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Physical Modelling Synthesis - ELE00102M

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  • Department: Electronic Engineering
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Damian Murphy
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module explores advanced music and audio technology systems and how scientific and engineering research and the demands of industry and commercial applications have resulted in alternative approaches to how audio systems have been conceptualised, modelled and realised.
Physical modelling explores how acoustic systems can be analysed and modelled mathematically and then implemented efficiently as discrete time equivalents to give new ways to synthesize and process sound. Spectral modelling moves on from the concepts of Fourier and additive synthesis to explore how sound, and in particular musical sounds, can be considered as a combination of harmonic and noise content leading to powerful audio transformation possibilities. Interactive computer games demand efficient synthesis for sound effects content leading to the development of procedural audio systems to create new sounds in real-time in response to varying input data. Virtual analogue technology will also be introduced, demonstrating how legacy analogue audio devices can be modelled and implemented as digital equivalents.
Key examples from industry and research will be explored and how these are influencing current and future work. Other topics that reflect recent areas of research or industry interest will also be considered.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

Subject content aims:

  • To allow students to develop knowledge in the understanding and use of advanced music and audio technology concepts to create and process sound
  • To introduce the theory of physical, spectral and related modelling techniques and their uses for sound synthesis, audio processing and acoustic modelling
  •  To give students practical experience of developing digital realisations of advanced audio and music technology systems
  •  To give students a wider knowledge of recent research and industry practice in these areas

Graduate skills aims:

  • To develop skills in critically evaluating and synthesising new information based on researched information and writing concise technical reports appropriate for the target audience

Module learning outcomes

Subject content learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Understand the theory behind relevant advanced music/audio technology systems
  • Understand the use and implementation of advanced music/audio technology systems such as physical, spectral or related modelling techniques
  • Demonstrate practical experience of implementing advanced music/audio technology systems such as physical, spectral or related modelling techniques.
  • Design and create/process a range of sound examples using physical, spectral or related modelling techniques to demonstrate the capabilities of relevant advanced music/audio technology systems
  • Interpret and communicate theoretical and practical examples of these methods to a general audience through online publication

Graduate skills learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Be able to construct concise technical reports that critically evaluate and synthesise new information based on research, appropriate for the target audience


Task Length % of module mark
Sound Synthesis & Project Rep.
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Sound Synthesis & Project Rep.
N/A 100

Module feedback

'Feedback’ at a university level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme. We aim to help you reflect on your own learning and help you feel more clear about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you in both formative and summative assessments. A comprehensive guide to feedback and to forms of feedback is available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback. This can be found at The Department of Electronic Engineering aims to provide some form of feedback on all formative and summative assessments that are carried out during the degree programme. In general, feedback on any written work/assignments undertaken will be sufficient so as to indicate the nature of the changes needed in order to improve the work. Students are provided with their examination results within 20 working days of the end of any given examination period. The Department will also endeavour to return all coursework feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The Department would normally expect to adhere to the times given, however, it is possible that exceptional circumstances may delay feedback. The Department will endeavour to keep such delays to a minimum. Please note that any marks released are subject to ratification by the Board of Examiners and Senate. Meetings at the start/end of each term provide you with an opportunity to discuss and reflect with your supervisor on your overall performance to date.

Indicative reading

V. Välimäki, J. Pakarinen, C. Erkut, and M. Karjalainen, “Discrete-time Modelling of Musical Instruments”, Reports on Progress in Physics, vol. 69, no. 1, pp. 1-78, January 2006

Signal Processing for Sound Synthesis: Computer-Generated Sounds and Music for All, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, vol. 4, no. 2, Mar. 2007

Curtis Roads, “The Computer Music Tutorial”, MIT Press, 1995, ISBN 0-262-68082-3

Perry Cook, “Real Sound Synthesis for Interactive Applications”, AK Peters, Ltd., 2002, ISBN: 1-56881-168-3

Julius Smith’s Homepage:

Physical Modelling at York:

Gareth Loy, “Musimathics: The Mathematical Foundations of Music: 2”, MIT Press, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-0262516563

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.