Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Sound Geek's Look at The World Cup

This is what a sound geek's mind drifts to during uninspiring stretches of World Cup matches: To my ears, the Vuvuzela drone centers slightly sharp of a B-flat. Within the manufacturing tolerences, there is a tonal drift up to about a B. For the $1 it costs to make them, I'm guessing they don't do quality assurance and hand-tuning on each one. This is probably a good thing: I shudder to think what would result of a stadium full of these blasting a precise frequency of say 390 Hz. The sympathetic resonance would probably flatten nearby structures of that resonant frequency.

This it also he reason it is so annoying. Slight detuning can be a very useful in music - the natural variations in intonation from the players in an Orchestra gives the sound a richness, and the tuning drift of analog synths is a large part of their charm and warmth.

However, with this degree of detuning relative to one another, a stadium of vuvuzelas yields this smear of frequencies that together give you a cacophony more like a car horn or a busy signal - think two adjacent tones on an out-of-tune piano.

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