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Richard's Music Tips And Tricks



Home Recording Tips And Tricks (Analogue)
Musical Demos
The Physics Of Sound
Making Tubular Instruments
Table Of Equitempered Scale Frequencies
Selected Mondegreens (Misheard Song Lyrics)
Guitar Tunings

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Home Recording Tips And Tricks (Analogue )

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Including Tapes, Mics, Pops, Effects Loop Setup, Effects Loop Mixing, Hum, Panning, EQ, Delay, Vocal Effects, Mixing Down, Making Space, Keeping Notes

rotating dot Tapes
Use good tapes ie the recommended ones for your tape machine and if using a cassette for mixing down/mastering then use 'type II's eg TDK SA 90.

rotating dot Mics

Use a good microphone with a high output impedance. Eg a C1000S. (The high output is especially useful for home recording mixers and tape machines.) Experiment with different microphones. For instance a good blues harmonica sound can be had from playing into a cheap (10-15) crystal mic as available from Tandy or Maplins, and then put this through a small practise amp and then mic that up, using say a Shure S58 mic.

rotating dot Pops

To avoid the 'pops' in vocals (as when singing 'puh' sounds) take an old pair of tights and stretch them over a wire circle made from a coat hanger, then fix this in position (say, to a microphone stand) such that the tights are about 4" from the microphone.

rotating dot Effects Loop Setup

Use an effects loop with your tape machine or mixer. This is how to do it: put the mic into an input channel, and adjust the level so that it's just below peaking. Send that signal out onto the auxiliary bus. If using a mixer, then turn the AUX 1 knob for that input channel up -this puts the signal on the AUX bus- and then send the signal out of the AUX MASTER SEND jack by turning up the AUX MASTER SEND control knob. The effects unit will have a jack into it's input from the AUX MASTER SEND on the mixer or tape machine, and the effect unit's output will be connected to ANOTHER input channel on the mixer or tape machine. If using a tape deck like the Fostex 380S in the case above there will be just one knob to twiddle- that is the AUX 1 knob for the input channel. Adjust the AUX out knob(s) and the effects unit input control knob to get a just-below-peaking signal in the effects machine. With the 'dry' channeL turned off, adjust the faders on the 'wet' input channel to get a good level here also. EQ the 'wet' input channel. Turn off the 'wet' channel and EQ the 'dry' signal. With both channels on, then get the best mix you can of the wet and dry channels by adjusting the faders for each channel appropriately. NOTE it's better to come back into the mixer or tape deck on an input channel rather than through the AUX RETURN becuase you have more control over volume and EQ on an input channel. Then record on whatever TRACK you choose.

rotating dot Effects Loop Mixing

If using a digital effects unit (eg Alesis Quadraverb) with a mixer then set up effects programs such that there is always a mix of 0 'direct' signal and 90-99% 'master effects' signal. The dry and wet signals can be mixed on the desk. Also, in order to reduce noise etc it's a good idea to simplify effect programs where possible. Eg, if the EQ for a program is 'flat' (no cut or boost at all) then again set the EQ level in the mix section to 0, or if say a program is set up to have delay as input to the reverb, then set the delay level in the mix section to 0 again since the delay is there in the system and it doesn't necessarily need to be mixed into the main mix. Also (as long as noise is not a problem crank up the input and output knobs on a digital effects unit since then there is a stronger signal to work with.

rotating dot Hum

To avoid hum, where possible keep mains cabling separate from all equipment and leads. Where possible use screened mains cabling and screened leads. Where mains cabling has to cross leads of any sort then they should cross at right angles, since the least significant magnetic field is apparent that way. 'Mains hum' is recognisable to the trained ear since it generally appears at 50Hz frequency. If you have parametric EQ, then create a very small EQ bandwidth around 50Hz and cut that completely. Also try moving effects units away from other equipment since they can be particularly susceptible to the fields created by other things, and this can sometimes be the cause of 'effects hum'. Sometimes 'effects hum' can be due to the way the box uses compression- no noise when a signal is passing through but noise in between- and this is because the compression algorithm creates 'something out of nothing' by raising the weak (non-existent) signal. In this case reduce the level of compression on the effects unit if possible. Plus ALWAYS use 'oxygen-free' noiseless leads.

rotating dot Some suggested uses of stereo left and right. (Panning)

The following is adapted from an article in Recording Musician magazine, and is of course just one example but nevertheless something to work from.

stereo acoustic (or rhythym) guitar mid-left - centre
stereo keyboard centre - full-right
lead or melody guitar centre - mid-right
bass guitar or other bass centre
drums centre
toms mid-left - mid-right
crashes mid-left hi-hats: mid-right
lead vocals centre
backing vocals full-left - just right of centre
stereo delay centre - full-right
stereo chorus full-left - centre
stereo reverb full-left - full-right

rotating dot The gentle art of EQ

Firstly, don't overdo the EQing, use it sparingly. Try to get the right EQ on a track BEFORE it's recorded, and not afterwards at the mixing stage. The following are common ways to EQ different sounds (from Recording Musician magazine) but these are not set in stone obviously. (Note: before EQing, experiment with different mic positions to get the best sound tone to start with...)

Acoustic guitarCut around 200HzBoost between 4KHz and 6kHz
Bass drumCut about 10dB around 220HzBoost at 80HzBoost 10dB or so at 50Hz or 60Hz
Bass guitarCut around 200-250 HzBoost around 80HzSmall boost between 500Hz and 800Hz for bite
Brass/stringsSometimes cut between 1kHz and 3.5kHzBoost between 300Hz and 400Hz
Electric GuitarBoost between 125Hz and 200HzBoost between 3kHz and 4kHz
PianoCut between 250Hz and 350HzBoost from 90Hz to 150HzBoost a touch between 4kHz and 6kHz
Snare drumBoost bewteen 90Hz and 140HzBoost between 3kHz and 7Khz
TomBoost around 80Hz to 120Hz
VocalsBoost between 3kHz to 4kHz

For backing vocals cutting a touch of mid-low bass can help them sit better in the mix.
It's generally it's better to achieve the effect you want with CUT in the right place rather than BOOST of the rest since then you achieve a more 'natural' kind of sound. Also, it's also worthwhile to sit down and work out what your particular vocal range is in terms of frequencies, if you sing that is.

rotating dot Delay

When using a lot of delay it's worth taking the time to synchronise the delay to the tempo of the piece. For example, say you have a piece which your computer (or metronome) tells you is at 120 beats per minute. Divide this by 60 to tell you how many beats there are per second. This one is easy, it's 2 beats per second, but generally you might have to use a calculator to work out this figure. OK so then divide 1000 (milliseconds) by this figure, ie 1000 divided by 2 equals 500. So in this case you have 1 beat per 500 milliseconds. So then you know that appropriate values for delay in this case are say 2 times that figure (1 second), that figure (500 milliseconds), half that figure (125 milliseconds), a quarter that figure (72 milliseconds) and so on. If you want to be esoteric then creative use can be made of the phase effects of different intruments deliberately delayed to be out of sync with the tempo, or each other, but that's another story. (Try playing with one-third of the beat time, or two-thirds, or four-thirds, with a piece that's in 4/4 for instance- sometimes this really works...).

Delay reference: AT 120 BEATS PER MINUTE

i) a 250 millisecond delay gives 8 repeats per bar

ii) 330 ms delay gives 6 repeats per bar

iii) 500 ms delay gives 4 repeats per bar

iv) 660 ms delay gives 3 repeats per bar

Rock tends to use i) and iii), 'groovy' things tend to use ii) and iv).

An UPBEAT effect is achieved by using a slightly shorter delay than the exact calculation, and a 'LAID-BACK' effect is achieved by using a delay that is slightly longer than the calculated bar-fraction. Ambient stuff will often use prominent delay but obviously will other things such as folky vocals then although you can get away with say one ('slap-back') dealy echo at a high level subsequent repeats should fade quickly and not really be heard.

rotating dot Vocal Effects

You can achieve good vocal effects using an Alesis Quadraverb (or similar) digital effects unit. Generally speaking, you're after some reverb, a touch of delay, and a tiny amount of chorus or flange, but getting it just right requires care, such that at the end of the day the sound is warm and rich and interesting without sounding harsh or unnatural. So. The reverb is the main thing, and ideally the delay (and chorus) should only affect the reverberations BUT NOT the 'main' signal, that is the delay and chorus should not be applied to the first sound that is heard, only to it's echoes. Thus it helps to get to grips with the Quadraverb manual and perhaps even play with diagrams showing each of the separate 'sections' of the Quadraverb (Reverb, Delay, etc etc) as separate boxes. Persuade someone who has got a good sound together to let you note down ALL the parameters, but for the moment let's concentrate on the reverb. Set delay as an input to reverb in the reverb section and set the delay level in the main mix to 0 or nearly 0. Reverb predelay should be 001 (the illusion of a non-existent space), with the predelay mix PRE <- 99 POST. Reverb decay 40-50, diffusion 6-8, density 6-8, low frequency decay around -10, high frequency decay around -30 to -40, and the reverb gate off. The delay section can be tailored to the tempo of the piece (see above).

