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#51 2011-01-25 17:51:56

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Toby wrote:

Jim Thompson wrote:

I wonder what long time instrument manufacturers would have to say on this issue. You know companies like Selmer or Buffet have been batting this issue around for a hundred years or better. They do take great concern over the material their instruments are made of. For example, Buffet now offers their R-13 (top pro model) in traditional grenadilla and in a composite material they call their Green Line. People I consider to be experts say they are as good as the wooden ones. I've heard some people say they are better. Buffet spent a long time and a lot of money developing this material. If the material doesn't make a difference why did they spend so much effort and expense to develope it? If it was strictly about shape couldn't you use any old thing?

Greenline clarinets are made of a polycarbonate impregnated with grenadilla powder. It is basically just plastic, but Buffet would have big trouble if it was just shiny old black plastic like every student's Chinese beginner clarinet. They don't want it to look or feel like plastic, even though it is. The Greenline clarinets are a perfect example of the fact that material doesn't matter. Some cheap plastic sounds just as good as rare and expensive grenadilla, and in fact is better because it has much better dimensional stability. I have a wooden R13 and would just as soon it were Greenline.

Toby,
        You (and Ed) seem to be suggesting that the Green Line could have been made just as successfully with any old crappy plastic and the material they developed is basically a phoney song and dance to make the customer think he getting something special. That's a stretch I can't make. I know a guy who was working for Buffet at the time and they spent a lot of time and money developing the material. If it is just a sham, why all the trial and error?


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#52 2011-01-25 19:25:30

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Ed's two centimes:
You CAN make it out of any old material, but 'any old material' still has to:
    be dimensionally stable.
    be of similar density and heft as the original hardwood product.
    be machine-able so that the surfaces can be finished to the proper tolerances,
    or injection molded an still maintain proper tolerances, if that's the process used.
    take the key hardware and hold it in the desired manner.
    be aesthetically pleasing to the user.

All this takes time, research, some trial and error, effort, and many centimes.


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#53 2011-01-25 23:42:32

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
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Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Toby wrote:

t of delrin, and then attached them to tubes of silver, copper and wood, and asked some flute players to try them. Almost every player who tried them had definite preferences, and could describe the difference in the sound and response. He then put the three on a spindle in the dark, and asked the players to try one, then spin the spindle and try to find the same flute again. None could do so, and they were nonplussed to find that those clear differences they perceived were illusory.
.

This happens to me sometimes. I pick up a flute thinking it's a particular flute, happily toot on it for a while without a second thought, then look closer and realize it's a completely different flute than the one I thought. The player is most of the sound. I would almost say:

1. Player
2. Room
3. Flute


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#54 2011-01-26 19:08:14

Moran from Planet X
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From: Here to There
Registered: 2005-10-11
Posts: 1524
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Re: Do materials used affect sound?

edosan wrote:

Ed's two centimes:
You CAN make it out of any old material, but 'any old material' still has to:
    be dimensionally stable.
    be of similar density and heft as the original hardwood product.
    be machine-able so that the surfaces can be finished to the proper tolerances,
    or injection molded an still maintain proper tolerances, if that's the process used.
    take the key hardware and hold it in the desired manner.
    be aesthetically pleasing to the user.

All this takes time, research, some trial and error, effort, and many centimes.

So "some cheap plastic" doesn't sound just as good as rare and expensive grenadilla ???


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." —Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#55 2011-01-26 19:46:00

Musgo da Pedra
Member
From: South of Brazil
Registered: 2007-12-02
Posts: 332
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Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Sorry for this question (it sounds a bit weird and I don't know how to ask it right), but it is around my head while I read this topic.

The materials are affected in diferent ways by the heat of the breath right? Can something related to that make any diference in sound?


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#56 2011-01-26 19:57:40

Toby
Shakuhachi Scientist
From: out somewhere circling the sun
Registered: 2008-03-15
Posts: 405

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Musgo da Pedra wrote:

Sorry for this question (it sounds a bit weird and I don't know how to ask it right), but it is around my head while I read this topic.

The materials are affected in diferent ways by the heat of the breath right? Can something related to that make any diference in sound?

Actually yes, in a way. There is a temperature gradient in any instrument played at room temperature. Near the top, the temperature is thirty-odd degrees (C) because of the player's breath. Near the bottom it is much closer to the ambient temperature due to the heat being dissipated by the walls. This temperature gradient can make the higher notes significantly sharper than the lower notes. An instrument made out of a material that is not as thermally conductive can lessen the effect somewhat.

Interestingly, gas composition also has a significant effect on intonation. I just read a paper in which it was found that the pitch of a played note shifted as much as 20 cents down at the end of a breath, due to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the player's air.

