Interactive demos

These are a collection of interactive demos that show various music principles. They were all originally created for my book Serious Ocarina Player, and i have put them all on this page as well to make them easy to find.

Ocarina breath curve temperature visualisation

This tool visualises how an ocarina's pitch changes at different temperatures, and how the shape of the breath curve changes when blowing harder or softer to maintain the same pitch.

Playing in a lower temperature and blowing up to pitch results in a much steeper curve. Likewise, playing in a colder environment and lowering one's pressure to stay in tune results in a shallower curve.

Notice how at extremes the top of the breath curve leaves the green area. This corresponds to when the high notes would squeak due to being overblown, or sound week and airy due to being under blown.

The exponential nature of the curve, and how the high end fails first, is the limiting factor on compensating for temperature with breath pressure. Outside this range an ocarina tuned at a higher or lower temperature must be used.

The challenge of intonation in a group

This tool demonstrates the issue that arrises when you have a large number of people playing the same instrument in a group, who are all slightly out of tune, such as a group of children playing together.

  • This tool simulates that situation by playing a large number of detuned sounds.
  • You can control the pitch of one of the instruments by dragging the pitch slider.
  • Notice how nothing that you do makes the result sound good.

Due to physics, it is actually impossible to hear correct intonation in this situation without another instrument with a different timbre.

How different scale notes sound when played over a drone

This tool allows you to hear how different notes of a scale sound when you play them over a drone, and how they sound when sharp or flat.

The tool plays a continuous drone of 'C' at A440 concert pitch, and a second note over it which you can change using the pitch slider and note buttons.

Notice how pitch errors are easiest to hear when the note played over the drone is also C. Pitch errors cause an obvious 'beating'.

The fifth, G is also easy to hear.

The octave from first principles

This tool shows you what an octave is, in terms of waves. It visualises two sine waves an octave apart.

Notice how one has twice as many cycles in a given time period as the other one. The octave is physically a doubling of frequency, or a 2:1 ratio.

Somehow, the human mind evolved to hear waves that are in this relationship as equivalent. Thus, we can use it in our music, as shown by the following tool:

The same melody played in different octaves

This tool demonstrates octaves. Notice how all 3 octaves of the melody sound the same, despite being higher or lower in pitch.

Also notice that when the melody is played in all 3 octaves together, the effect is to make the tone more complex, while the highest note is perceived as the melody.

The note names of scales

This tool allows you to scroll through all 12 major scales, and visualises the names of the notes. Notice how in some positions that some note names appear twice, both in natural and sharp form, while others are missing altogether. This is why notes can have both 'sharp' and 'flat' names.

A melody, transposed

In western music the octave is divided into 12 equal steps called 'semitones'. We derive the 12 major scales from this following a pattern:

Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half

As all 12 scales come from the same pattern, all 12 scales are equivalent. We can take a melody in one scale, and 'transpose' it into a different scale. The result will sound the same, but higher or lower in pitch.

This tool demonstrates that principle. It plays the same melody transposed into several different scales. Notice how they all sound like the same melody despite the pitch changing.