Prof. Robert C. Maher


637 Cobleigh Hall (northwest corner of 6th floor)


Office:  994-7759
Mobile:  599-5830
(but email contact is preferred)


[email protected]

Class Page: (also linked from D2L)

Office hours:

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


M 105QM 121Q, M 132 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

Attendance and Weekly quizzes:


→ Attending class is mandatory.
→ A quiz will be given at the start of class (or via D2L) on most Thursdays beginning September 6.
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 Tuesday, October 16.
Final Exam:


→ The final exam will be comprehensive. The final will be held during the assigned time slot:
Monday, December 10, 2018, 2:00-3:50 pm, 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.
  • 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.
  • Attendance at all lectures is mandatory. If you are ill, traveling, or otherwise unable to attend a lecture, you must notify the instructor IN ADVANCE via email. Treat your participation in this course just like it was a job: you wouldn’t miss work without notifying your manager, right?
  • Late submissions of assignments (homework, papers, and quizzes) will not be accepted. Plan ahead and notify the instructor prior to justifiable absences, or if a bona fide emergency prevented you from finishing an assignment or attending class.
  • You are responsible for all material covered in class and in the textbook reading assignments.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.