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Music through Vocabulary

Fundamental Knowledge

Vibration & Sound

One must understand that all sound is vibration. When this vibration of an object vibrates air molecules, the vibration propagates through the air and reaches our ears. We perceive this vibration as the phenomenon called "sound".

Sounds are distinguished (told apart from each other) by several physical characteristics

  • Frequency
  • Waveform
  • Amplitude


Frequency determines pitch. Vibrations that are faster create sound that is perceived as being of a higher pitch, while slower vibrations create pitches of a lower sound. Given two strings of the same tension and thickness, the longer string will vibrate slower, and therefore have the lower pitch. On a guitar, shortening the length of vibrating string creates a higher pitch.

Future additions to this section should include links to sound files of different pitches.


The rate of change of the intensity of the sound determines timbre (pronounced tamber). This is best seen on an oscilloscope, where smooth, rounded waves have a pleasing sound, while sharper, saw-tooth waves are a bit less relaxing, and jagged, square waves are quite unpleasant.

Future additions to this section should include graphics of different waveforms, including perhaps a guitar string, a violin string, and a human voice.


The amplitude of a particular sound determines its volume. The more intense the vibration, the higher the perceived volume. As the distance from the source of the sound increases, the less volume the sound is perceived to have.