The has lost some sensitivity in a critical

The aim of this essay is to discuss what sound is, based on my
research. I will be discussing what sound is, the physical and perceptual
properties of sound, how sound is produced and how sound is measured.

Sound is a crucial part of our everyday lives.
Living in a world without sound is almost unimaginable. The organ of the body
responsible for the perception of sound is the ears. Sound is a form of energy.
According to Rumsey and McCormick (2005), sound is a vibrating source, produced
when an object vibrates and causes the air around it to move.1

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Sound waves can travel through compressible
mediums such as water, air and solids. As sound moves from molecule to molecule
it spreads out in all directions. The further the sound waves, the weaker the
sound. When sound bounces, it is called an echo. 2

According to Ellinger (2014), there are six basic
physical properties of sound. These include frequency, which can also be
referred to as pitch, amplitude or loudness, spectrum or timbre, location,
duration, and envelope.3

Pitch is the highness or lowness of a tone or
voice. Ballora (2006) lets us know that pitch and frequency are related even
though they are not equivalent. When one changes, the other will change in the
same direction. According to Mott (2014) frequencies are grouped as low/bass
(sound in the low end area), mid (sound in the midrange) and high/treble (sound
in the high end area). The low frequencies give the sound warmth and makes it
sound powerful. The mid frequencies give the sound energy, while the high
frequencies give the sound presence. 4

Loudness is the level of a sound. Loudness can be different
for everyone. If a listener has lost some sensitivity in a critical band, they
will hear any signal in that band at a lower level in comparison to someone
with good hearing according to Ballou (2015).5
Mott (2014) lets us know that the loudness of a sound is determined by the
intensity of the sound. 6

Timbre is the colour of music and it is one of the basic
elements of music, according to Schmidt-Jones. Timbre helps distinguish the
difference between two instruments that are playing the same note at the same
For example, if a piano and a guitar are playing the same note at the same
time, timbre helps us tell the difference between the two. According to Wolfe,
if you change a sound without changing its pitch or loudness, you are changing
its timbre. The size of the different spectra components determines the timbre.

Wolfe lets us know that a sound spectrum shows the different
frequencies in a sound. A sound spectrum is presented as a graph of either
power or pressure as a function frequency. The power is measured in decibels
(dB) and the frequency is measured in hertz (Hz) which is vibrations per
second. We are made aware that sound spectra are measured by microphones which
measure the sound pressure of a period of time, in intervals; an
analogue-digital converter that converts this to a sequence of numbers as a
function of time, which represents the microphones voltage; and a computer
which calculates these numbers. 8

Envelope of sound is made of attack, decay, sustain and
release. According to Mott (2014) attack is the way a sound starts off. There
is fast attack and slow attack. Examples of fast attack are a door slamming and
slaps. Examples of slow attack are a thunderclap and a door closing slowly. Thelen
(2013) lets us know that decay sets a duration and it shows the length of time
it takes to drop to the sustain level when it reaches the initial peak of the
attack. Sustain doesn’t represent time. It is a level of amplitude the signal
stays on for as long as a key is held down, in relation to a keyboard. Release
shows a change over time. As soon as a key on the keyboard has been released,
the release phase begins. Thelen (2013) tells us that the release parameter decides
how long it takes for the sound to fully fade out from the sustain level.

According to Howard and Angus (2009), psychoacoustics is how
humans perceive sound. Our ears are the organs that allow us to perceive sound.
The hearing system consists of three sections; the outer ear, the middle ear
and the inner ear.

Howard and Angus (2009) tell us that the outer ear consists
of the pinna, the concha and the eardrum. The outer ear helps us locate sounds
as well as enhance certain frequencies. The pinna and the concha help with
sound localisation. The pinna and the concha work together to help us determine
whether a sound is coming from behind or in front. The tympanic membrane, also
known as the ear drum, is an elastic, thin layer of tissue between the outer
ear and middle ear.

One of the functions of the middle ear, according to Howard
and Angus (2009) is to give the hearing system some protection from loud
sounds. This happens when two muscles in the middle ear, the tensor tympani and
the stapedius muscle, contract automatically in reaction to sounds greater than
75dB. These muscles also have the ability to increase the impedance of the
middle ear by hardening the ossicular chain.

Howard and Angus (2009) make us aware that the inner ear
consists of the cochlea. Its function is to convert vibrations into nerve impulses,
which is then translated by the brain. The basilar membrane analyses the
frequency of input sounds. The basilar membrane vibrates in reaction to
stimulation caused by signals in the audio frequency range.9

1  Rumsey, F. and McCormick, T. (2005) 
Sound And Recording, p.1

2 Carole,
F. (2008) Same Tunes in to the Science of Sound! P.9

Ellinger, J. (2014) Unit 1 Reading – Six Properties of Sound


4 Mott,
R. L. (2014) Sound Effects, p.54

Ballou, G. (2015) Handbook for Sound Engineers, p.65

Mott, R. L. (2014) Sound Effects, p.58

Schmidt-Jones C. The Color of Music

Wolfe, J. What is a Sound Spectrum?

9 Howard, D. M. and Angus, J. A. (2009) Acoustics
and Psychoacoustics, p. 74-81



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