• the plank
• the box
> Timbral Analysis
• formant analysis
> Music Synthesis
"the distinctive property of a complex sound"
"timbre refers to the perceptual quality of sounds"
"timbre is that attribute of sensation in terms of which a
listener can judge that two sounds having the same loudness
and pitch are dissimilar"
"the timbre of an instrument is the type of sound it makes"
"everything that is not loudness, pitch, or spatial
used, but often so ambiguously defined. Timbre like pitch is tied to
human perception, thus it is inherently subjective in nature. The last
definition above is the most correct. Timbre is defined in terms of
what it is not. It is all the qualities left over after describing
pitch and loudness. Timbre is often determined by the harmonic
content and dynamic character of the sound; it is a psychoacoustic
property. Scales to rate or distinguish timbre have been developed and
use terms like sharp & dull,compact & scattered, bright &
dark, hollow & full. Although these terms do have meaningful
correlations to sound, they are still very subjective and do not offer a
systematic method for timbre classification.
counterpart of musical timbre is the phoneme, which often carries some
of the same ambiguity as the term timbre. Merriam Webster defines it as
"An abstract unit of language that is clearly distinguished from a set
of similar sounds corresponding to it." So the phoneme like timbre
involves distinguising "similar" sounds. However, the phoneme has been
extensively studied and described by linguists, and offers a highly
developed and systematic description of vocal sound. The English
cardinal vowels are only a faction of the distinct set of phonemes that
make up the English language.
It would be nice to
have a similar system to describe musical timbre. In this project from music
255 at CCRMA, based on the ideas of Professor Jonathan Berger, I
propose a system of musical timbre classification based on english
vocal phonemes. Through the use of formant analysis, acoustic
instrument sounds and combinations of instrument sounds can be
classified on a vowel scale in a very analytical way. This provides a
platform for concise timbre description and comparison. The fricative vocal
sounds provide a system for describing attack, and non-tonal musical elements.
This system can be
used as a tool for teaching orchestration. Orchestration is largely
concerned with the timbral combination of instrumental and sometimes electronic
sounds. The phoneme classification system provides a platform for
scientific orchestrational analysis. Also, it offers teachers a
well-defined method for evaluating and critiquing student work.