A Brief Introduction to the Physics of Music provides a good introduction to the basic principles of temperaments. The animations, explanations, visuals, and sounds allow students to understand the difference between the Pythagorean fourth, fifth and octave, and a tempered fourth, fifth, and octave.
Type of Material:
Interactive tutorial that effectively uses written explanations combined with musical examples to explain the differences in Pythagorean tuning and equal temperament.
Homework assignment and listening practice for understanding the difference between Pythagorean and tempered scales. It may also be used as an introduction to tuning systems in a music theory course or in a musical acoustics course.
Flash version 6 or higher. Since music playback is a component of this tutorial, it would not be ideal to use with the built-in speakers on most portable devices. External desktop speakers would be preferred.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Students will understand and listen to the difference between a Pythagorean fourth, fifth, and octave and a tempered fourth, fifth, and octave, and to see that the frequency of many musical pitches is not identical in Pythagorean and equal temperament tuning systems.
Target Student Population:
Intermediate level music theory students or students studying the physics of music.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Ideally students should have a basic knowledge of music notation, intervals and scales. Ratios are also involved in explaining the Pythagorean system.
Clear navigation, solid examples, and very good comments on the various slides that provide additional explanation to help to deepen the students' understanding of the material being presented. Another strength was that the timings of the examples was listed so that students knew for how long the examples would run.
On slide 1 there is a "Scene 1 of 20" included to let students know the amount of material they will be covering. I recommend that this information (2/20, 3/30, 4/20, etc.) be included on each of the other 19 slides.
The use of midi-generated sounds in the musical examples reduces their effectiveness. Some of the discrepancies are hard to discern due to the poor quality of the synthesized sounds. Imbedded audio files with higher-quality sounds would improve the aural examples.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This is a well thought out and easy to navigate activity for students who wish to learn more about Pythagorean and tempered fourths, fifths, and octaves. I liked the use of the piano keyboard, the sounds, the animations, and the accompanying narrative.
I have no concerns about the content. My only recommendation (mentioned previously) is to include slide numbers on all slides so that students know how far into the material they have progressed.
The calculation of frequencies in equal temperament is not explained. Granted it is fairly simple with the octave being divided into 12 equal steps, but many users of this material could likely use more explanation of how frequencies are calculated in equal temperament.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
All controls were clearly marked and worked correctly.
No concerns with Ease of Use.
Other Issues and Comments:
This is a terrific activity for students. It is engaging, and students can go forward and backward in the animation to review the various areas as many times as they feel is necessary.
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