Over the last few decades, increasingly sophisticated experimental and computational studies have clarified the processes involved in sound production in musical instruments. One of the principal goals of this research effort has, however, remained tantalisingly elusive: the establishment of clear and unambiguous relationships between objectively measured properties of an instrument and judgements of its musical qualities by an experienced player. This is partly because player evaluation is a subtle and highly subjective process in which many different aspects of the instrument's performance may be tested. Early studies concentrated on the steady state spectra of sound recorded in the far field of the instrument. More recently it has been recognised that transient aspects of an instrument's performance are important in judgements of quality made by performers. These aspects include the ease with which a stable regime of oscillation can be initiated,and the flexibility with which pitch, amplitude and timbre can be modified during performance. Attempts to define "playability" of an instrument in scientific terms, and to relate these scientific metrics to the vocabulary used by performers in judgements of playability, have been partially successful, but many questions remain unanswered.

This content is only available via PDF.