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Digital Audio and Acoustics for the Creative Arts

Mark Ballora

Publication Date - 30 September 2016

ISBN: 9780190236663

368 pages
8 x 10 inches

In Stock

A current and practical introduction to digital audio for students in music and the arts


Designed for introductory courses in electronic music and multimedia, Digital Audio and Acoustics for the Creative Arts presents the fundamental concepts of musical acoustics, psychoacoustics, electronics, digital audio, audio recording, and communication among devices via the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) and Open Sound Control (OSC).


  • Provides a thorough introduction to acoustics and the evolution of digital audio recording
  • Introduces key concepts that underlie all audio programs to help students cultivate an understanding of sound production principles
  • Includes practical exercises and hands-on examples of student work, complementing the text's technical discussion
  • Supported by a free, open-access Companion Website with exercises, links to sample programs, and additional resources at www.oup.com/us/ballora

About the Author(s)

Mark Ballora is Associate Professor of Music Technology at Penn State University.


"Ballora's text is one of the better texts on the market. It is an easy-to-use resource that students can readily understand. I would recommend it to colleagues." -- Adam Vidiksis, Temple University

"The material is informative and precise, especially for the non-tech-savvy musicians who are enrolled in a course for introductory acoustics and recording technology." -- Dr. Michael Albaugh, Director of Education, Jazz at Lincoln Center

"Digital Audio and Acoustics for the Creative Arts is well-written and covers all the main areas my students need: acoustics, MIDI, digital audio." -- John Latarta, University of Mississippi

Table of Contents


    1. Basic Acoustics
    The Nature of Sound Events
    Wave Propagation

    Simple Harmonic Motion
    Characteristics of Waves
    Refraction and Reflection
    Standing Waves, Resonant Frequencies, and Harmonics
    Sympathetic Resonance
    Phase and Waveshape

    Speed and Velocity
    Frequencies of Strings and Echoes
    String Frequencies
    Echo Rate

    Suggested Exercises

    2. Music and Acoustics
    Properties of Musical Sound

    What Is the Difference Between Music and Noise?
    Frequency and Wavelength
    Doppler Shift
    Frequency Is Fixed and Precise, Pitch Is Flexible and by Convention
    Human Pitch
    Perception is Logarithmic
    Complications in Measuring Acoustic Power Levels
    The Decibel Scale
    Definition of the Decibel

    Relationship of Intensity to Pressure
    Root Mean Square
    Pressure and Decibels
    Understanding "Negative" Decibels

    Modes of Vibration
    The Fourier Analysis
    Spectral Plots
    Limitations of the Fourier Transform
    The Harmonic Series and Intonation
    Pitches Are Just Ratios
    Harmonics in Performance
    A Partial by Any Other Name...
    Timbre: To Be Continued...

    Making Waves: Building Blocks of Sound Synthesis
    Suggested Exercises

    3. Perceptual Issues in Acoustics
    What Is the Difference Between Consonance and Dissonance?
    The Mystery of the Octave, and the Evolutionary Basis of Music
    Perspectives on Consonance and Dissonance

    Sound Spectra in Time
    Localization of Natural Events
    Interaural Time Delay (ITD)
    Spectral Shadowing, or Interaural Level Delay (ILD)
    Pinnae Filtering

    Mismatches Between Measurement and Perception
    Hearing Things That Aren't There

    --Second-order Beats
    --Binaural Beats
    --The Missing Fundamental
    --Difference Tones
    The Physical Basis of Pitch Perception
    Auditory Scene Analysis
    Turn It Down!
    Suggested Exercises

    4. Fundamentals of Electricity
    Static Electricity
    Electricity = Electrons
    From Parlor Tricks to Lightning Storms

    Current, Voltage, Resistance, and Power

    Magnetism and Electrical Current
    Magnetic Induction
    Electromagnetic Resonance

    --Coils and AC: Inductance
    --Capacitor Plates and AC: Capacitance
    Impedance, Voltage, and Current
    Controlling Current: From Vacuum Tubes to Microprocessors
    Vacuum Tubes

    Electronics and Music
    Telephone Communication
    Vinyl Records
    Radio Broadcasting

    Studio Connections
    Audio Levels
    Audio Cables and Impedance
    Keeping a Squeeze on Current

    Suggested Exercises

    5. The Basics of Digital Audio
    Historical Context
    Digitizing Audio: The Big Picture

    The Central Problem
    Digital Conversion
    Does Digital Sound as Good as Analog?

