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Acoustics & Perception

"A musical understanding of percussive sounds"

Percussionists are responsible for creating and controlling sound on a wide range of instruments (everything from marimbas and timpani to congas and trashcan lids), using a multitude of implements (mallets, sticks, hands, etc.). Although there is a wealth of scientific research on percussive instruments, much of this focuses more on technical issues rather than practical aspects of sound vital to musicians. Translating our scientific understanding of percussive sounds into language and tools useful to musicians is vital in order to make this knowledge more widely applicable to musicians.

Our Goal

Through interactive visualizations, short videos, blog posts, and links to off-site resources, this axis will serve as a hub of “practical acoustical knowledge” for percussionists, composers of percussion music, educators, sound designers and anyone with an interest in percussive sounds. If you have suggestions of particular instruments of relevance/interest or specific acoustical questions, or would like to contribute to our work on this issue, please contact the axis leader for more details. 

Michael Schutz

I’ve always been fascinated by interesting sounds-which is probably one of the reasons I feel in love with percussion in the first place! When trying to explain to students how nuances of how sounds change based on grip or striking position, I’ve tried to find clear ways of explaining acoustical concepts. Similarly, when exploring the effects of different triangle beaters or ways of holding cymbals I find we have intuitive ideas about percussive sounds that are more advanced that the language available to describe and explain. I’m looking forward to creating a toolbox useful for describing and educating about percussive sounds. If this sounds like a project you’d like to be involved with, please email me for details on applying to be a member of this axis. 

Michael Schutz

Join the Project!

If you have any questions or would like to be a part of the project, contact schutz@mcmaster.ca