Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Montana State University

EELE 217: The Science of Sound

Spring Semester 2015
Section 1 (CRN 32192), Tu Th 13:40-14:30PM,  Howard Hall 117

Prof. Robert C. Maher

610 Cobleigh Hall (northeast corner of 6th floor inside main ECE office)


Office:  994-7759
Mobile:  599-5830


Class Page: (also linked from D2L)

Office hours:

Monday and Tuesday 11:00-11:50AM-noon, or by appointment.
Drop-in questions at other times are always OK if my office door is open.

M 121, M 135, or MATH 145, or the equivalent
Textbooks and Materials:
  • Strong, William J., and George R. Plitnik, Music Speech Audio, 4th Edition, BYU Academic Publishing, 2013. (ISBN 978-161165-006-8).
  • Class notes and handouts
    Class Objective:
    The students obtain sufficient background and technical knowledge to understand contemporary issues in musical acoustics and audio technology.
    Course Outcomes:
    At the conclusion of EELE 217, students will be able to:
    1. Demonstrate a practical understanding of the relationships among frequency, wavelength, spectrum, and musical pitch for sounds in air.
    2. Express and knowledgeably discuss the acoustic principles of common musical instruments such as strings, winds, and percussion.
    3. Show an awareness and understanding of sound reflection and absorption behavior in small and large rooms.
    4. Describe the characteristics of the human hearing system and the human vocal system.
    5. Show a basic familiarity with the components and characteristics of audio electronics (microphones, speakers, CD/DVD players, etc.).
    Class Outline (subject to change):
    1. Acoustics, vibration and waves (2 weeks)
      1. Traveling waves, frequency, wavelength, phase, amplitude
      2. Standing waves: vibrating strings, organ pipes
      3. Fourier analysis and synthesis
      4. Sound intensity, sound pressure level, decibel units
    2. Auditory physiology (2 weeks)
      1. Physiology of the ear
      2. Sensitivity and frequency response
      3. Perceived loudness and pitch
      4. Sound localization
    3. Architectural acoustics, reflection, transmission, absorption (4 weeks)
      1. Sound propagation in small rooms
      2. Sound propagation in large rooms
      3. Acoustical properties of performance spaces
    4. Musical acoustics (3 weeks)
      1. Scales and rhythm
      2. Singing voice
      3. Woodwinds, brass
      4. Strings
      5. Percussion
    5. Audio and electroacoustics (4 weeks)
      1. Loudspeakers
      2. Microphones
      3. Broadcasting
      4. Digital audio
      5. Electronic musical instruments
    Course Grading:

    Weekly quizzes:


    → A quiz will be given at the start of class on most Thursdays beginning January 22.

    Homework and papers:


    → Homework and essay papers will be required periodically.  Homework is due on the due date at the BEGINNING of class.  No late homework will be accepted.

    Midterm Exam:


    → Written in-class exam given in mid March.

    Final Exam:


    → The final exam will be comprehensive. The final will be held during the assigned time slot:  Thursday, May 7, 2015, noon-1:50PM.  NOTE that the final exam has been rescheduled for class time on Thursday, April 30, 2015.




    Grade guarantee:  point percentages for course letter grades will not be higher than indicated by the following scale:

    A- = 90%
    B- = 80%
    C- = 70%
    D = 60%
    F = 59%

    A grade of F will also be given automatically if the midterm or final exam is not taken, regardless of the student's aggregate score total.