASA, 61, 1270

four complex tones in which all partials have been removed by filtering butler example 2 5
Four complex tones in which all partials have been removed by filtering (Butler Example 2.5)

One is a French horn, one is a violin, one is a pure sine, one is a piano (but out of order)

It’s hard – but not impossible to identify the instruments. Clues remain (attack, vibrato, decay) and these contribute to the “timbre”. Timbre is not just due to the spectral mix.

the importance of attack transients in sound identification
The importance of attack transients in sound identification
  • Listening example 4.8 (Butler) Three sustained tones are presented, each with the attack transient (initial 60 milliseconds) removed. Identify the instruments
  • Listening example 4.9. First the sound of a violin (C4). Next the attack transient of that tone elongated to a hundred times its normal length through digital time expansion.
  • Note this scratchiness makes it difficult for computer programs to transcribe music played by violins.
mixed timbres
Mixed timbres
  • Butler Listening example 8.3. Starting with a French horn sound and ending with a clarinet sound. 11 short tones each shifted 10% further toward the clarinet tone.
  • Butler Listening example 8.4. Intermediate between piano and violin timbre. Both spectral mix, and attack envelope is intermediate.
schouten s acoustic parameters
Schouten’s “Acoustic parameters”
  • The range between tonal and noiselike character.
  • The spectral envelope.
  • The time envelope in terms of rise, duration, and decay.
  • The changes both of spectral envelope (formant-glide) and fundamental frequency (micro-intonation).
  • The prefix, an onset of a sound quite dissimilar to the ensuing lasting vibration.

This represents way too many free parameters for an engineer to cover the complexity of sounds.

timbre space
Timbre space
  • Grey’s Timbre cube
  • Is it possible to classify timbres, for example recognition of instrument from audio?

image by Hans-Christoph Steiner based on Grey, JM 1979, JASA, 61, 1270

grey s axes
Grey’s axes

overtones arise and decay together or not

timbre space based on nearness ratings by people psychology experiment
Timbre space based on nearness ratings by people Psychology experiment

From McAdams, S. et al. Psychological Research, 58, 177-192 (1995)

broad band vs tonal
Broad band vs Tonal

“Beat That” by Beat Kaufmann

Hz

The Syrinx

filtered broad band
Filtered Broad Band
  • ASA demo 5
  • A Low pass filter cuts off all high frequencies
blending of harmonics into one tone or timbre
Blending of harmonics into one tone or timbre

ASA Demo 1 Cancelled Harmonics

20 harmonics of 200Hz are played together.

When the relative amplitudes of all 20 harmonics remain steady they blend and we hear them all as one tone

When one harmonic is cancelled or given a vibrato then it stands out and we hear it separately

how many harmonics are needed for a tone to have its recognizable character
How many harmonics are needed for a tone to have its recognizable character?
  • ASA Demo 28a Adding in partials of a carillon bell

Hum note 251 Hz

Prime or fundamental 501Hz

Minor Third and Fifth 603,750Hz

Duodecime or Twelfth 1506Hz

Upper Octave 2083Hz

Next two partials 2421,2721Hz

Remainder of partials

adding in partials for a guitar
Adding in partials for a guitar

ASA Demo28b In order

  • fundamental
  • 2rd harmonic
  • 3rd harmonic
  • 4th harmonic
  • 5th and 6th harmonic
  • 7th and 8th harmonic
  • 9th, 10th and 11th harmonic
  • Remainder
properties of musical sounds
Properties of musical sounds
  • Composed of tones, not a lot of broad band noise
  • Overtones are nearly harmonic

---Lots of exceptions to the above rules

A rich musical sound has a strong set of tones in the vocal formant region

-- Combining instruments with different timbres

timbre classification and sound excitation
Timbre classification and sound excitation

Harmonic spectrum:

strings – chordophones, string is vibrating

winds – areophones, column of air is vibrating

Richer tone made by ensuring high frequency overtones are present in spectrum.

Spectral envelope for guitar, piano, violin affected by resonating chamber

Temporal envelope: plucking vs hammer vs friction excitation: guitar vs piano vs violin

timbre classification and sound excitation1
Timbre classification and sound excitation

Non-harmonic spectrum:

Ideophones: Solid object vibrating: e.g., marimba, xylophone, bells, gongs, forks

Membranophones: membrane vibrating: drums

Richer tone made by tuning overtones, ensuring that many overtones are present, coupling motion of vibrating object to resonating chamber

timber and transposition
Timber and Transposition
  • High and low tones from a musical instrument do not have the same relative spectrum.
  • Low notes on the piano have week fundamentals whereas high notes have strong ones
  • ASA Demo30 shifting the spectrum of a bassoon down
timbre depends on frequency
Timbre depends on frequency
  • First tone has partials 1,2,3,4,5
  • Second tone has partials 1,3,5,7,9
  • Difference in timbre depends on frequency of fundamental
  • Butler demo 3.5a
the effect of tone envelope on timbre
The effect of Tone Envelope on Timbre

ASA demo29

Piano envelope is normally decaying

but here it is reversed

tones and tuning stretched
Tones and Tuning Stretched

The scale can be stretched

The partials can be stretched

Here are examples of all 4 combinations

--pure harmonics and normal scale

-- scale stretched

-- partials stretched

-- stretched harmonics and scale 1 octave=2.1

ASA demo 31

changes in timbre the singer s formant
Changes in TimbreThe singer’s “formant”

The normal 3 formants are brought close together to form a broad spectral peak between 2500-4000Hz

Cook demo 42 Singing with

and without the singer’s formant

spectrum with singer’s format spectrum without

changes in timbre with vocal effort
Changes in timbre with vocal effort

Cook demo #78

  • Successive vocal tones, amplitude only turned down
  • Same as a) but high end of spectrum is also turned down, as would happen for decreasing effort
  • Same as b) but with additional reverb that is held constant so voice sounds like it is getting quieter in a fixed location
  • Same as a) but with increasing reverb so the voice sounds as if it is getting further away
discussion
Discussion
  • What accounts for the differences in timbre for oboes, clarinets, flutes and horns?
  • Strings vs winds?
  • Piano vs violin?
  • Acoustic vs classical guitar?
more discussion
More Discussion
  • Evolution of sound synthesis: What properties let you know that the music or sounds are synthesized?
  • How can we tell?
  • Is there a body of psychoacoustic tests on how big a change is required before we notice a timbre change?
  • Sound synthesis: a lack of quantitative measures of how well timbre is matched with computerized sound synthesis?
terms introduced
Terms Introduced
  • Timbre space and popular choices for their dimensions

Reading:

  • Butler chapter 8
  • Hopkins chap 1