rotating dot Mixing Down

Say you're mixing down onto cassette from your 4 or 8 track. EQ it and sort out the appropriate fader levels while listening through your monitor (eg Hi-Fi) speakers (since there's a big difference in sound, especially in bass response when compared to headphones), BUT when finally mixing a piece down onto cassette monitor it on headphones from the 4 or 8- track, and turn the Hi-Fi volume right down. Also set the recording level on the cassette/Hi-Fi after turning the output volume from the 4 or 8-track up to the maximum. This way there should be the most definition in the signal which is sent to the cassette machine.

rotating dot 'Making Space'

One of the first things to learn about multitracking is how to use SPACE. For me, having played solo acoustic guitar and having been used to cranking up a loud strum for unmiked folk clubs, it was a revelation to realise that a quite different approach is usually needed when you've got say 8 tracks to play with. If each part that you lay down tries to fill all of the available space, then at the end of the day you end up with something very muddy, and the listener will find it hard to SEPARATE one part from another. Solution? Hold yourself back on many of the parts, allow space for subsequent things. Where necessary REARRANGE guitar parts and so on to be more sparse, and give the new part more definition. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that 'such and such a part doesn't REALLY work, so I'll mix it right down relative to other things'. It's much much better to MAKE EVERYTHING COUNT such that if a part leaves something to be desired then re-work it until it makes a proper contribution to the piece so that at the mixing stage everything is THERE and can be heard.

rotating dot Keeping Notes

Keep notes on effects that you really like. Say for instance you use an effects processor to get a good vocal sound, then go through all of the parameters for that program and commit them all to paper. Who knows, you might inadvertently change the program for the worse at some stage, and also looking hard at why such and such a program WORKS is useful to help you get to grips with understanding all of the parameters, or at least some of the more important ones. It can also be useful to note down mixer settings for a particular piece and note down in a grid pattern where and when to move mixer faders when mixing something down.


Musical Demos

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Some Tips To Help Make It Happen

The following list of 'keywords' are, apparently, the qualities that music business A&R people tend to look for. This is a list of things that rightly or wrongly they think audiences look for. (But, 'people who try to give you what they think you want to hear, in my experience, always fall short of being special. Do it from the heart and for the right reasons' -quote from a music business A&R person)...

An Individual Style...
An Unmistakable Quality...


rotating dot If you do a cover version of someone else's music, make it 'your own' by doing it in your own chosen way that expresses your own style.
rotating dot If you've got access to expensive gadgetry, don't fall into the trap of over-using that, as in producing or arranging out the passion from originally simple and strong material.
rotating dot A little time (and money) spent on packaging can be important, since 'if you care about the music, you care about it's presentation'. (Also you might be wanting to try and catch the eye of someone with 50 demo tapes to plough through...).
rotating dot Always remember to put yourself behind the ears of a (mostly) non-musical audience. People pick up on 'feel', they pick up on originality, and they pick up on passion.
rotating dot Even A&R people generally want to hear the artist as opposed to the producer.
rotating dot Don't neglect the vocals, they are VERY important. (If there are vocals, that is!). Lyrics are important too.
rotating dot If you make a demo tape, limit it to two, three or four songs. People in 'the business' are very unlikely to listen to more than that, so make sure you get their attention with those few well-chosen pieces.
rotating dot An A&R person will want to know not only how you sound, but they are also likely to want to know what you look like (ie from a photograph) plus they will want to know little on who you are, so a short biography on you, the band, or band members will not go amiss.
rotating dot Don't forget your CONTACT address/phone number with your demo tape! (Put this on the tape box, the photograph and anything else you send in case they get separated...).
rotating dot Follow up your demo tapes with the occasional (once a week?) phone call.
rotating dot Read appropriate music press publications, and try and get some idea of who might be interested in your style of music. Try sending them a demo tape.
rotating dot If you do get reviewed (even in the local press, say) then include choice quotes from that with your demo 'package'.
rotating dot 'Network'! Get to know people. Keep up your own list of contacts.
rotating dot Don't sit back too much expecting things to happen. Until your career takes off it will be you that's got to make it happen.