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#57 2011-01-26 20:07:58

Toby
Shakuhachi Scientist
From: out somewhere circling the sun
Registered: 2008-03-15
Posts: 405

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Jim Thompson wrote:

Toby wrote:

Jim Thompson wrote:

I wonder what long time instrument manufacturers would have to say on this issue. You know companies like Selmer or Buffet have been batting this issue around for a hundred years or better. They do take great concern over the material their instruments are made of. For example, Buffet now offers their R-13 (top pro model) in traditional grenadilla and in a composite material they call their Green Line. People I consider to be experts say they are as good as the wooden ones. I've heard some people say they are better. Buffet spent a long time and a lot of money developing this material. If the material doesn't make a difference why did they spend so much effort and expense to develope it? If it was strictly about shape couldn't you use any old thing?

Greenline clarinets are made of a polycarbonate impregnated with grenadilla powder. It is basically just plastic, but Buffet would have big trouble if it was just shiny old black plastic like every student's Chinese beginner clarinet. They don't want it to look or feel like plastic, even though it is. The Greenline clarinets are a perfect example of the fact that material doesn't matter. Some cheap plastic sounds just as good as rare and expensive grenadilla, and in fact is better because it has much better dimensional stability. I have a wooden R13 and would just as soon it were Greenline.

Toby,
        You (and Ed) seem to be suggesting that the Green Line could have been made just as successfully with any old crappy plastic and the material they developed is basically a phoney song and dance to make the customer think he getting something special. That's a stretch I can't make. I know a guy who was working for Buffet at the time and they spent a lot of time and money developing the material. If it is just a sham, why all the trial and error?

Depends on why they spent the money on the material. They clearly wanted it to look and feel something like wood, else how are they going to charge R-13 prices for a horn that looks like it is a cheap student model from China? And as Ed points out, it has to be dimensionally stable, machinable, and hold the keywork stably. And since we know that bore smoothness is a significant factor, it probably had to be developed to somehow simulate the microscopic surface profile of wood. Anyone who loves jinashi flutes as compared to jiari knows that acousitc losses are not necessarily always bad. In China recently I played a dizi flute made out of jade, highly polished. The sound was bright and sharp--almost shrill--compared to that of a wooden or bamboo dizi. An extremely smooth plastic clarinet might be similar--bright and loud, but without the mellowness or slight resistance that wood will give due to the acoustic losses at the boundary layer at the walls.

I'm guessing they spent all that money developing a material that felt something like wood, looked something like wood, responded something like wood to machining so that they could use their same tools, and had a surface texture on the inside of the bore something like wood after machining with those tools.

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#58 2011-01-26 20:37:02

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Neither, it was a diversion of profit into Research and Development to reduce the Tax Bill.

K.


Kia Kaha !

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#59 2011-01-26 20:59:05

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Toby wrote:

In China recently I played a dizi flute made out of jade, highly polished. The sound was bright and sharp--almost shrill--compared to that of a wooden or bamboo dizi. An extremely smooth plastic clarinet might be similar--bright and loud, but without the mellowness or slight resistance that wood will give due to the acoustic losses at the boundary layer at the walls.

.

Toby,
         You are confusing me a little bit. Sometimes you seem to be arguing that material makes a difference (as in the case above) and other times that it does not. Do I misunderstand your position?
While contemplating this thread I wondered what a diamond shakuhachi would sound like. I 'm guessing shrill and harsh like the jade dizi.

Last edited by Jim Thompson (2011-01-26 21:00:22)


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#60 2011-01-27 00:04:23

Moran from Planet X
Member
From: Here to There
Registered: 2005-10-11
Posts: 1524
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Jim Thompson wrote:

Toby,
         You are confusing me a little bit.

Jim, your answer lies inscrutably here:

Toby wrote:

Interestingly, gas composition also has a significant effect on intonation.

In other words, watch the tacos.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." —Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#61 2011-01-27 00:29:34

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Moran from Planet X wrote:

In other words, watch the tacos.

Unless, of course, your looking for that "south of the border sound".


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#62 2011-01-27 00:50:44

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Jim Thompson wrote:

Toby wrote:

In China recently I played a dizi flute made out of jade, highly polished. The sound was bright and sharp--almost shrill--compared to that of a wooden or bamboo dizi. An extremely smooth plastic clarinet might be similar--bright and loud, but without the mellowness or slight resistance that wood will give due to the acoustic losses at the boundary layer at the walls.

.

Do I misunderstand your position?

Somewhat: It's not the glass, per se, that's affecting the sound differently than another material, it's a CHARACTERISTIC of the glass; ie, that it is
capable of being SMOOTH (as glass...), far smoother a surface (and possibly sharper utaguchi edge) than wood, or even a highly polished jiari flute. Remember the boundary layer business (the airspeed changing right at the surface of the bore as a function of the smoothness/porosity of the surface)? Vastly different with glass (unless it's etched, or sandblasted glass, say, and then it would sound another kind of 'different').

