Riefer, Joshua (2018-07). An Investigation in Tone Characteristics of 3D Printed Ukulele Chambers. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Perceptive vocabulary for musical instrument sounds often lacks structure and standardization. Descriptors often convey qualitative appreciations, varying from listener to listener. Defining tone in terms of quantitative metrics enables baseline testing of traditional instruments and comparisons with developing materials and technologies. As 3D printing enters the scene of musical instrument design, relatively unexplored sound possibilities accompany its wake. This fabrication approach introduces layer-by-layer build control and simultaneously adds the complexity of anisotropic material properties. Understanding 3D printed instruments' acoustical characteristics seems the first step toward wielding the technology to design for specific sound qualities. In this endeavor, three metrics of tone were defined in light of existing studies and consideration for feasible frequency and time response analytics. Three different soprano style ukulele chambers were printed on a TAZ 6 printer using ABS, PLA and HIPS plastic and assembled with standardized components. Sounds were recorded and run through MATLAB using FFT and spectrogram functionality. Comparisons were made with traditional wood ukulele chamber fabrication. Metric use showed three different aspects of analyzed signal data that pertained to qualitative tone descriptions. Number of Harmonics showed promise as a meaningful gage of Fullness, decay time suggested that Sustain differentiates between ukulele sounds, and lastly, comparing fundamental frequency relative amplitude to other harmonics at decay time provided insight into pitch Strength.

publication date

  • July 2018