List Of Acoustic Principles

Here is a list of pages that describe some musical principles that are important to making unusual instruments. This page will feature short articles describing these principles and the ways that each of these principles has a tendency to be pronounced in idiosyncratic musical instruments.

Steel Resonator- Instruments that use a large sheet of metal (most commonly steel) as a resonator, this technique gives a very distinct timbre to the instruments.

Forced Vibration- Using mechanical means to force something to vibrate, such as controlled scraping or rasping, a feature of the Savart's Wheel, Klaxons, sirens, and scratching lenticular plastic. Instruments that use this principle often have a shrill screaming like quality to their sound, like the scraping of nails on a chalkboard. This principle is unique as the speed of the mechanical force determines the pitch produced.

Klaxon- A form of Forced Vibration where a membrane is forced to deform and 'vibrate' using a ridged wheel or disk that vibrate against a knob on the membrane. This technique can force a membrane of very harder material to deform at a set rate producing a pitch. The pitch can be controlled by the speed of notched wheel, where the notches per second coincides with the frequency.

Timbre Modifier- A part of an instrument that alters the character of its sound without that part being related to the sound source, a Mirliton and rattle tines are examples of these.

Raunch- “Rauchification” or “Rauchifies” is used by Bart Hopkin to define the vulgar buzzing sound that can be given to a tongue or tine when it chatters against another hard surface.

Jivari- The Braying, growling, snarling, or buzzing quality of sound produced by a string that have a bridge that produces spectral sounds, such as the bridges used in Indian instruments. 1)

Mirliton- A membrane used to modify the timbre of a musical instrument often found on woodwinds and marimbas.

Rattle Tine- is a loose scrap of metal that vibrates against a tine on a lamellophone to modify the timbre of the tines.

Bowed Tongues- Bowed lamellophones, instruments with a solid bars or rods that are mounted on one side with each of these tongues bowed.

Interference- Generating specific pitches that interact in unique ways Difference Tones are an example of this.

Combination Tones- When two or more differently pitched tones generate additional imaginary tones due to the way the pitches are perceived.

Interface- The way a player interacts with an instrument.

Sound Synthesizer

Circuit Bending


Corporeal- an instrument that cant really play any kind of discrete musical songs but instead is defined simply by the timbre and behavior of its output (think like an aeolian harp).


Pitch Continuum- The ability to produce any pitch within an instruments range. Instruments can be able to do this to a degree or completely. 2)
Pitch Fluid- The ability to move smoothly between pitches in an instruments range, like Pitch Continuum, but in motion between one or many pitches.
Unstable Tonal Center- Also called unstable pitch. Instruments that are intentionally unstable in pitch and make repeating specific pitches difficult. This produces a sense on instability as scales are difficult to play consistently.

Ghost Tones- Secondary pitches that can be heard on string instruments that are generated by the inactive sections of strings.

Free String- A string that is only mounted on one side, with the other held down by a movable force such as being tied to a rock and the force of gravity acting on the string to give it tension.

3rd Bridge

Nonuniform strings

Longitudinal Vibration- Fundamental behavior of such instruments as the Long-String Instrument and Cristal Baschet, commonly found on string instruments as well as glass tines.


One Man Band

Springs and Coils




Prepared- An instrument that has its sound temporarily altered by placing objects on or in it, for instance wedging screws between the strings of a piano as seen on prepared piano. This technique is typically temporary. This is different then the term Tinkerer, which describes more permanent alterations to existing instruments.

Indiscrete- An instrument that doesn't have easily definable separate parts.

Fungible- the property of an instrument having various parts, or the instrument itself, easily replaceable with another that are indiscernible from the original. These are often also Indescrete.

Self Contained- Instruments that are not interacted with directly by players or listeners and not intended to be accompanied in any kind of ensemble.
This is a prevalent theme in Sound Sculptures, where the sound is considered an artwork. These are frequently a Self Playing Instrument.

Self Playing Instrument- Musical instruments that play themselves using a wide variety of methods. They can be programmed to produce sounds using electronics, which makes them capable of playing any number of different outputs or can be programmed similar to a player piano using purely mechanical means. This should be considered different then instruments that are played by a specific environment (for example an instrument controlled by the wind) or that are controlled through indirect means (for example an instrument whose tone is determined by the number of people in a room).
Cyclical Music Machines are musical instruments that produce and repeat phrases that are programed into them using purely analog means similar to a player piano. Called Rotary Music Machines by Bart Hopkin, these can be considered instrument automata, and can be Self Contained musical instruments but should not be considered Stochastic because the programming method is often perfectly repeatable, and plays sounds in repetition.