The Physics Of Sound

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Including Auditory Range, Piano Range, Loudness, Fundamentals Overtones Harmonics and Combination Tones, Beats, Scales, Physiological Effects Of Sound

rotating dot Auditory Range

The range of human hearing is from around 2Hz (2 cycles per second) to 20,000Hz (alias 2KHz) although with age one tends to lose acuity in the higher frequencies so for most adults the upper limit is around 10KHz.
The lowest frequency that has a pitch-like quality is about 20Hz.
A typical value for the extent to which an individual can distinguish pitch differences is 05-1% for frequencies between 500 and 5000Hz. (Differentiation is more difficult at low frequencies). Thus at 500Hz most individuals will be unable to tell if a note is sharp or flat by 2.5-5Hz (ie an 'allowable' pitch range for that note might be from 495Hz to 505Hz maximum.

rotating dot Piano Range

The lowest note on the piano 'A0' is at 27.5Hz, whilst the highest, C8, has a frequency of 4186Hz.
'Concert pitch' has been internationally accepted to be based on a frequency of 440Hz for A4, that is A in the fourth piano octave.

rotating dot Loudness

The quietest sounds that can be heard have a power (measured in Watts) of 10 to the -12 W/m2, whilst the loudest that can be withstood have a power of 1 W/m2. The range is therefore in the order of 10 to the 12, or one million million times.
One decibel is a leap by a factor of 10, so that 0Db is the quietest noise, and 120Db is the loudest.

rotating dot Fundamentals, Overtones, Harmonics And Combination Tones

A note played by most ordinary acoustic intruments is not 'pure', it is in fact a spectrum of frequencies which largely give the note it's characteristic quality. The most significant components of this spectrum are the overtones. Overtones may be inharmonic (ie dissonant, sounding bad) or harmonic (ie consonant, sounding good).
The 'natural overtone series' is the set of harmonics which are particularly prominent in the spectrum of frequencies for notes played by acoustic instruments, and which are also produced by producing waves in a string, where there are successive integer values for the number of 'crests' of the wave, ie 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and so on.
Taking 1 crest as the 'fundamental' note, then 2 produces a frequency an octave above. 3 produces a frequency of a '12th' interval (ie the fifth above the octave). 4 produces a frequency of the second octave above. 5 produces a frequency of a major third above that. 6 produces a frequency of the fifth note in this third octave. 7 produces a frequency of the flattened (minor) seventh in this octave. 8 produces a frequency of the fourth octave. 9 produces a frequency of the second interval in the fourth octave. (et cetera...) The increments between notes becomes successively smaller the further into the series you go, such that soon there are semitone intervals, then quarter- tone intervals, then even smaller fractional intervals.
Also, there is less and less congruence between harmonics and the 'proper' frequencies of the equitempered scale the further into the series you go. (But maybe in some forms of music this is NOT a 'problem' od course).
In the first octave there are no overtones, in the second there is one, in the third there are three, and in the fourth octave there are lots. Overtones which are 'harmonic' are at frequencies equal to the fundamental frequency multiplied by AN INTEGER: eg to find the fifth harmonic of C4, multiply it's frequency of 261.63 by 5: the result is a frequency of 1308.15, close to (but NOT the same as) the frequency of 1318.5 given for E6 (the fifth harmonic of C4) in the equitempered scale.
Overtones which are inharmonic (dissonant) are non-integer multiples of the fundamental frequency.
The constituent frequencies of a note can be ascertained with a wave analyser, which uses the equations developed by Fourier.
If you filter out the fundamental frequency of say 200Hz from a note with overtones of 400Hz, 600Hz, 800Hz and 1000Hz (say, played on a piano), the brain will recreate the fundamental such that it appears to be present even when it is not there.
The ear can be far more subtle still, however, in 'creating' sounds which are not actually there in received vibrations. When a tone of frequency f causes the eardrum to vibrate, the full harmonic series of tones 2f, 3f, 4f, 5f, 6f etc is apparent to the listener, these harmonics being produced by the eardrum itself.
'Combination' tones are additional, new tones produced when two frequencies, f1 and f2 are sounded together, and these combination tones are also 'manufactured' by the ear, this time from combinations of the first frequency and the harmonics of the second, and from the second frequency and harmonics of the first. (Note 3f2 is notation for 'the third harmonic of the second frequency'). The series of combination tones will be:

2f1 - f2 2f2 - f1 3f1 - f2 3f2 - f1
3f1 - 2f2 3f2 - 2f1 4f1 - 3f2 4f2 - 3f1 and so on.

