Loughborough University
David Brackett PhD Thesis 2011.pdf (21.23 MB)

The optimisation of brass instruments to include wall vibration effects

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posted on 2011-10-20, 13:05 authored by David J. Brackett
This thesis focuses on the design optimisation of a brass instrument. The bore profile of such an instrument is known to be the primary influence on the sound of the instrument as it directly controls the shape of the air-column contained within the instruments' walls. It has long been claimed, however, that other factors, such as the wall material and wall vibrations, are also significant, although to a lesser degree. In recent years, it has been proven that wall vibrations do indeed have an audible effect on the sound (Moore et al 2005, Kausel et al 2007, Nachtmann et al 2007, Kausel, Zietlow and Moore 2010). This effect corresponds to a relative increase in the power of upper harmonics of the sound spectrum when vibrations are greatest, and relative increase in the power of the lower harmonics, in particular the fundamental, when vibrations are at their least. The result is a timbral difference where a greater relative power in the upper harmonics results in a 'brighter' sound, and where the opposite results in a 'darker' sound. Studies have also found that the degree of the wall vibration is increased when the resonant frequencies of the air-column and those of the instruments' structure align. It is this principle that this work is based on. The primary objective of this work was to devise a suitable approach for incorporating the wall vibration effect into an optimisation method to investigate the optimum designs for two scenarios: maximum wall vibration and minimum wall vibration. It was also of interest to investigate if there were any design characteristics for each scenario. Two analysis methods were investigated for their suitability, namely free and forced vibration using finite element analysis (FEA). Different approaches to defining the design variables were explored and the suitability of different optimisation algorithms was investigated. The free vibration approach was found to be inadequate for this application due to the inherent omission of valuable magnitude information. The forced vibration approach was found to be more successful, although it was not possible to align a resonance with each frequency of interest.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


Loughborough University

Rights holder

© David J. Brackett

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID



  • en


Richard Hague ; Ian Ashcroft

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral