Jim Woodhouse has combined the best elements of a book and a website to create Euphonics, a dazzling resource for researchers, instrument makers, players, technicians, and music lovers. While the main text is accessible to those with no mathematical background, the work as a whole speaks to scientists at any level seeking an introduction to musical acoustics. I am a violinmaker and researcher and have benefitted enormously from Woodhouse’s deep understanding of violin acoustics, his sparkling prose, and his clear visualizations. Euphonics is a generous and timeless contribution to the field.

Joseph Curtin

Violin maker, and 2005 MacArthur Fellow.

Woodhouse does an outstanding job addressing both the basics and many really interesting details.  The presentation makes it easy for readers with minimal technical background to get the gist, while there is sufficient detail to be useful to researchers in the field of acoustics of musical instruments.  In my undergraduate course on what science has to say about music, I recommend euphonics.org to students as a resource for how instruments work.

David Politzer

Richard Chase Tolman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Caltech; Nobel prize for physics, 2004; and banjo nut.

Euphonics.org is a great open resource to understand the physics and acoustics of musical instruments. I recommend it to everyone who wants an introduction to musical acoustics. Professor Woodhouse has a gift for explaining complex subjects in an easy to understand yet scientifically rigorous manner. The e-book format allows it to be read by readers with very different backgrounds. The main sections explain the basic concepts with a minimum of math while those who wish to explore the mathematical physics and equations in depth can do so. Highly recommended!

Fan Tao

Director of R&D, D’Addario & Company; co-director, VSA-Oberlin Acoustics Workshop; and violinist.

With Euphonics, Jim Woodhouse has done a remarkable job of writing a single online book with multiple audiences in mind, cleverly reimagining what it means to write an electronic book. The base level information is clear and readable for most musicians, while the additional layers of the book provide the more technical detail that will be of interest to the scientific audience. Of course, these audiences overlap, and I look forward to seeing how it is received across both musical and scientific communities.

Niamh Tumelty

Director of the Library, London School of Economics and Political Science

“Directly or indirectly, all questions connected with this subject must come for decision to the ear, as the organ of hearing; and from it there can be no appeal.” From volume 1, chapter 1, section 1, paragraph 1 of The Theory of Sound written by Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919).  A little more than a century after his passing this statement still rings true.   What makes a guitar sound like a guitar, a harp sound like a harp or a banjo like a banjo?  Euphonics takes on these types of question and proposes answers with accompanying audio demonstrations based on the science. 

As a senior member of a research staff, I taught engineers how to read technical papers and reports using a three-step process. The process is a series of readings with different objectives.  1) Read the summary, if the material is appealing read on.  2) Read the paper as quickly as you would read a novel.  Do not expect that every detail will be completely clear with this read but you will understand the story line.  Skip the math but look at the pictures and graphs, and listen to the audio. 3) The goal of the third reading is to know the material well enough to present it to your colleagues.  The Euphonics website is structured in such a way to facilitate this fast-track method of understanding and internalizing technical ideas. The short “single idea per section” format all but guarantees your success.  The math is in side links for the math savvy to explore whereas the casual reader can ignore these links.

The website can be read by anyone interested in musical acoustics from the novice to the professional expert.  Euphonics can be read from start to finish or sections can be read independently. For all those interested in musical instruments from players to makers to music lovers the Euphonic website was made for you.  Regardless of your current level of formal science education you will find there are a lot of fun things to learn about.

For any serious reader I recommend reading the “underpinning” chapters in all cases.    The underpinning chapters will expose you to the concepts and vocabulary used throughout.

Evan B. Davis

Retired Boeing technical fellow (structural acoustics); musical acoustician; and jazz drummer.