    --Arguments for Analog
    --Arguments for Digital
    --So Where Does That Leave Us?
    Characteristics of Digital Audio
    Sampling Rate
    The Sampling Rate of CD Audio and Its Origin
    Sample Size

    --Signal-to-Error Ratio
    Sample Size vs. Sampling Rate
    What Is Filtering?
    Filter Types

    --Lowpass Filter
    --Highpass Filter
    --Bandpass Filter
    --Band-Reject Filter
    --"Everything Is a Filter!"
    The Digital Filtering Process
    Feedforward vs. Feedback Filters
    Lowpass Filters
    Highpass Filters
    Bandpass and Band-Reject Filters
    Other Filter Characteristics

    The Digital Recording and Playback Process
    --Lowpass(Antialiasing) Filter
    --Sample and Hold
    --Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC)
    --Error Correction
    --Error Correction
    --Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) and Sample and Hold
    --Output Lowpass Filter
    Suggested Exercises

    6. Working with Digital Audio
    Analysis and Processing
    Spectral Representation
    --0 Hz = Direct Current
    --Spectra of Digital Signals
    --The Fourier Transform Process
    ----Perspective One: Multiplication by Probe Signals
    ----Perspective Two: A Harmonic Coordinate System
    ----Perspective Three: Taking the Inner Product
    ----Perspective Four: Filter Bank

    --The Fast Fourier Transform (FFT)
    --Time Domain Localization vs. Spectral Resolution
    ----Segmenting the Signal: Short Time Fourier Transform and Window Functions
    ----Window Length and Spectral Resolution
    ----Window Functions

    --What Is It?
    --Why Is Convolution Important?
    ----Time Domain Multiplication: Ring Modulation
    ----Time Domain Convolution: Filtering
    ----Finite Impulse Response (FIR) Filters and Infinite Impulse Response (IIR) Filters
    ----Spectral Shaping

    Oversampling and Noise Shaping
    Perceptual Coding

    Masking and Perceptual Coding
    Encoding Techniques
    Approaches to Improving Audio: Compress Content or Increase Resolution?

    Storage Media
    Compact Disc
    --Retrieving Data
    --The Form of the Data
    CD Recorders
    Super Audio CD (SACD)
    High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD)

    Hard-Disk Recording: The Convergence of Multimedia
    Digital Workstations
    Transferring Data Between Devices
    Audio File Types

    Video Streaming and Networked Music
    Suggested Exercises

    7. Acoustic Signatures: Room Acoustics, Microphones, and Loudspeakers
    Room Acoustics
    Direct and Reflected Sound
    Large Performance Spaces

    --Direct Sound
    --Early Reflections
    --Diffuse Reverberation
    --Reverberation Radius
    --Impulse Response
    --Interaural Cross-Correlation (IACC)
    --Types of Reflection: Specular and Diffuse
    --Speech vs. Music
    --Absorption and Sound Propagation
    --Ideal Concert Hall Characteristics
    Small Performance Spaces
    --Room Modes
    --Flutter Echo
    --Comb Filtering
    --Acoustic Treatment of Small Spaces
    Receptor Types
    --Pressure Gradient (Velocity)
    Transducer Types
    --Dynamic (Electrodynamic, Electromagnetic, Ribbon, Moving Coil)
    --Condenser (Capacitor)
    --Bidirectional (Figure 8)
    --First-Order Directional Microphones
    --Standard Cardioid
    Variable Pattern Microphones
    Directionality and Frequency Response
    --Phase Drop-off
    --Intensity Drop-off
    Direct vs. Diffuse Sound Responses
    Microphone Configurations
    Recording Popular vs. Recording Classical
    Time-of-Arrival Configurations
    Intensity Configurations

    --XY Microphone Configuration
    --MS Microphone Configuration
    Near-Coincident Configurations
    --Spherical Stereo Microphones
    Support (Accent) Microphones
    Multi-Microphone Configuration for Recording Large Ensembles

    Surround Recording Configurations
    --INA 5
    --The Fukada Tree
    --OCT Surround
    --Expansions of the Spherical Stereo Microphone
    --Soundfield Microphone
    Loudspeaker Technology
    Suggested Exercises