Whereas combination tones can be ascertained by subtracting one value from another, 'summation' tones, also manufactured by the ear, can be found by adding values together, ie

f1 + f2
2f1 + f2 2f2 + f1 3f1 + f2 3f2 + f1
3f1 + 2f2 3f2 + 2f1 4f1 + 3f2 4f2 + 3f1 and so on.

Interestingly, however, the resulting frequencies of these combination and summation tones turn out to be dissonances when played with the notes of the equitempered scale since the frequencies do not exactly match.
It is possible to contrive a scale from difference tones. For example, if C4 is played together with Eb4, then a difference tone of 311.1 - 261.6 = 49.5Hz is created. This value of 49.5Hz is almost the frequency of Ab1. Other notes in the 1st octave can then be contrived in a similar manner from frequencies around the fourth octave.
These sort of difference tones, however, might be called 'first-order' difference tones. A 'second-order' difference tone can be found in the difference between the frequency of a first-order difference tone and the frequency of the fundamental, so that in the example above, we have a first- order difference tone of (almost) Ab4, at 49.5Hz, and subtracting this from the frequency of the fundamental, we find 261.6 - 49.5 = 212.1 which is close to the frequency of Ab3. And so on.
Here are some examples of combination and difference tones that can be demonstrated on a piano.

C4+Eb4 produces Ab1 first-order difference tone.
C4+Eb4 produces Ab3 second-order difference tone.

rotating dot Beats

Beat frequencies are produced when two different sounds are produced which are very close to each other in frequency. In such a situation the crests and troughs of each wave are generally slightly out of phase. But because the two notes have differing frequencies, after a certain repeating interval of time the crests of one wave will be aligned with the crests of the other, when a pulse or beat appears to the listener.
Research has found that any two notes of different frequencies tend to sound good together (ie consonant) if there is an absence of beat frequencies between 8 and 50 Hz produced. Beat frequencies of 2-8Hz have been found to be pleasing, while beat frequencies above that level are generally though to be unpleasant.
The beat frequency produced by any two notes is found by subtracting the value of the higher from the lower, ie Fbeat = Fhigher - Flower. Thus beat frequencies are a subset of difference tones -the 'beat' sensation occurring when the beat frequency value is low, say from 0.5Hz (1 beat every two seconds) to say 20Hz (the lowest frequency that has a pitch-like quality) J.Askill, in 'The Physics of Musical Sounds) says 'in general beat frequencies of 2-8Hz are considered pleasing, whereas if the beat frequency is above 15-20Hz, an unpleasant or dissonant effect is produced'. Personally I am curious about the range in the middle, say 8-12Hz which is also the frequency of 'alpha' brain-waves.

rotating dot Scales

The scale used extensively in the West has 13 notes from octave to octave and 12 intervals. In order for a scale to 'work' there should be:

* a minimum of dissonance when different notes across the whole range of pitches are sounded together
* an effective mapping of the harmonics of low notes onto higher notes, and an effective mapping onto the harmonics of higher notes
* the possibility of key modulation which does not result in further frequency mismatches.

