Terminology related with Sound
Amplitude, the maximum displacement or distance moved by a point on a vibrating body or wave measured from its equilibrium position. It is equal to one-half the length of the vibration path. The amplitude of a pendulum is thus one-half the distance that the bob traverses in moving from one side to the other. Waves are generated by vibrating sources, their amplitude being proportional to the amplitude of the source.
For a transverse wave, such as the wave on a plucked string, amplitude is measured by the maximum displacement of any point on the string from its position when the string is at rest. For a longitudinal wave, such as a sound wave, amplitude is measured by the maximum displacement of a particle from its position of equilibrium. When the amplitude of a wave steadily decreases because its energy is being lost, it is said to be damped.
Wavelength, distance between corresponding points of two consecutive waves. “Corresponding points” refers to two points or particles in the same phase—i.e., points that have completed identical fractions of their periodic motion. Usually, in transverse waves (waves with points oscillating at right angles to the direction of their advance), wavelength is measured from crest to crest or from trough to trough; in longitudinal waves (waves with points vibrating in the same direction as their advance), it is measured from compression to compression or from rarefaction to rarefaction. Wavelength is usually denoted by the Greek letter lambda (λ); it is equal to the speed (v) of a wave train in a medium divided by its frequency (f): λ = v/f.
Frequency of Vibration
Vibration is periodic back-and-forth motion of the particles of an elastic body or medium, commonly resulting when almost any physical system is displaced from its equilibrium condition and allowed to respond to the forces that tend to restore equilibrium.
Vibrations fall into two categories: free and forced.
Free vibrations occur when the system is disturbed momentarily and then allowed to move without restraint. A classic example is provided by a weight suspended from a spring. In equilibrium, the system has minimum energy and the weight is at rest. If the weight is pulled down and released, the system will respond by vibrating vertically.
The vibrations of a spring are of a particularly simple kind known as simple harmonic motion (SHM). This occurs whenever the disturbance to the system is countered by a restoring force that is exactly proportional to the degree of disturbance. In this case, the restoring force is the tension or compression in the spring, which (according to Hooke’s law) is proportional to the displacement of the spring. In simple harmonic motion, the periodic oscillations are of the mathematical form called sinusoidal.
Most systems that suffer small disturbances counter them by exerting some form of restoring force. It is frequently a good approximation to suppose that the force is proportional to the disturbance, so that SHM is, in the limiting case of small disturbances, a generic feature of vibrating systems. One characteristic of SHM is that the period of the vibration is independent of its amplitude. Such systems therefore are used in regulating clocks. The oscillation of a pendulum, for instance, approximates SHM if the amplitude is small.
The frequency of a vibration, measured in Hertz (Hz), is simply the number of to and fro movements made in each second. A tuning fork or piano string vibrating at 256 Hz will produce a pitch of middle C. A greater frequency than this will produce a higher-pitched note and so on. Children will often mix up pitch and loudness believing that a higher pitched sound is a louder one. Higher pitched sounds produce waves which are closer together than for lower pitched sounds.
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