SHE Level 3
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code M3H623535
Module Leader Steven Walters
School School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment
Subject Audio Engineering
  • A (September start)

Summary of Content

This module is designed to provide students with knowledge of the underlying principles of musical acoustics and investigates the human perception and measurement of music and sound, musical instruments, the human voice and room acoustics. The study of musical acoustics is interdisciplinary. Students are introduced to psychoacoustics and modelling using physics. The human perception of sound is informed by critical listening and analysis.


Theory of sound waves: frequency, period, amplitude, propagation. Sound wave interaction: reflection, interference, absorption, superposition, refraction, diffraction. Human hearing: physiology of the ear, signal processing in the auditory system, critical bands, localisation of sound. Sound Levels: decibels, sound intensity level, sound pressure level, loudness level, musical dynamics, masking. Pitch: pitch scales, tone interaction, pitch of pure and complex tones, absolute and relative pitch, intonation, equal temperament. Timbre: definitions, human perception, harmonic analysis, consonance, dissonance, combination tones, tone colour. Musical instruments: strings, brass, woodwind, percussion, keyboard- history, construction, means of sound production, modelling and recording. Human voice: physiology, speech production, synthesis, analysis, singing. Room acoustics: auditorium, small room, direct, early and reverberant sound, room proportions, sound images from multiple sources. Indicative Coursework: In-depth essay on the history and acoustics of a musical instrument (25%) Practical investigation (25%)

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student should be able to:Demonstrate a clear understanding of concepts and principles underpinning musical acoustics.Demonstrate a deep understanding of the human hearing mechanism and the measurement of sound.Critically analyse, from the point of view of physics and psychoacoustics, theories of pitch and timbre and musical scales and temperament.Demonstrate a deep understanding of musical instruments including their classification, evolution, means of sound production and critically analyse their modelling using physics.Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the human vocal mechanism, speech production and singing.Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the acoustics of rooms including concert halls, small rooms and recording studios.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The University 'Strategy for Learning' documentation has informed the learning and teaching strategy for this module. Lectures will present the core module material and direct student reading and research. Tutorials will be used as a means to reinforce and clarify material presented in lecture. Laboratory sessions will be used to provide practical experience. Critical listening to music and sound will feature in each of these modes of delivery. Opportunities to develop divergent thinking, personalised and deep learning are provided through directed reading and the coursework investigations. Full use will be made of GCU Learn to provide lecture-based and related study materials, along with sample solutions of tutorial and laboratory exercises, thus encouraging the development of independent learning and allowing self-reflective feedback on student performance. Staff-based feedback on student performance for submitted work will be provided in line with the University feedback policy.

Indicative Reading

Essential Howard, David M. & Angus, James (2006) Acoustics and Psychoacoustics, 4th Edition. Oxford, Focal Press (ISBN: 0240519957) Rossing, Thomas D., Moore, F. Richard & Wheeler, Paul A. (2002), The Science of Sound, 3rd Edition. San Francisco: Addison Wesley (ISBN: 0-8053-8565-7) Recommended Rossing, Thomas D.& Fletcher, Neville H., (2010) The Physics of Musical Instruments, Springer (ISBN-10: 1441931201) Helmholz, Herman (2007), On The Sensations Of Tone, Dover (ISBN-10:1602066388) Ballou, Glen (2008), Handbook for Sound Engineers, Fourth Edition (ISBN: 9780240809694) Long, Marshall, (2014) Architectural Acoustics, Second Revised edition, Academic Press Inc (ISBN-13: 978-0123982582) Newell, Philip (2011) Recording Studio Design, Third Edition, Oxford: Focal Press (ISBN-13: 978-0240522401)

Transferrable Skills

Specialist knowledge and application; Critical thinking and problem solving; Critical analysis; Communication skills, written, oral and listening; Effective information retrieval and research skills; Computer literacy; Self-confidence, self-discipline & self-reliance (independent working); Awareness of strengths and weaknesses; Ability to prioritise tasks and time management; Presentation skills

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Assessment (FT) 18.00
Lectures (FT) 12.00
Tutorials (FT) 12.00
Independent Learning (FT) 134.00
Practicals (FT) 24.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Exam (Exams Office) 2.00 50.00 35% Exam (Exams Office)
Coursework 1 n/a 50.00 35% In-depth investigation into aspects of musical acoustics