High Speed Photography as a Tool for Musical Instrument Research

Alan Woolley, Donald Murray Campbell, Amaya Lopez-Carromero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract / Description of output

Much of the behaviour of musical instruments involves vibrations and other motions too rapid to be followed by the human eye. These can, however, be visualised with the slowed down replay from a high speed camera. This technique has been used in Edinburgh over many years to study a range of instruments in order to improve their playing and manufacture. Recently, the incorporation of Schlieren optics has made it possible to directly visualize high amplitude sound waves as shades of grey. This paper describes a number of these applications including studies of the lips of brass players, the shock waves from the end of a trumpet bell, the vibration of double reeds and the bow/string interaction of viols. High speed photography has also been used to study the simultaneous movement of the key and pallet of a mechanical action pipe organ as part of an ongoing project, partly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, investigating whether the player is able to influence the transients by varying the movement of the key with the aim of better understanding the most musical, mechanically efficient and cost effective type of pipe organ action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-379
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Institute of Acoustics
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Musical Instrument, visualisation,


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