Stochastic- Instruments that produce highly random sounds that have little to no detectable pattern to what they produce. Also applies to instruments that are impossible to control the sound of beyond a small amount of control of such things as volume, turning the sound on and off, and placement of the instrument. These are almost always a Self Playing Instrument and often use means to increase the level of chaos present such as Tonal Chaos.

lowercase- The use of very quiet materials as musical instruments. this is most often significantly amplified. There is often a material philosophy of hearing essential sounds of those objects.

Essential sound- A sound philosophy about the sound produced on an instrument being only due to a principle quality of the instruments materials itself.

Sound Sculpture- Any sound making object that is a piece of art, often with the sound generated being considered an artwork rather then or in addition to music.

Stratification- Certain instruments tend to exist only in specific cultural contexts or with specific groups.

Site Specific- An instrument that can only exist in one specific place (for example the Zadar Sea Organ), for this term the idea of it being made out of materials of that location is also relevant.

Iterative- An instrument that has many versions with varying changes, usually small changes. This applies to instruments made with trial and error building methods.

Vernacular instrument


Faceless Company- A strategy common with electronic synthesizers and micro controllers where the instruments are released without any available reference to any individual makers. This is often accompanied by lack of information on who performers, makers, and composers are using the instrument in question in promotional materials, purposefully obfuscating them for the benefit of the unknown parties. 3) 4)

Trash Orchestra- Ensembles that have a specific aesthetic involving primarily using found materials, garbage, and also have a dominate theme of eco-friendliness, environmentalism and recycling.

Tonal Maximum- When the Timbre and tuning of an instrument is taken to the maximum clarity and precision, this is a philosophy against chaotic, uncontrolled, and dissonant sound qualities in an instrument. This is the opposite of nurturing turbulence.

Tonal Chaos- The use of chaos to generate a dissonant, uncontrolled, and cacophonous timbre in musical instruments, prevalent in experimental wind instruments. This is the opposite approach to Tonal Maximum which aims for clarity of tone. The term Turbulence can be used to discuss chaotic sounding woodwinds and is the wind equivalence to Raunch which can be used to describe strings with tines. Expect further descriptive terms in the future each aiming to describe a different element of sound modification.

Universal Music-

Alternative Music Theory-

Future Primitive-

Instrument Spiritualism- There are a great many unusual instruments made for alternative or new age spiritual purposes, these instruments are often pentatonic, play puretone harmonics, and produce long droning sounds. These instruments are made prmarily to suit a spiritual purpose. Examples include the Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer, inventors of the Hang Drum, the instruments of Robin Armstrong, Constance Demby, Katie Grinnan, and Francisco Lupica.

Instrument Shaped Object- Instrument Shaped Objects (ISO for short) are instruments that have almost no ability to play, but has been made to look like they functions well or even like theya re professionally made musical instruments.

A term for wacky/ridiculous instrument that look outlandish but sound relatively normal (weird guitars, cigar box guitars, carrot clarinets ect.. )

Tinkerer- A person who takes an existing instrument and alters it to their needs, often done as an experiment. This is distinct from Prepared which is describing a temporary and reversible alteration, while tinkerers tend to make more permanent alterations.

A term for a person who primarily improves existing instruments and attempt to maximize range and color on them (like Richard Bobo, Bret Newton, Jared De Leon, and Wayne Stuart)

In Need of Terms

a word for instruments that are intentionally against high craftsmanship or that avoid using difficult constructions methods, DIY instrument look
A word for instruments made from scavenged materials, maybe something that emphasizes the tendency for the instruments to look like a conglomeration of unrelated parts/ objects assembled together. assemblage?
A word for the philosophy of hearing essential sounds of an object. Such that the sound made is the inherent and most primal sound of that thing.
Something about musicians who make work that is saturated with unique and difficult to identify sound sources, making it cacophonous and filled with unfamiliar sounds (think Hans Reichel's Yuxo or some of the musical work of Bart Hopkin. Often this style of music is eerie and creepy. A term like Phantasmagoria of sound may apply.
A term for when an instrument translates one type of input into sound, such as transforming light into sound, or a painting, or data ect..
Sound based intervention in an environment (like Akio Suzuki 5))

principles.txt · Last modified: 2022/04/05 00:42 by mete
CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
Driven by DokuWiki Recent changes RSS feed Valid CSS Valid XHTML 1.0