Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Piano strings ringing in sympathy with a sung note

Question: A sufficiently loud musical note sung near a piano with the lid raised can cause the corresponding strings in the piano to vibrate. (A piano has a set of three strings for each note, all struck by the same hammer.) Why would this trick be unlikely to work with a violin?

Solution: If you have heard the sound of a violin being plucked (the pizzicato effect), you know that the note dies away very quickly. In other words, a violin's Q is much lower than a piano's. This means that its resonances are much weaker in amplitude.

Last Update: 2009-06-21