Mark Van Raamsdonk (professor of physics at the University of British
page has links to a series of videos on the physics of music. The
videos assume no physics
or mathematics background beyond basic everyday
mathematical concepts.They are based on a UBC course for non-science
The videos build on each other to some
extent, but it probably won't hurt to jump to something that sounds
interesting and then go back to fill in the details.
For a basic introduction to this series,
Physics of Music 1: Who
are you, what are these videos, and who are they for?
Physics of Music 2: What is music (physically), what is physics, and
how are they related
PART 1: Time and periodic phenomena
What distinguishes music from other types of sounds?
of Music 3: time and periodic events in physics and music
Physics of Music 4: timelines,
time graphs, and musical notation
Physics of Music 5: musical notes as periodic
Physics of Music 6: periodic elements in Ode to Joy
extra: The World's
PART 2: Basic physics
What is physics?
What are energy and momentum and why are they conserved?
What are Newton's Laws and how can we use them to predict the future?
Physics of Music 7: predicting the future
Physics of Music 8: the rules of physics in
Physics of Music 9: prediction example, speed
Physics of Music 10: symmetries and
Physics of Music 11: Forces and Newton's
Physics of Music 12:
types of forces and predicting positions and velocities
Physics of Music 13: example
Physics of Music 14:
predicting positions and velocities review, computer simulations
Physics of Music 15: Newton's 3rd Law
PART 3: Physics of oscillations
Why do things oscillate?
What affects the rate at which they oscillate?
What is resonance?
Physics of Music 16: intro to oscillations
extra: Ball in a viscous
Physics of Music 17:
physics of oscillatons and Hooke's Law
Physics of Music 18: simple harmonic motion
Physics of Music 19:
Amplitude and period of oscillations
Physics of Music 20: physical properties
determining oscillation frequency
Physics of Music 21:
amplitude and period review and sample question
Physics of Musics 22:
energy in oscillators, resonance
: derivation of the expression for energy and the relation between
simple harmonic and circular motion (for the mathematically
4: Physics of waves
What is a wave and what causes it?
What is sound?
What is waving in a sound wave?
What is special about the sound waves for musical notes?
How do speakers and microphones work (basic)?
What properties of sound waves determine the loudness, pitch, and sound
quality of a musical tone?
How do the sound waves differ for two different instruments playing the
same note (part 1)?
Physics of Music 23: intro to waves
Physics of Music 24: snapshot and history
Physics of Music 25: sinusoidal travelling
Physics of Music 26: sound as a
longitudinal wave (part 1)
Physics of Music 27: Pressure, and sound as a
longitudinal wave (part 2)
Physics of Music 28: Snapshot and history
Physics of Music 29:
Sound wave history graph examples: musical notes vs ordinary
Physics of Music 30:
Properties of musical notes vs properties of sound
wave history graphs
Physics of Music 31: speakers/headphones;
musical note properties vs sound wave properties
5: Building sounds from pure tones (Important!!)
What determines the sound quality of a
What are the basic building blocks of sound?
What distinguishes the sound of one instrument from the sound of
another instrument (part 2)?
Physics of Music 32: the principle of
decomposing notes into pure tones
Physics of Music 33: the spectrum of a
extra: the telharmonium (first
example of a synthesizer)
6: Basics of musical instruments?
do musical instruments produce musical tones?
How does a stringed sintrument work (basic)?
How does a wind instrument work (basic)?
How can we predict the frequencies/pitches that an instrument will
Physics of Music 34: standing waves
Physics of Music 35: predicting oscillation
frequencies of a stretched string
Physics of Music 36: sounds of the harmonic
predicting frequencies in a tube of air
Physics of Music 37: note frequencies in wind
Physics of Music 38: wave speed and
Physics of Music 39: Changing
frequencies by changing wave speed
PART 7: The ear and hearing
do our ears work?
What information about a sound wave is sent to our brain?
Why do we perceive some notes as sounding dissonance together?
Physics of Music 40:
the ear as a spectrum analyzer
Physics of Music 41: perception of frequencies
Physics of Music 42: perception of loudness
Physics of Music 43: perception of two pure
with different frequencies
8: Musical intervals, scales, and chords
do certain notes sound good together?
Why do we use certain specific frequencies to build musical intervals,
chords, and scales?
Why are there 12 notes in an octave?
When do we hear things that aren't there?
Is it Laurel or Yanny?
Physics of Music 44: musical intervals
Physics of Music 45:
scales and chords
Physics of Music 46:
scale and other ways to divide the octave
Physics of Music 47: auditory illusions
9: Details of musical instruments
is the role of the body of a guitar or violin?
Why does a Stradavarius sound better than a cheap violin?
How does a bow work?
How do reeds work?
How do you produce an oscillating sound wave by blowing continuously on
Why are brass instruments shaped like they are?
Physics of Music 48:
importance of body and cavity vibrations for strings
Physics of Music 49:
How notes evolve with time
Physics of Music 50:
Physics of bowing
Physics of Music 51:
variations and register holes
Physics of Music 52:
driving oscillations with
Physics of Music 53:
loud vs soft playing
extra: the saxotube
Physics of Music 54:
driving oscillations with an air jet
Physics of Music 55:
10: The human voice
does the human voice work?
What is the difference between different singing registers (e.g. modal
What is the physical difference between different vowel sounds?
How does helium affect your voice?
What is vibrato?
Physics of Music 56:
the human voice 1: vocal
Physics of Music 57: the human voice 2: the
tract and formants
Physics of Music 58:
Synthesizing a voice
Physics of Music 59:
The effects of helium on a human voice
Physics of Music 60:
11: Musical electronics
do speakers and microphones work (more detailes)?
What does an amplifier do?
How does recording work?
What is the difference between an analog and a digital recording?
How does a synthesizer work?
Physics of Music 61:
speakers and microphones
Physics of Music 62: analog and digital
Physics of Music 63:
PART 12: Light, Vision, and quantum mechanics
What is waving in a light wave?
How does vision compare to hearing?
Why are there so many more sounds than colours?
Is there something like a musical tone for light?
Is there a deep conection between music and the workings of the
Physics of Music 64:
light + basic electromagnetism
Physics of Music 65:
Properties of Light
of Music 66: Vision vs Hearing
Physics of Music 67:
atoms, the musical
Physics of Music 68: quantum mechanics, the