Modeling the sound of music

Cynthia Bruyns’s Vibration Lab is a software designed to simulate the sound of any percussive instrument, real or imagined, in a computer. The system could someday enable musicians to play instruments that exist only on the screen, enable the design of new physical instruments, and boost the realism of virtual environments for education and training.


“Every object’s sound comes from the way it’s vibrating, and every object vibrates differently depending on its shape and material,” says Bruyns, a Berkeley graduate student. “Instruments like violins are shapes that have been perfected over many years to produce a certain tone.”

The software enables users to take a computer-generated 3D model of a complex object and bang it with a virtual stick to hear how it vibrates. For example, thin and flat metal objects sound very different from thick, curved wooden instruments.

Beginning with a 3D model, Vibration Lab adds mass and stiffness properties that mimic the characteristics of a real material like wood or bronze. The frequencies of the object are then calculated. Users can then “strike” the object in various places by hitting keys on an electronic piano keyboard connected to the computer using a standard digital music interface.

Via Boingboing Lab Notes.