Last edited by edosan (2011-01-27 00:54:46)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#63 2011-01-27 01:32:09

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

My 'glazed' bore ceramic Shakuhachi has a sound that I would describe as 'clear' compared with my other Jinashi and even my Jiari bamboo Shakuhachi.
I assume the partials have more volume.
It also has very good sustain, i.e. the note does not break as the air pressure drops to that very fine tapering.

K.


Kia Kaha !

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#64 2011-01-27 01:48:58

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

edosan wrote:

It's not the glass, per se, that's affecting the sound differently than another material, it's a CHARACTERISTIC of the glass; ie, that it is
capable of being SMOOTH (as glass...), far smoother a surface (and possibly sharper utaguchi edge) than wood, or even a highly polished jiari flute. Remember the boundary layer business (the airspeed changing right at the surface of the bore as a function of the smoothness/porosity of the surface)? Vastly different with glass (unless it's etched, or sandblasted glass, say, and then it would sound another kind of 'different').

Now that's some mighty agile linguistic dancing. I'll bet you were hell on the chicks at those MENSA teas in your day. 
      O.K. So we got that the material per se doesn't matter- it's the materials' characteristic(s) that is(are) important. Don't you have to have the material to get the characteristics? Have you found some way of separating the characteristics from the material? I'm not going down easy on this one.

Last edited by Jim Thompson (2011-01-27 01:53:43)


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#65 2011-01-27 08:08:57

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Jim Thompson wrote:

O.K. So we got that the material per se doesn't matter- it's the materials' characteristic(s) that is(are) important. Don't you have to have the material to get the characteristics? Have you found some way of separating the characteristics from the material? I'm not going down easy on this one.

I agree, this was from Toby's first post in this thread:

Toby wrote:

With so many variables in the mix, it is literally impossible to say with any certainty that materials cause any difference. 150 years of careful investigation suggest that if the construction, bore dimensions and smoothness are identical, material makes not a whit of difference.

I'm fine with this statement, as Toby mentions that smoothness has to be identical. However, instead of making the statement and then saying that "to be practical, sense the smoothness of materials other than metals are all inherently different, different materials will sound different", Toby goes on to say:   

Toby wrote:

I close with a quote from Benade:

"A fable, the more remarkable since it is always discussed, is that the material of which a wind instrument is made has an influence upon the sound of same. That this is not so rests upon incontrovertible acoustical laws, about which there should be absolutely no more discussion."

I believe Toby took the above quote from Benade out of context because Benade was talking about metals that have a similar smoothness.

As an aside, you see how emotional of a topic this is for shakuhachi players. Can you imagine what it's like for the advanced silver flute student who got talked into spending $5,000 for a gold head joint... or the parent who paid for it as a graduation gift!

Last edited by radi0gnome (2011-01-27 08:10:33)


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#66 2011-01-27 08:17:39

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Jim Thompson wrote:

O.K. So we got that the material per se doesn't matter- it's the materials' characteristic(s) that is(are) important. Don't you have to have the material to get the characteristics? Have you found some way of separating the characteristics from the material? .

Word.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

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#67 2011-01-27 08:23:35

No-sword
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From: Kanagawa
Registered: 2008-07-09
Posts: 115
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Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Have you found some way of separating the characteristics from the material?

Investigations are underway!

Last edited by No-sword (2011-01-27 08:24:09)


Matt / no-sword.jp

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#68 2011-01-27 08:31:11

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Tairaku 太楽 wrote:

Jim Thompson wrote:

O.K. So we got that the material per se doesn't matter- it's the materials' characteristic(s) that is(are) important. Don't you have to have the material to get the characteristics? Have you found some way of separating the characteristics from the material? .

Word.

Word, nothin' people, it's time to wake up and start smellin' the coffee and quit APPEARING to split hairs. Because you ain't splitting any real ones, you're just being ornery.

Bottom line: you have to go all the way back to the first, now ancient and bearded and wrinkled, commentary of Toby's about WHAT MAKES THE DAMNED sound in a wind instrument: it's a TUBE of moving, excited, resonating air, with SOMETHING wrapped around it. What that something IS is trivial compared to the shape and surface of the wrapping. The shape and nature of the thing that initiates the resonance (ie, reed, mouthpiece, utaguchi) is also an important variable.

Now, if you believe that (granted that you are struggling mightily to ignore half of what Toby's been saying...WHICH half seems to vary by individual), then IF you could make the bore of a shakuhachi as smooth and even as polished glass, it'd sound like a glass shakuhachi.

To continue (and very funny, No-Sword...no, really), if you have three glass shakuhachi, each with a different bore profile, but all with the same polished, typically glassy, surface, they will all sound different (shape). Three glass shakuhachi with identical bore profiles, but one polished, one sandblasted and one etched, will also sound different to some degree (surface).

