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Murray Campbell and Mary Térey-Smith

The repetition of sound after a short time interval. In addition to the applications discussed below the term is used for a signal-processing device (also known as a delay) that produces a slightly delayed playback of sounds either by a tape loop or by digital delay; see Electric guitar §2 .

See also Organ stop .

Natural echoes arise from the reflection of a sound wave by a solid surface, such as a wall or cliff. For the echo to be perceived as distinct from the original sound, the extra path length travelled by the reflected sound wave must have a minimum value of around 17 metres, corresponding to a minimum time interval of 50 milliseconds between direct and reflected sounds.

The reverberant sound field in a concert hall is created by multiple reflections of sound waves. In a well-designed hall, the direct sound reaching a member of the audience is followed by a series of reflections within a time interval of around 35 milliseconds. These ‘early delayed arrivals’ are not heard as separate echoes; because of the ‘precedence effect’ they are perceived as a reinforcement of the direct sound. Subsequent reflections blend smoothly into the reverberation. A concave surface, focussing sound waves into a particular part of the hall, can give rise to an audible echo; a ‘flutter echo’ can arise from successive reflections between parallel walls....


D. Quincy Whitney

(b Springfield, MA, May 24, 1911; d Wolfeboro, NH, Aug 7, 2009). American violinmaker, acoustician, and writer. A trumpeter and biology graduate of Cornell University (AB 1933) and New York University (MA 1942), she left both disciplines to embrace string instruments and acoustical physics. While teaching science and woodworking at the Brearley School, chamber music colleagues convinced her to take up viola. A woodcarver since childhood, Hutchins, at age 35, decided to make a viola. Hutchins then studied luthiery with Karl A. Berger (1949–59) and Stradivari expert Fernando Sacconi. While she and Harvard physicist Frederick A. Saunders performed more than 100 acoustical experiments (1949–63), Hutchins taught herself acoustical physics by making string instruments. In 1963 Hutchins and colleagues Robert Fryxell and John Schelleng founded the Catgut Acoustical Society. She published the CAS journal for more than 30 years, helping bridge the gap between violin makers and acoustical physicists. Hutchins made more than 500 instruments, authored more than 100 technical papers on violin acoustics, and edited ...


Edwin M. Ripin

(Fr. table d'harmonie; Ger. Resonanzboden; It. piano armonico, tavola armonica)

The thin sheet of wood in a piano, harpsichord, clavichord, zither, or the like, that serves to make the sound of the strings more readily audible and helps to form the characteristic tone quality of the instrument. A string presents so small a surface to the surrounding air that its vibrations cannot set the air into vibration with any great efficiency; as a result, the sound produced by a string in the absence of a soundboard, although it may well sustain for an appreciable time, is hardly loud enough to be used for any musical purpose. The soundboard, coupled to the strings by means of one or more bridges over which they pass, provides a larger vibrating surface so that the air can be set into vibration more efficiently and a louder sound can be heard. The soundboard does not serve as an amplifier in the same sense as an electronic circuit or device, since it adds no energy from an outside source; rather, it enables the energy already imparted to the string by a hammer, plectrum, tangent, or the like, to be dissipated more rapidly, so this energy is converted to a sound of higher intensity that lasts for a shorter time. The particular resonance and vibrational characteristics of the soundboard determine which components of the complex vibration of the string will be given particular prominence, and the rate at which they will be dissipated; consequently the shape, thickness and ribbing of the soundboard are of primary importance in determining the quality of the instrument of which it is a part....