If, like us, you’re a fan of the Trolls movie, you’ll know that King Peppy looks for three things in a new home: fresh air, clean water and sweet acoustics! But what does he mean? And can you find acoustics in the place where you live?
Acoustics is the science of sound.
In my answer to ‘what’s that noise?‘, I explained that sound is caused by the jiggly movement or ‘vibration’ of molecules. These vibrations make sound waves that can pass through gases, liquids and solids to get to your ear, where you can hear them.
But why are King Peppy and the Trolls interested in the science of sound waves? Well, the Trolls love to sing (and dance and hug) and singing is all about acoustics!
Have you ever tried singing in the bath or shower? I have and do you know what? It sounds AWESOME! Go and try it – does your voice sound different to normal? Now, make a blanket fort out of pillows and duvets and have a sing in there. Does it sound the same? You should find that one place sounds much better than the other.
Bathrooms usually have tiles on the walls (and maybe on the floor) and baths, washbasins and toilets are usually made of ceramic, metal or hard plastic. These hard, shiny materials are not very comfy for sitting on but they’re really, really good at bouncing sound waves around. This makes the bathroom a great place to practise singing because you’ll be able to hear all the noises that your voice makes as the sound waves bounce back to your ears. Your voice will sound rich and resonant.
Spaces that have lots of soft things like curtains and cushions and carpets are much better at absorbing sounds. They make it harder for sound waves to bounce about and things will sound quiet and muffled (a bit like when you put your hands over your ears). So, this is not such a good place to practise singing because your squidgy surroundings won’t bounce the sound waves back to your ears. Your voice will sound flat and dull.
So, ‘acoustics’ can also describe how well sound can move around inside a building or room. Spaces that bounce sound waves have good acoustics because they make things sound better. Spaces that absorb sound waves have poor acoustics because they make sounds harder to hear.
And since we’ve been thinking about singing to understand acoustics, I’ll leave you with our favourite song from the Trolls movie. Enjoy!