EELE 217 SP17:  Science of Sound  --  Syllabus


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, or by appointment.
Drop-in questions at other times are always OK if my office door is open.


M 121QM 132, or M 105Q 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 (or via D2L) on most Thursdays beginning January 19.
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: Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 4:00-5:50pm, regular classroom (HowH 117).



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.


  • All students must have an electronic mail address listed with the MSU My Info system.  Announcements and reminders for EELE 217 will be sent occasionally via email.
  • You are responsible for all material covered in class and in the textbook reading assignments.
  • Among other details, Section 310.00 in the MSU Conduct Guidelines states that students must be prompt and regular in attending classes, be well prepared for classes, take exams when scheduled, and act in a respectful manner toward other students and the instructor.
  • There may be events or field trips scheduled during the semester.  Although it is not reasonable for me to make these out-of-class events mandatory, I do expect the students to take advantage of all learning opportunities provided in the course.
  • Late submissions of assignments (homework and papers) will not be accepted. Plan ahead and notify the instructor prior to justifiable absences, or if a bona fide emergency prevented you from attending class.
  • Academic Misconduct:  Unless group work is explicitly assigned, homework and exams must be prepared individually. Submitting the work of others is dishonest, constitutes academic misconduct, and is grounds for dismissal from the course. Paraphrasing or quoting another’s work without citing the source is also academic misconduct.  Even inadvertent or unintentional misuse or appropriation of another's work (such as relying heavily on source material that is not expressly acknowledged) is plagiarism. If you have any questions about using and citing sources, you are expected to ask for clarification.
  • If you have a documented disability for which you are or may be requesting accommodations, you are welcome and encouraged to participate fully in this class.  Please contact the instructor and the MSU Office of Disability, Re-Entry and Veteran Services  as soon as possible.
  • All records related to this course are confidential and will not be shared with anyone, including parents, without a signed, written release from the MSU Dean of Students.  For more information contact the Dean of Students office at 994-2826.