Ideal sinusoids are infinite in duration. In practice, however, we
must work with finite-length signals. Therefore, only a finite
segment of a sinusoid can be processed at any one time, as if we were
looking at the sinusoid through a ``window'' in time. For audio
signals, the ear also processes sinusoids in short time windows (much
less than 1 second long); thus, audio spectrum analysis is generally
carried out using analysis windows comparable to the time-window
inherent in hearing. Finally, nothing in nature produces true
sinusoids. However, natural oscillations can often be modeled as
sinusoidal over some finite time. Thus, it is useful to consider
*short-time spectrum analysis*, in which the time-domain signal is
analyzed in short time segments (windows). The short-time spectrum
then evolves at some rate over time. The shorter our analysis window,
the faster the short-time spectrum can change. Very long analysis
windows, on the other hand, presuppose a fixed spectral content over
the duration of the window.

The easiest windowing operation is simply *truncating* the
sinusoid on the left and right at some finite times. This can be
modeled mathematically as a multiplication of the sinusoid by
the so-called *rectangular window*:

(6.12) |

where is the length of the window (assumed odd for simplicity). The windowed sinusoid is then

(6.13) |

However, as we will see, it is often advantageous to *taper* the
window more gracefully to zero on the left and right.
Figure 5.1 illustrates the general shape of a more typical window
function. Note that it is nonnegative and symmetric about time 0.
Such functions are loosely called ``zero-phase'' since their Fourier
transforms are real, as shown in §2.3. A more precise
adjective is *zero-centered* for such windows.

In some cases, such as when analyzing real time systems, it is
appropriate to require our analysis windows be *causal*.
A window
is said to be *causal* if it is zero for all
.
Figure 5.2 depicts the causal version of the window shown in
Fig.5.1. A length
zero-centered
window can be made causal by shifting
(delaying) it in time by half its length
. The shift theorem
(§2.3.4) tells us this introduces a linear phase term in
the frequency domain. That is, the window Fourier transform has gone
from being real to being multiplied by
.

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Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Stanford University