On Becoming a Rock Musician

By H. Stith Bennett | Go to book overview

Loudness and Equalization

In a series of experiments conducted in the early 1930s at the Bell Telephone Laboratories by Harvey Fletcher and W. A. Munson the concept of loudness was developed. Loudness demonstrates that human hearing is differentially sensitive to the intensity of sounds as frequency changes. Loudness, then, is a sound's psychophysical or perceived magnitude which does not exactly correspond to its magnitude when measured by non-human equipment. Consider the Fletcher and Munson curves shown in figure 9. At very low frequencies a sound level (SL) of, say, 50 decibels is virtually inaudible, while at a frequency of 1000 Hz. a 50-decibel sound level is clearly audible (corresponding to p or piano). At frequencies around 3000 Hz. ear sensitivity is greatest and sounds are heard as slightly louder than a non-human device would measure them. This effect has to do with the size and shape of the auditory canal (outer ear) which, like any other cavity, exhibits a resonant frequency (that is, it builds up standing waves at a certain frequency). The 3000 Hz. bulge in the curves is also determined by certain physical properties of the small bones in the middle ear. As a sound's frequency passes 5000 Hz. hearing sensitivity again diminishes. This phenomenon increases dramatically with age, and it is often impossible for old people to hear high harmonies and overtones—a condition which is referred to as presbycousis. Notice that the curves have been (arbitrarily) standardized to the 1000 Hz. reference frequency.

What can be derived from an inspection of these curves is that for the lowest tones of the bass instrument (say 40 Hz.) the actual

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On Becoming a Rock Musician
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • On Becoming a Rock Musician *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • I - Group Dynamics *
  • Introduction *
  • Group Definition and Redefinition *
  • II - Rock Ecology *
  • Instruments and "The Outside World" *
  • Equipment and the Band Van *
  • Gigs *
  • III - Mastering the Technological Component *
  • Technology and the Music *
  • The Realities of Practice *
  • IV - Performance: Aesthetics and the Technological Imperative *
  • Playing *
  • "Other People's Music" *
  • Appendix *
  • Loudness and Equalization *
  • Notes *
  • A Guide for the Reader *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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