© 2013

Principles of Musical Acoustics


  • A concise musical acoustics book intended for undergraduates with a basic understanding of math and science

  • Discusses both the physics of sound, and the psychology and physiology of how humans perceive sound and music

  • Includes chapters on the tonal characteristics and physics of musical instruments

  • Includes end of chapter exercises and solutions

  • Appendices provide useful supplementary information on diverse topics such as standard piano tuning, the greek alphabet, notable composers, and trigonometric functions

  • Written by the author of the classic text "Signals, Sound, and Sensation"


Part of the Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics book series (ULNP)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 1-7
  3. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 9-16
  4. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 17-27
  5. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 29-38
  6. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 39-52
  7. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 53-65
  8. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 67-75
  9. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 77-84
  10. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 85-97
  11. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 99-108
  12. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 109-124
  13. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 125-136
  14. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 137-144
  15. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 145-155
  16. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 157-167
  17. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 169-178
  18. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 179-188
  19. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 189-199
  20. William M. Hartmann
    Pages 201-210

About this book


Principles of Musical Acoustics focuses on the basic principles in the science and technology of music. Musical examples and specific musical instruments demonstrate the principles. The book begins with a study of vibrations and waves, in that order. These topics constitute the basic physical properties of sound, one of two pillars supporting the science of musical acoustics. The second pillar is the human element, the physiological and psychological aspects of acoustical science. The perceptual topics include loudness, pitch, tone color, and localization of sound. With these two pillars in place, it is possible to go in a variety of directions. The book treats in turn, the topics of room acoustics, audio both analog and digital, broadcasting, and speech. It ends with chapters on the traditional musical instruments, organized by family.

The mathematical level of this book assumes that the reader is familiar with elementary algebra. Trigonometric functions, logarithms and powers also appear in the book, but computational techniques are included as these concepts are introduced, and there is further technical help in appendices.


Fourier Analysis of Music Musical Acoustics for Poets Physics for Musicians Psychoacoustics and Music Psychology of Music Science of Music Vibrations and Waves

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

About the authors

Prof. William Hartmann is Professor of Physics at Michigan State University.  His research focuses on psychoacoustics and sound perception, and he first taught his course on musical acoustics for undergraduates in 1974.

In 1981-82 Dr. Hartmann took a leave of absence to work as a visiting scientist at the Institute for Research on Acoustics and Music (IRCAM) in Paris. He subsequently served at IRCAM as acting director of acoustics (1982-1983) and, supported by a NSF-CNRS grant, as consultant (1983-1987).

Dr. Hartmann has been a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America since 1983. He was chairman of the Technical Committee on Musical Acoustics from 1980 to 1984. From 1992-1995 he served on the Society's Executive Council and was chairman of the External Affairs Administrative Council (1994-1995). He gave the Society Tutorial at the spring meeting in 1996 entitled, "Pitch, Periodicity and the Brain." He served as vice president of the Society (1998-1999) and as president (2001-2002). As president, he worked to enhance the Society's connections with allied organizations such as the Institute for Noise Control Engineering, and to expand the Society's presence internationally.

In 2001 Dr. Hartmann received the Distinguished Faculty Award from Michigan State University and the Helmholtz-Rayleigh Silver Medal from the Acoustical Society of America.  He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Springer's Modern Acoustics and Signal Processing Series.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Principles of Musical Acoustics
  • Authors William M. Hartmann
  • Series Title Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics
  • Series Abbreviated Title Undergraduate Lect. Notes Physics
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy Physics and Astronomy (R0)
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4614-6785-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-4614-6786-1
  • Series ISSN 2192-4791
  • Series E-ISSN 2192-4805
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIV, 348
  • Number of Illustrations 180 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Acoustics
    Engineering Acoustics
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors


From the book reviews:

“Principles of Musical Acoustics is a welcome addition to the existing selection of undergraduate texts. … the writing is clear and lively, and it would be accessible to its target audience. Coupled with a laboratory component and ample demonstrations and computer visualizations, it could form the basis for a stimulating semester course.” (John Smedley, Physics Today, September, 2014)