    8. Treating and Mixing Audio
    Effects: An Introduction
    Combining Effects
    A Few Words on Word Length
    Error and Word Length
    Converting to Lower Word Sizes

    Delay-Based Effects

    Simple Delay
    Multitap Delay
    Feedback Delay

    Building Blocks of Delay-Based Effects: Comb and All-pass Filters
    Comb Filters
    --Feedforward Comb Filter (Inverted Comb Filter)
    --Feedback Comb Filter
    All-pass Filters
    Delay-Based Effects
    Phase Shifting

    --Reverb Chamber (Echo Chamber)
    --Spring Reverb
    --Plate Reverb
    --Digital Reverberation
    --Convolution Reverb
    Delayed Signals: A Matter of Interpolation
    Spectral Effects
    Ring/Amplitude Modulation
    Channel Vocoder
    Phase Vocoder

    Dynamic Effects
    Expander/Noise Gate

    Mixing and Signal Flow
    Level Meters
    Phantom Power
    Channel Insert
    Channel Fader
    Mixer Buses
    Mute/Solo Switches

    Localization vs. Spaciousness
    Simulated Localization in Audio Systems
    5.1 Surround Sound
    Eight Channels and More

    Suggested Exercises

    9. Communication Among Devices
    MIDI: The Big Picture
    Connecting MIDI Synthesizers
    MIDI Messages

    Status Bytes and Data Bytes
    Channel Voice Message Types

    --Note Off
    --Note On
    --Polyphonic Key Pressure (Poly Aftertouch)
    --Channel Key Pressure (Channel Aftertouch)
    --Program Change
    --Pitch Bend
    --Control Change
    System Exclusive Messages
    --Start System Exclusive
    --End System Exclusive (EOX)
    MIDI Utility Programs
    Additions to the MIDI Protocol
    Standard MIDI Files (SMFs)
    Karaoke Files
    MIDI Show Control (MSC)

    Just What Do You Mean By That?
    Open Sound Control (OSC)
    Remapping Values
    DIY Device Development
    Suggested Exercises

    10. Digital Instruments
    Hardware Instruments
    Alternate MIDI Controllers

    Software Instruments
    MIDI-Based Software
    --Sequencing Software
    --Notation Software
    --Editor/Librarian Software
    Digital Audio-Based Instruments
    --Digital Audio Workstation Software
    --Softsynths and Sample Libraries
    Sound Synthesis
    Unit Generators and Signal Flow Charts
    Additive Synthesis
    Subtractive Synthesis

    --Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO)
    --Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
    --Oscillator Sync
    --Vowel Synthesis
    Frequency/Phase Modulation
    Nonlinear Waveshaping
    Physical Modeling
    Granular Synthesis

    Algorithmic and Interactive Composition
    Suggested Exercises

    11. Tales from the Trenches: Survival Tips in Specific Contexts
    Live Sound Mixing
    Setting Up a Recording Studio

    Room Coloration
    Electrical Noise
    Common-Sense Procedures
    Cable Wrapping
    Order of Operation

    Scoring for Video
    Networking Devices

    Network Address Components
    --IP (Internet Protocol) Address
    --Subnet Mask
    Examples of Network Connections
    --Mixer Console App
    --Max/MSP and SuperCollider
    --Lemur and SuperCollider
    --MIDI over LAN
    --Audio over LAN

    Appendix 1: Geometric View of a Sine Wave
    Phasors, Radians, and the Unit Circle
    Sinusoidal Equation

    Appendix 2: Plotting Sine Charts in a Spreadsheet
    Creating a Basic Sine Wave Plot
    Step One: Create a Series of 360 Values (from 0 to 359)
    Step Two: Convert Degrees to Radians
    Step Three: Create a Sine Wave
    Step Four: Plot the Sine Values

    Building on the Foundation
    Change Amplitude, Frequency, and Initial Phase
    Use Absolute Cell References
    Use an Absolute Column Reference and a Relative Row Reference
    Plot More Than One Sine Wave
    Add the Separate Sine Waves to Create a Composite Sine Wave

    Appendix 3: Overview of Logarithms
    Exponents, Viewed from Another Angle
    Property 1
    Property 2
    Property 3

    Appendix 4: Representing Numbers
    Numbers Are Power
    Of What Value Power?
    Numbers in Computers

    The Binary Number System
    Some Essential Terminology
    The Hexadecimal Number System
    Integers and Floating Points