Cymatics and chladni patterns

February 9, 2006

I am forever amazed at the power of the interaction between sound vibrations and matter. The principle is beautifully illustrated in the work of Hans Jenny in his book “Cymatics,” and in the research of Ernst F.F. Chladni. Their experiments involved setting a vibration in motion onto a metal plate, or water, or other viscous fluid, and watching the pattern develop.

Cymatic image

One of my favorites is the metal shavings against a flat magnetized surface where, with time, a vibration puts the filings into a remarkable pattern, but then start expanding into a 3-dimensional pattern as the filings stand on top of each other.

metal shavings

I found this interesting picture on the internet with no description of what it is. I’m assuming a black powder of some kind was sprinkled upon the face of the guitar, and an electronic vibration of some kind, was pressed against the body of the guitar. As the body begins to vibrate sympathetically, patterns form on the surface. The numbers perhaps show where the vibrating source was applied.

Chladni patterns on a guitar

Those of you who have been to a disco and felt your body pounding from the heavy bass in the amplification system have experienced a gross form of this, but who knows where the pattern manifests itself. Some say it manifests in one’s aura. Hmmm, well, maybe, but I can’t really see that.

But if you think about music, and what a complex vibrational experience it is, I can’t help wonder where the pattern is manifesting. I guess it would be in our brain!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rhapsody February 11, 2006 at 10:53 am

According to my husband, 90+% of the guitar’s sound emanates from the top of guitar. A good luthier will tap-test a guitar in the manner you have pictured, by sprinkling graphite on it. Some luthiers can do it by ear alone, but the graphite patterns are a more empirical way of doing it, I suppose. The patterns determine where the guitar needs to be braced to produce a particular sound–for finger-style playing, bluegrass sound, classical, etc.

(I didn’t know that….my husband is a musician/guitarist.)

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