Soundwaves Represented by Various Speed and Energy of Air Molecules

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Air we breathe in consists of molecules. Even the tiniest of regions of air will contain millions and millions of molecules. These molecules are in constant motion, traveling randomly and at great speed. There is a constant bombardment with each other and every other object that is in contact with the air. One interesting thing about air is that it is a medium through which heat or sound travels. But our current main attention will be on sound.

Sound is a vibration that typically transmitted in the form of a wave of pressure, through a transmission medium such as a gas, liquid or solid. It is a longitudinal wave (a type of wave whose oscillations are parallel to the direction of energy travel) that contains a series of compression and rare factions.

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Before our ancestors discovered the fact that sound traveled in waves, for years many people were baffled and curious about how we were able to hear what we hear. This all changed when some of the most famous scientists that we know today and look up to discovered how sound travels. One of the first people to claim that sound traveled in waves was Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidik, Aristotle. Aristotle put forward a claim that the quality of sound will remain the same throughout and will travel as far as the waves reach. Even though he had not proved sound had traveled in waves, he had believed in it.

Italian physicist, Galileo (most notable for his Nobel-worthy contributions to the field of physics and astronomy) was the first scientist to record the relationship between the frequencies of the wave to the pitch it produces. This discovery was so significant as one can say that it indirectly led to the creation of music (which is what we will be dealing with today). Following Galileo came Mersenne, a French polymath who had deep knowledge in a wide variety of fields. He was the one discovered the speed of sound. 20 years after Mersenne’s discovery (who discovered the speed of sound), a British scientist, Robert Boyle, determined that in order for sound to travel/transfer, it has to go through a medium. This medium would be air. Boyle was able to come to this conclusion by conducting an experiment where he placed a ringing bell inside a glass jar and heard nothing from the ringing bell when air was pumped out of the jar.

At the age of 13, with the goal of mastering the percussion instrument of drums I went to a master for some classes. Picking up my first pair of drumsticks, I started hammering away just to get a feel of the instrument. The sounds that came from the different drum heads intrigued me. Watching videos of different drum masters, I was astounded by the different notes that were produced. As I my drumming developed, I was very interested to produce those deep bass notes which are so fundamental to many of the songs that are popular. So given the opportunity now, I have devised an experiment to investigate the relationship between the frequency of sound produced with the amount of damping on the drum head. I’m expecting to use the results I obtain in this experiment to achieve the deep bass notes on my drum set/in my music. It should be understood that a vibrating object will produce sound waves in the air. When the head of a drum is struck with a mallet, the drum head vibrates and emits sound waves that are propagated. The vibrating drum head produces sound waves because it moves alternately outward and inward, pushing against, then moving away from, the air next to it. The air molecules that strike the drum head while it is moving outward rebound from it with more than their normal energy and speed, having received a push from the drum head. These faster-moving molecules move into the surrounding air. For a moment, therefore, the region next to the drum head has a greater than normal concentration of air molecules—it becomes a region of compression. As the faster-moving molecules overtake the air molecules in the surrounding air, they collide with them and pass on their extra energy. The region of compression moves outward as the energy from the vibrating drum head is transferred to groups of molecules farther and farther away.

Air molecules that strike the drum head while it is moving inward rebound from it with less than their normal energy and speed. For a moment, therefore, the region next to the drum head has fewer air molecules than normal — it becomes a region of rarefaction. Molecules colliding with these slower-moving molecules also rebound with less speed than normal, and the region of rarefaction travels outward. This is how a sound wave consisting of compression and rare factions is produced by a drum head.

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Soundwaves Represented by Various Speed and Energy of Air Molecules. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Soundwaves Represented by Various Speed and Energy of Air Molecules.” Edubirdie, 01 Feb. 2023,
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