Scientific approaches to sound design

D.J. Hermes, S.L.J.D.E. Par, van de

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sound design can be studied from various perspectives. This contribution gives an overview of four different scientific approaches. The first is the physical approach, in which sound production is physically modelled using mathematical equations or computer models of the sound-generating event. The second approach is concerned with perceptual concepts such as pitch and timbre. The psychophysicist is typically interested in perception thresholds, frequency and temporal resolution, just-noticeable differences, magnitude scaling, etc. The third approach, referred to as auditory scene analysis, studies the perceptual process in which some sound components are attributed to the same sound-generating event, while some others are perceptually attributed to different events. The last approach we will deal with is called the ecological approach. According to this approach, the listener does not so much listen to the pitch, the timbre, or the rhythm of the sound, but rather uses the physical cues in the sound to mentally reconstruct an image of the environment and of what happens in that environment. The implications of these different approaches for the design of soundscapes, non-speech audio, and of user-interface sounds in particular will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalIPO Annual Progress Report
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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