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With sound (of medium high German  klanc ) are determined by elastic body produced sound events , respectively. In particular, the physical acoustics and the music use different definitions. What is referred to as sound in acoustics (in contrast to noise, has regular, periodic oscillations), corresponds roughly to the musical term tone (with sinusoidal oscillations, but in contrast to the "pure" tone characterizing the sum of fundamental and overtones). In common parlance, “sound” also refers to the phenomenon of different characteristics of a sound event, e.g. B. the "sound of a voice ".

Oscilloscope image of a sine wave
Oscilloscope image of a sound

Sound in physical acoustics

Every acoustic signal can be described by describing the current deflection as a function at any point in time . In the case of a tone (sinus tone) this oscillation function has the form


Here, the amplitude , the frequency of the vibration. The deflection and the amplitude are distances (lengths). Instead of the deflection, you can also use the sound pressure or the sound velocity . The amplitude is then the maximum value that this variable assumes.

“In technical acoustics, sound is a periodic sound pressure curve with the period duration, the individual frequencies ( harmonics ) of which are in an integer ratio to the basic frequency . The following applies:

The phase relationship of the individual tones to one another is arbitrary. "( Dieter Maute )

“Sound” means the acoustic representation of a pure sine wave. In acoustic analysis, such sine tones are the basic components of every sound event.

In this sense , sound is of little interest to music ; A single pure sinusoidal oscillation cannot be generated with musical instruments, and at best an approximation is possible with electronic instruments. Only in the case that the frequencies of these partials are in an integer relationship to one another, that is, the tones behave "harmoniously" to one another, physics speaks of a "sound", otherwise of a mixture of tones . Vibrations, e.g. B. with musical instruments, are usually composed (according to a simplified model ) for the most part from such harmonic frequencies. Its lowest tone, the frequency of which determines the spacing between the individual partials, is called the " basic frequency ". The partials are called " harmonics ". With wind instruments, the so-called partial tone series corresponds to the natural tone series except for the instrument-characteristic features .

In human perception , such a sound appears as a holistic sound event with a specific pitch (determined by the fundamental tone or the residual tone ) and a specific timbre (determined, among other things, by the ratio of the partial tone amplitudes to each other). Physical sounds are therefore referred to as tones in a musical context .

Sound in music theory

The music theory , in particular the harmonics , referred to with several "sound", the simultaneous occurrence of sounds . For example, it appears in the terms triad , four-tone , five-tone and counter- tone to classify chords . It is also used in terms such as B. line , two-tone , multi-tone or sound surface for harmonies of tones used that are not usually called for better differentiation in music theory and chord.

When it comes to sound composition or sound art , the term sound also includes mixes of sounds and noises . The cultural-scientific sound research in Sound Studies also examines sound in its historical and cultural character and development in practices and technologies.

Comparison of acoustic and musical terms

The following table describes the different linguistic usage in traditional music and in acoustics or electronic music and electroacoustic music :

The tone-sound concept
Acoustics, electronic music traditional music
Sinus tone , tone, pure tone, simple tone known only as partial
Sound, simple sound, harmonic sound volume
Clay mix only known as the (inharmonious) "sound" of
bars, plates, bells
Harmony , multiple sounds, mixed sounds Sound, chord, cluster
colored noise noise
White noise noise

Sound as a characteristic of sound events

Research has shown that sounds are far more complex than assumed. Only a broader conception of “sound” in music takes note of the inharmonious sound components that accompany the musical game, e.g. B. the noise of the air vortex when blowing a flute. In addition, the acoustic characteristics when making music depend on the specific instrument, the musician and, last but not least, on the room acoustics . All these factors - individually or in their entirety - are generally subsumed under the diffuse term "sound". Here he approaches the terms timbre or sound characteristics .

This use of “sound” is not limited to the field of music. In an industrial context, acoustic designers deal with the sound of consumer goods (such as car doors or vacuum cleaners). Marketing discovers the so-called “brand sound” under the keyword “ audio branding ”. The sound studies deal with sounds primarily from a cultural, historical and ethnological perspective and ask, for example, about changes in the sound of a city.