The scale which has been widely adopted to fulfil these criteria is based on mathematics, such that the ratio of the frequency of any note to the frequency of the note a semitone above is constant. This is particularly useful in the extent to which it allows key modulation. However, this 'equitempered' scale is a compromise solution, because the frequency ratios of all intervals except the octave differ slightly from the 'perfect' intervals that the human ear really expects to hear.
The 'exact' interval of a fifth, for instance, is found by multiplying the frequency of the fundamental by 3/2, the fourth is found by multiplying the fundamental frequency by 4/3, and the major third interval is found by multiplying the fundamental frequency by 5/4. (Other intervals involve slightly less obvious fractions).
The problem with a scale built on fractional values like this, however, is that the increments from note to note are not constant (eg 5/4 - 4/3 does not equal 4/3 - 3/2) which creates difficulties when the required key for a piece is different to that of the fundamental from which the scale is constructed. For example, if we move up an octave from C by adding a fifth, and then adding a fourth, then the resulting high C will have a different frequency to that arrived at if our key is F, and we try to arrive at the same high C by adding a major third and then a minor third to that fundamental F. So in the equitempered scale all semitone increments have been 'tempered' such that they are always a little flat, or a little sharp.
The constant value on which this scale is based is 1.0594630915, such that if we call this value S, then the semitone above a fundamental note is found by multiplying the frequency of the fundamental by S to the power of 1.
The second above the fundamental is found by multiplying it's frequency by S to the power of 2, and so on until the octave above the fundamental is found by multiplying it's frequency by S to the power of 12. The value of the constant S is the 12th root of 2, since in order to find the twelve equal divisions between two notes an octave apart, where the frequency of the octave is twice that of the fundamental, the 12th root of 2 is the value we are looking for.
Other divisions of the octave have been proposed, such as a 19-step octave, and a 53-step octave. The maths for these 'works' although these 'scales' may be harder to use effectively. The maths for the 53-division scale is particularly elegant in fact, and closer to a 'perfect' musical scale than the 13-note scale which we currently use. (In that case the constant value for each successive interval is found by using the 53rd root of 2, ie 1.013164143).
The 'exact' scale, built on the 'perfect' intervals that the ear expects to hear, has much to recommend it if one key is kept to. This scale, however, has fifteen intervals and fourteen notes, since in the first octave there are all the notes of the equitempered scale (at slightly different frequencies) but there is also both a 'major whole tone' and a 'minor whole tone', and both an 'augmented fourth' and a 'diminished fifth'. (In the second octave there is both an 'augmented octave' and a 'dimished ninth' and also both an'augmented eleventh' and a 'diminished twelfth'). Thus successive octaves above the fundamental differ from each other in the way that they are put together. Furthermore, however, when we look at the extent to which the frequencies of harmonics of exact-scale notes match notes higher up in the exact scale, we see that we can list the intervals octave, fifth, fourth, major third, major sixth, minor third, minor sixth in terms of increasing dissonance, so that in the case of the minor sixth, if we look at all harmonics up to the twelfth, only one 'matches'.
The mathematical elegance of the 53-division scale should make it a more appropriate scale for dealing both with key modulation, and a preoccupation with harmonics.
The 53-interval scale uses eneven 'chunks' of these 53rd-of-an-octave division to create the notes of the diatonic scale. The size of each incremental chunk is as follows:

C->D: 9
D->E: 8
E->F: 5
F->G: 9
G->A: 8
A->B: 9
B->C: 5
and with the semitones:
C->D: 4+5=9
D->E: 4+4=8
E->F: 5
F->G: 4+5=9
G->A: 4+4=8
A->B: 4+5=9
B->C: 5

rotating dot The Physiological Effects Of Sound

The accepted view of researchers into the physiological effects of sound is that 'no non-auditory [ie physiological] effects are noted until the loudness exceeds approximately 120Db.' [J.D.Kryter, quoting NASA research]. 120Db is VERY loud, in fact it's at the limit of what can be heard before physical damage is caused to the ear. However, research has been carried out into the extent to which vibration at frequencies within the audible range can be transmitted through the body. Different parts of the body have differing optimum resonance frequencies. Some of these are: (The first one is conjecture, the rest are documented).

The eyeball: 5Hz. (Low frequencies such as this are known as 'infrasound').
The jaw: 6-8Hz.
The chest, nose and throat cavities: somewhere in the region of 10-75Hz.
The whole skull: 200Hz.
The front and the back of the skull: 800Hz, where the front and back parts vibrate in opposite phase.
The front, left side, back and right sides of the skull: 1600Hz. At this frequency each of the four sides vibrates independently of the others. [Bekesy 1932 and Kirikae 1959]. The exact frequencies for skull resonance vary from individual to individual due to variations in skull size, however; in fact all values given here can only be approximate averages.
The bones of the middle ear (the 'ossicular' system) resonate at 2000Hz. [Carhart 1950].
The air within the middle ear resonates at 2500Hz. [Groen].
The resonant frequency of the outer ear is 3150Hz. (Sounds in the surrounding frequency range, from about 3000Hz to 3500Hz are amplified several times by this effect).
There is some evidence to suggest that the middle ear when exposed to ultra-sound (ie sound above the threshold of audible frequencies) creates subharmonics within the audible range.


