Acoustics & Sound For Musicians - Online Book

The Theory Of Sound Which Constitutes The Physical Basis Of The Art Of Music.

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I. § 23.] STEADINESS OF MUSICAL SOUNDS.           49
a particular sound is musical or not: this arises, however, from no defect in our definition, but from the fact that such sounds consist of two elements, musical and non-musical, of which the latter may be the more powerful, and therefore absorb our at­tention until it is specially directed to the former. For instance, a beginner on the violin often produces a sound in which the irregular scratching of the bow predominates over the regular tone of the string. In bad flute-playing an unsteady hissing sound accompanies the naturally sweet tone of the instru­ment, and may easily surpass it in intensity. In the tones of the more imperfect musical instruments, such as drums and cymbals, the non-musical element is very prominent, while in such sounds as the hammering of metals, or the roar of a water-fall, we may be able to recognise only a trace of the musical element, all but extinguished by its boisterous com­panion.
We have seen that Sound reaches our ears by means of vibrations executed by the particles of the atmosphere. It has also been shown that steadiness is the characteristic feature of musical, as distin­guished from non-musical, sounds. We may infer hence that the motion of the air corresponding to a single musical sound will be itself steady, i.e. that equal numbers of equal vibrations will be executed in
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