HONR 301
Physics of Music
Spring 2023

This page is still under construction

Instructor: David Newman
Office: 112 Reich or 701C Elvey
Office Phone: 474-7858
Home Phone: 458-8576 (if all else fails!! But please not after 11 PM)
Email: denewman@alaska.edu

Office Hours:


Wednesday 3:30-4:30pm

Semester schedule (calendar)


Web Projects (under construction)

Links to Web info (to help with your project)

Link to Auroral Forecast at the GI

Videos about Music


Throat Singing

"Hit" music

100 Greatest Classical Music Works

RollingStone Top 500 Songs of all time

 Most watched youtube music videos


Harp and Flute

Sitar performance by Anoushka Shankar

 Zakir Hussain Tabla Solo

Beethoven with with 10000 voices

Plucked string applet

This syllabus is located at: http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/301_HONR_spring_2023.html

Course Syllabus

In approaching this (and all) classes, please note the following ancient Chinese proverb:

Teachers can open the door,
but you must enter by yourself.

Course Content: In the first part of the course you will learn basics of waves and sound waves. Then we will develop a fundamental physical understanding of the nature of sound, hearing (including psychoacoustics), and music. After the basic physics of waves and oscillation, we will begin to look at how simple waves are combined to create the complex sounds we experience in every day life, with a focus on how our perception of these sounds works. We will cover what music is, how instruments create their own unique versions of it, and a bit of how music is communicated through recordings, broadcasts and performances. Most importantly, you are also very likely to learn to impress your friends and family with your knowledge of the universe (or bore them to tears), so be prepared for being introduced to "The Power of Physics".

Prerequisites: We will use basic Math, Algebra and a bit of Trigonometry

Materials Needed:

 Texts:not required

Richard E. Berg and David G. Stork, The Physics of Sound, 3rd ed., Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005.
Juan G. Roederer, The Physics and Psychophysics of Music, 4th edition, Springer Media, 2008.
Donald E. Hall, Musical Acoustics, 3rd edition, Brooks/Cole, 2002.
David Sulzer, Music, Math and Mind, Colombia Univ. Press, 2021.


No calculators may be used during exams or quizzes. Otherwise, buy yourself a nice one. A basic, simple scientific calculator with trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions is all that you need.

Lectures: 2:00-3:30pm TR in  Reich . The lectures supplement but do not substitute for the reading. Lectures will cover the major topics, emphasizing and discussing the important points. The lectures are meant to be very interactive so your personal participation is important, and it is critical that you read any assigned material before lecture.

Homework: There will be few homework assignments. The assignments will be given out in class (and posted on the web site) and will be due in on the following week. You are encouraged to work with others on the homework, but make sure the paper you turn in is not simply copied from someone else. These assignments help me assess your understanding of the material, and will count toward your final grade.
Late problem sets will in general not be accepted.

Quizzes: Some short quizzes will be given in class during the semester. They will be closed book and no calculators allowed (or needed). All difficult formulas needed will be given and the quiz will be similar to recent work. The quizzes will be announced in class and on the schedule page at least one week in advance.

Project: There will be a project due worth a maximum of approximately 20% of the course grade. The project will be in the form of a web page/presentation on a topic in physics (music) that you find interesting and we agree on together. These topics could include biographies of important scientists, physics of musical instruments and scientific/musical ideas. The topic must be agreed to by February 28th and must be competed by April 20th. They will be graded both for presentation and content. More details will be discussed in class.

Participation: Come to class having done the assigned reading (if any) with questions and being prepared to participate in discussions.

Grading: The course grade will consist of the following components (though I reserve the right to make grade adjustments based on performance trends):

	Homework	20 %
	Participation	50 %
	Quizzes		10 %
	Project		20 %

I grade on a curve [though I'd be delighted to give everyone an A if you earn it] however to satisfy university requirements, above 95% will be at least an A, above 85% will be at least a B above 75% will be at least a C, above 65% will be at least a D (in most cases the actual curve is significantly lower!).

Contacting Me: I have office hours 4:00-5:00 Tuesdays and Thursday 3:30 - 4:30. You can drop by at other times if I'm not busy, or make an appointment. I am never available before class.

COVID-19 statement: Students should keep up-to-date on the university’s policies, practices, and mandates related to COVID-19 by regularly checking this website: https://sites.google.com/alaska.edu/coronavirus/uaf/uaf-students?authuser=0  Further, students are expected to adhere to the university’s policies, practices, and mandates and are subject to disciplinary actions if they do not comply.

Special Needs: The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. We will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (203 WHIT, 474-7043) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.

Plagiarism etc: Plagiarism and cheating are matters of serious concern for students and academic institutions. This is true in this class as well. The UAF Honor Code (or Student Code of Conduct) defines academic standards expected at the University of Alaska Fairbanks which will be followed in this class. (Taken from the UAF plagiarism web site, which has many links with good information about this topic)

Complaints and Concerns: You are always welcome to talk to me about anything, however, if you have a non-subject matter question or concern that cannot be resolved by me, contact the Director of the Honors College, Dr. Alexander Hirsch, Honors House, 1818 Copper Lane.

Student protections statement: UAF embraces and grows a culture of respect, diversity, inclusion, and caring. Students at this university are protected against sexual harassment and discrimination (Title IX). Faculty members are designated as responsible employees which means they are required to report sexual misconduct. Graduate teaching assistants do not share the same reporting obligations. For more information on your rights as a student and the resources available to you to resolve problems, please go to the following site: https://catalog.uaf.edu/academics-regulations/students-rights-responsibilities/.

Student Academic Support:

Student Resources:

Nondiscrimination statement: The University of Alaska is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution. The University of Alaska does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, citizenship, age, sex, physical or mental disability, status as a protected veteran, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, parenthood, sexual orientation, gender identity, political affiliation or belief, genetic information, or other legally protected status. The University's commitment to nondiscrimination, including against sex discrimination, applies to students, employees, and applicants for admission and employment. Contact information, applicable laws, and complaint procedures are included on UA's statement of nondiscrimination available at www.alaska.edu/nondiscrimination. For more information, contact: 

UAF Department of Equity and Compliance
1692 Tok Lane, 3rd floor, Constitution Hall, Fairbanks, AK  99775

Alternate References: To see the same topics explained differently, try the following:

Coming soon

Here is a good web site on how to study physics which might be of interest and use: How to study physics

General Advice: Physics is not something you read and memorize, rather it is something you learn how to do. Try the following study procedure:

  1. Read the chapter prior to lecture, so that you will know what it's about.
  2. Listen carefully to the lecture and take notes.
  3. This is crucial: Do not go back and read and re-read the chapter until you "understand it." Rather, start working problems, going back through the chapter to clarify points as they come up. I suggest you try to answer all "Checkpoint" problems in the text and the questions at the end of the chapter. If you understand these, you've probably understood the salient points of the chapter.
  4. Think! Don't simply try to fit the problems into the form of another problem, think through the problem first.


Links to interesting sites:

Relativity animation this is a fly through of a city at regular and relativistic speeds.