Making Tubular Instruments

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A tube closed at one end has a resonant wavelength exactly equal to four times the length of the tube.
So if you know your maths, you can work out the natural pitch of that object in terms of frequency. The equations for messing about with this are:
(where w is wavelength, v is velocity and f is frequency):

w = v/f equal to wf = v equal to f = v/w

The velocity of sound is about 340 meters per second.
So, as an example, if you have a tube (closed at one end) of length 0.1932m, then 0.1932 x 4 = 0.7727

0.7727 = 340/f, or 0.7727 x f = 340, or f = 340/0.7727 = 440

These equations work with the 'mks' units of measurement, where the resultant 440 above is in Hz, alias cycles per second. (This is the frequency of A4, A in the fourth octave of the piano).
So, if you want to find the right length for a tube, (closed at one end) which will have a specified frequency f, then

1) look up the value for that frequency in a table
2) divide 340 by the frequency value that you have found
3) divide the result of 2) by 4
3) The result of that division is your tube length in metres

For example the outer ear is a tube closed at one end, having an average length in adults of 2.7cm.

4 x 2.7cm = 10.8

10.8cm = 0.108m

Since f = v/w, f = 340/0.108 and therefore f = 3148Hz.


Table Of Equitempered Scale Frequencies

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The table below shows frequencies for notes in the equitempered scale in the first column: piano notes are listed in the next column, where C4, for example, is C in the 4th octave (middle C). The third column in the table shows notes on the guitar, given by string and fret, so that 5-3, for example, is the 3rd fret on the fifth string.

1244.5 D#61-11


Selected Mondegreens (Misheard Song Lyrics)

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Brought to you by Gladly The Cross-Eyed Bear

the ants are my friends
[Bob Dylan]

it's such a feeling that my love, I get hives, I get hives, I get hives

living is easy with nice clothes
misunderstanding all you see

she's got a chicken to ride, but she don't care

now how can we sing the Lord's song in Australia
[Boney M]

gotta make way for the whole of Siberia
[David Bowie]

come-a come-a come-a come-a come-a come-a comedian
[Boy George]

you had a temper like my jealous eel, too hot, too greasy
[Kate Bush]

I get locked out, so I go out again
[The Chumbas]

almond pieces, bits and pieces
[Dave Clark Five]

ooh, my ears are alight
[Desmond Dekker]

our love become a few rows higher
[The Doors]

tearing me apart like a newt in motion
[The Eurythmics]

it's all right, babies come in bags
[The Eurythmics]

thump her oily hairpins when its raining
[Fleetwood Mac]

you make me feel like a mature old woman
[Carol King]

(I'm gonna) rock, stone, soup, Electric Avenue
[Eddie Grant]

don't chew on me, baby
don't chew on me, oo oo oo oo
[Human League]

in my gaudy Adidas, baby
[Iron Butterfly]

voulez-vous coucher avec moi, sasquatch
[Patti LaBelle]

you're so vain, I bet you think this song is about shoes
[Carly Simon]

Captain Picard on the New Jersey Turnpike
[Simon and Garfunkel]

she's a sludgy Mormon you will know
[Simon and Garfunkel]

kitchen water running

Ivan The Tiger

when it's cold outside, I got the muffins made
[The Temptations]

oh, it's the Swedish thing

every time you go away
(you take a piece of meat with you)
[Paul Young]

there's a bathroom on the right
[Creedence Clearwater Revival]

doughnuts make your brown eyes blue
[Crystal Gayle]

midnight after you're wasted
[Maria Muldaur]

teddybear image
Thanks to Jessica B and The Guardian newspaper's (now defunct) 'Come Again' column.