I'm just an average guy, with pretty good reading comprehension skills, and a bit of training in the scientific method, but I'm beginning to see how Galileo felt as he stood in front of the Pope and his boys....

Last edited by edosan (2011-01-27 09:04:22)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#69 2011-01-27 11:14:52

Jim Thompson
Moderator
From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

Aha! It is as I suspected. We don't disagree. Let's see if we can come up with a statement we could all agree on. How about "The characteristics of the material are one of many factors that effect tonal quality". I'll settle for that. The discussion of whether or not you can separate a material from it's characteristics is another discussion we'll leave to the academians. Maybe they can get a grant parsing that one out.
   P.S.   Did I actually hear Ed'o call somebody ornery? It made my day.

Last edited by Jim Thompson (2011-01-27 11:33:26)


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#70 2011-01-27 12:37:25

Moran from Planet X
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From: Here to There
Registered: 2005-10-11
Posts: 1524
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Re: Do materials used affect sound?

edosan wrote:

I'm beginning to see how Galileo felt as he stood in front of the Pope and his boys....

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/Cucking_stool.png


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." —Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#71 2011-01-27 13:09:44

geni
Performer & Teacher
From: Boston MA
Registered: 2005-12-21
Posts: 830
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Re: Do materials used affect sound?

for me what it matters most.... is the shape inside the mouth when we play.

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#72 2011-01-27 13:51:34

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

edosan wrote:

Bottom line: you have to go all the way back to the first, now ancient and bearded and wrinkled, commentary of Toby's about WHAT MAKES THE DAMNED sound in a wind instrument: it's a TUBE of moving, excited, resonating air, with SOMETHING wrapped around it. What that something IS is trivial compared to the shape and surface of the wrapping. The shape and nature of the thing that initiates the resonance (ie, reed, mouthpiece, utaguchi) is also an important variable.

OK, you can find some of Toby's ancient, bearded and wrinkled commentary from this thread. It's a good read.

Although Toby has from the start said that smoothness is an important factor, it seems that he has finally backed down in this latest discussion and suggested that it's a good explanation for any observations that material might make a difference in wood flutes. However, if you dig deeply enough into that old thread you'll find:

Toby wrote:

I would respectfully ask you to re-read what Coltman has to say on the subject:

"...the musician cannot, under normal playing circumstances, dissociate his personal preferences and prejudices from the question at hand. In the case of the three 'flutes' I constructed, nearly every player who picked them up and tried them had a preference for one or the other. Often he would describe his impressions - the wooden flute has a 'fuller' tone, the silver one 'projects' much better, etc. He was then usually baffled to find that he could not identify any of the instruments under the 'blindfold' conditions I described. The plain facts are that his judgment is influenced by preconceived notions and mental associations of tone quality with other properties of the material. This is a normal human reaction, intensified in the case of those trained to incorporate feeling into their art, and to whom the instrument becomes, in effect, an extension of their own body and personality. It is just not suited for answering narrow, objective questions like the one I posed - namely: can the material of which a flute is made directly influence the tone quality produced? "

Hey! It looks like Coltman used a wooden flute in his cleverly devised experiment and has already put to sleep the argument that materials, even wood, makes a difference.

So, I guess the real question now is do we believe Coltman, or do we go along with the theory Toby just gave in to that different woods have different smoothnesses that possibly affects the tone? If the wood Coltman used was close enough in smoothness to metal to not have any discernible difference in tone, I can't see where the smoothness of any two types of well-sanded woods should be any different.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#73 2011-01-27 13:53:54

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

geni wrote:

for me what it matters most.... is the shape inside the mouth when we play.

For me what matters most is whether my lips are chapped or moist.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#74 2011-01-27 15:20:09

NZN
Member
Registered: 2011-01-27
Posts: 1

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

The crux of this material vs. bore-shape debate is whether a shakuhachi is an idiophone or an aerophone. Does the sound come from vibrating material or the bore-shape? The material people need to have the wall of the flute vibrating as, for them, that’s the source of the sound. The bore-shape folks could care less if the flute vibrates because, for them, any vibration is largely irrelevant to sound production. Talking about surface roughness, i.e. air friction, while relevant, is a red herring to the basic question. The materials contingent needs to bite down hard on the fundamental question (idiophone or aerophone?) and really realize what they’re arguing.

Claiming that a specific material is needed to achieve a certain quotient of air friction is an entirely different and separate question. And one easily answered.

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#75 2011-01-27 16:17:52

Musgo da Pedra
Member
From: South of Brazil
Registered: 2007-12-02
Posts: 332
Website

Re: Do materials used affect sound?

So, after reading  everything on this post until now (I think so) I think we can  clearly say: Yes, materials do affect the sound when they are in a rough state.

Can we agree about that at least?


Omnia mea mecum porto

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