Differentiation from the sound

The concept of sound (Engl. "Sound") must not be equated with the physical concept sound. Traditionally analyzable musical parameters such as rhythm , harmony or melody do not yet make the sound, but rather individual intonation , timing , phrasing , the sound of voices and instruments and mixing make the sound. Even the choice of instrument make, guitar string, microphones and amplifiers influence the sound. Instrumentation, playing technique or playing style also determined the sound. If the sound developed by music producers had a certain characteristic and was used similarly in many recordings over a certain period of time, it received a special name in the professional world. There is the Wall of Sound developed by Phil Spector , the Nashville Sound , the Motown Sound or the Philadelphia Sound .

See also


  • Wilhelm Stauder: Introduction to Acoustics (= pocket books on musicology , edited by Richard Schaal, No. 22). 2nd improved and enlarged edition. Heinrichshofen's Verlag Wilhelmshafen 1980, ISBN 3-7959-0121-9 .
  • Heinz Benker: From tone to sound. Sound science. Lambert Müller Verlag, Munich 1969, pp. 11-12.
  • Herbert Bruhn: Perception of Music. A general music theory from the perspective of psychology and music history. Lecture notes, 5th edition 2003.
  • Carl Dahlhaus, Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (Ed.): Brockhaus-Riemann-Musiklexikon. B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, pp. 598f.
  • Rudolf Flotzinger : Sound. In: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon . Online edition, Vienna 2002 ff., ISBN 3-7001-3077-5 ; Print edition: Volume 2, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-7001-3044-9 .
  • The music in the past and present. General encyclopedia in music. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1966, p. 488f.
  • Ulrich Michels: dtv-Atlas Music. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1977, p. 17.
  • Hans Joachim Moser: Music Lexicon. Music publisher Hans Sikorski, Hamburg 1951, p. 562f.
  • R. Murray Schafer : The order of the sounds. A cultural history of hearing . Translated and re-edited by Sabeine Breitsameter. Schott, Mainz 2010.
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag / Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , 11-13.

Web links

Wiktionary: Sound  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Dieter Maute: Technical acoustics and noise protection . Hanser Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-446-40222-5 , pp. 24 ( online in Google Book Search).
  2. a b Michael Dickreiter, Volker Dittel, Wolfgang Hoeg, Martin Wöhr: Handbuch der Tonstudiotechnik . 2008, ISBN 3-598-44135-5 ( online in Google book search).
  3. "A superimposition of several tones or sounds (eg chord, third) is called a sound or tone mixture [...] Irregular static vibrations lead to a noise." Hans Joachim Eichler , Heinz-Detlef Kronfeldt , Jürgen Sahm: Das Neue Basic physical internship . 2007, ISBN 3-540-29968-8 , pp. 123 ( online in Google Book Search).
  4. Armin Nassehi, Christian Gansch: The perfect sound: About the lightness of perfect music . 2008, ISBN 3-86774-232-4 ( online in Google book search).
  5. “The demarcation from music and the precise definition of the term sound art must remain a vague attempt. The attempts at delimitation and the definitions are virulent and dynamic. Usually everything that does not represent music, that is, that does not have melody, rhythm or composition, is called a sound adventure or a noise. Regardless of this, the acoustic conditions of the everyday and musical world cannot be distinguished in principle. There is no musical material from the start, everything has the potential to be musical, sound-relevant material. A crooked tone has its own quality, noise and noise adventures are musically and tonally more interesting for sound artists than pure, safe tones. ”Anna Mutz: Sound-Art-School . 2012, ISBN 3-8448-0253-3 ( online in Google book search).
  6. Holger Schulze: Sound Studies: Traditions - Methods - Desiderata: An introduction . 2008, ISBN 3-89942-894-3 ( online in Google book search).
  7. Daniel Schmicking: Hearing and Sound: Empirical phenomenological investigations . 2003, ISBN 3-8260-2519-9 ( online in Google book search).
  8. This proves the inflationary use of this term only in the titles of the individual articles in the anthology by Kai Bronner and Rainer Hirt (eds.): Audio-Branding. Development, application and effect of acoustic identities in advertising, media and society . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2009.
  9. See e.g. B. R. Murray Schafer : The order of the sounds. A cultural history of hearing . Translated and re-edited by Sabine Breitsameter. Schott, 2010.
  10. Sabine Meine, Nina Noeske: Music and popularity: aspects of a cultural history between 1500 and today . 2011, ISBN 3-8309-2263-9 , pp. 30 ( online in Google Book Search).
  11. Wieland Ziegenrücker / Peter Wicke, Sachlexikon Popmusik , 1987, p. 368