Guitar Tunings

guitar image

In most cases, for each separate tuning below, I have listed:
The notes of the retuned guitar's open strings, going from fat string (string 6) to thin string, (string 1) so that standard tuning is represented EADGBE.
A line or two of descriptive text.
An example chord shape for that tuning: obviously there's going to be a an awful lot of feasible chord shapes for most tunings but the fun is in finding them!
Generally you won't know what the notes are for a made-up chord shape in a strange tuning, so let it be a stimulus to creativity-
if you don't know what the notes are then you're forced to really focus on the sounds and what those sounds evoke...

rotating dot TUNING: DADGBE
Used by: Ry Cooder, John Renbourn and others
Suggestions: known as 'dropped D' tuning- provides a deeper bass for songs in D
Example chord shape:
1st string 2nd fret
2nd string 3rd fret
3rd string 2nd fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DADGBD
Used by: Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, many others
Suggestions: lots of folk things
Example chord shape
second string third fret
third string second fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DADGAD
Used by: invented by Davy Graham, used by many folk guitarists
Suggestions: if you can be patient enough to find lots of shapes which use strings 6, 5, and 3, a 'sound' useful for playing with fiddle/mandolin etc can be had
Example chord shape
fifth string second fret
sixth string second fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DADF#AD
Used by: Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Robin Williamson, Missisipi John Hurt
Suggestions: this one is used extensively for blues playing, but it can also be a 'mellow' tuning as well-
try this shape for example (which is not a D, G or A chord)...
Example chord shape
third string eighth fret
fifth string ninth fret
sixth string ninth fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DGDF#AD
Used by: Davy Graham, various blues artists
Suggestions: using the open G on the 5th gives you scope for a variety of G shapes that you can't get in the 'full open D' tuning above
Example chord shape
fifth string second fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DGDGGD
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs)
Suggestions: make the most of the resonant second string by keeping it as a drone across different shapes
Example chord shape
fourth string fourth fret
fifth string fourth fret
sixth string second fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DBDF#BD
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs, once upon a time)
Suggestions: a very 'minor' tuning which can get a bit much very easily!
Example chord shape
second string second fret
third string fifth fret
fourth string fourth fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: CGDGCD
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs)
Suggestions: this is a good one. There's a lot of potential here
Example chord shape
first string tenth fret
fourth string tenth fret
fifth string ninth fret
sixth string ninth fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: CGCGCE
Used by: John Martyn
Example chord shape
fourth string fifth fret
fifth string second fret
sixth string fifth fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: FGDGG#Eb
or (the same tuning a semitone lower)
rotating dot TUNING: EG#C#F#GD

Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs)
Suggestions: this was discovered by putting a Ravi Shankar (sitar) raga on the record player and twiddling the machine heads until all strings were related to the music on record- consequently some very Eastern sounds can be had
Example chord shape
first string twelfth fret (harmonic)
second string twelfth fret (harmonic)
third string twelfth fret (harmonic)
fourth string twelfth fret (harmonic)
fifth string twelfth fret (harmonic)
sixth string twelfth fret (harmonic)

rotating dot TUNING: F#ADGAC#
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs)
Suggestions: -another 'sitar-scale-like' tuning, discovered by putting another (sitar) raga on the record player and twiddling the machine heads until all strings were related to the music on record- also good for non-sitar things like Mayonnaisse (Smashing Pumpkins)...
Example chord shape
third string second fret
fourth string second fret
sixth string third fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DF#C#F#AE
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs)
Suggestions: recently discovered when trying to work out a way to play a song by Eddi Reader called 'It's What You Do With What You've Got'
Example chord shape
first string fourth fret
second string fourth fret
fifth string third fret
sixth string fourth fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: DADEAE
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs).
This sounds a bit like a Dick Gaughan tuning (but it isn't) -it's a good 'un!
Suggestions: hard to use at first but the plethora of 4ths and 5ths can make for a good sound
Example chord shape
third string second fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: EF#C#GBE
Used by: the author (Richard Ebbs)
Suggestions: I use it for playing the blues/gospel song 'Freedom'
Example chord shape
first string second fret
second string second fret
third string second fret
sixth string second fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: GBDGBD
Used by: possibly Led Zeppelin(?)
Suggestions: you can play Led Zep's 'Rain Song' in this tuning
Example chord shape
second string third fret
fourth string third fret
fifth string third fret
(and the rest open)

rotating dot TUNING: GGDGBD
Used by: Pink Floyd

rotating dot TUNING: EBDGAD
Used by: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

rotating dot TUNING: CGCGCE
Suggestions: this tuning is useful if you want your guitar to sound like a mandolin (if you want to play Joni Mitchell's Case Of You on a guitar, for example)


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