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Sound Models and Systems - ELE00135M

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  • Department: Electronic Engineering
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Damian Murphy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

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 a range of approaches to the design, modelling and implementation of contemporary sound models and systems. Specific module content will reflect most recent trends from research and industry but will typically include:

Physical modelling: exploring how acoustic systems can be analysed and modelled mathematically and implemented efficiently as discrete time equivalents to give new ways to synthesize and process sound.

Spectral modelling: developing 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.

Procedural audio: interactive computer games demand efficient synthesis for sound effects content leading to the development of systems to create new sounds in real-time in response to varying input data.

Virtual analogue: demonstrating how legacy analogue audio devices can be modelled and implemented as digital equivalents.

Machine Learning: introducing how artificial intelligence, machine learning and data is influencing the development of next generation audio systems.

Key examples from industry and research will be explored with guest lecture content bringing current insights from individuals working at the forefront of their respective fields.

Related modules

Teaching shared over 2 cohorts: MSc Audio & Music Technology & Y4 MEng Electronic Engineering with Music Technology Systems

Equivalent experience to stages1-3 of the Music Technology degree programme for MSc students who want to take this module.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

  • To develop knowledge in the understanding and use of sound models and systems to create and process audio content.

  • To introduce the theory supporting a range of sound modelling and processing techniques and their application for varied sound synthesis, audio processing and acoustic modelling tasks.

  • To develop practical experience in developing digital realisations of a range of sound models and systems.

  • To understand and appreciate 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

  • Understand the theory behind relevant advanced sound models and systems to create and process audio content.

  • Understand the application and implementation of a range of advanced sound models and systems.

  • Summarise, compare and critique current research for a range of advanced sound models and systems.

  • Demonstrate practical experience of implementing advanced sound models and systems and creating and processing audio content.

  • Design and create/process a range of sound examples using one or more sound model/system implementations to demonstrate their capabilities and limitations.

  • Interpret and communicate theoretical and practical examples of advanced sound models and systems 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

Module content

Module content will typically include:

An introduction to physical modelling sound synthesis; key research in physical modelling and commercial applications; the mass/spring/damper system; discrete time modelling and finite differences; the 1-D wave equation and the digital waveguide travelling wave solution; the plucked string digital waveguide model; 2-D and 3-D systems and the finite difference time domain method; vocal tract synthesis in 1-D, 2-D and 3-D; physically inspired audio systems; procedural audio models; reverb simulation; geometric acoustics; spectral modelling; spectral modelling synthesis; virtual analogue systems; MATLAB implemented audio signal processing applications.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Online Report and Supporting Audio Examples
N/A 50
Essay : Research Literature Review
N/A 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Research Literature Review:
A formally written and presented critical literature review focusing on any aspect of the module content, adhering to IEEE journal guidelines.

Online Report and Supporting Audio Examples:
An online report into one or more aspects of the module (or related module) content, focused on a more general audience and using original or third party examples to highlight key aspects. This will also provide a platform for demonstrating the outcome of individual audio processing experimental and practical work via the use of sound and multimedia examples.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Online Report and Supporting Audio Examples
N/A 50
Essay : Research Literature Review
N/A 50

Module feedback

Formative Feedback:

  • Regular Practical Exercises allow the application of the theory covered in lectures in a guided and structured way and students will receive verbal (online or in person) help and feedback on methods and results.

  • Lab Demonstrators support the delivery of practical sessions and they will be able to give help and additional feedback on responses to the weekly practical exercises.

  • Weekly Seminar sessions summarise the content from online lectures and practical exercises in the previous week, and anticipate the subjects to be covered in the week ahead. This allows questions to be raised around any issues with the module content, and verbal feedback to be given on progress to date.

  • Online communication (via Email, Slack or other online means) to the Module Coordinator with Questions / Comments will be answered as soon as possible.

  • Opportunities to speak about individual assignment plans are enabled through any of the regular timetabled sessions and via online communication. The final practical session of the term is focused around receiving feedback on assessment planning.

Summative Feedback:

A standardised feedback sheet will be received for each assessment for the module, showing the final module mark, the marks breakdown against each of the learning objective assessment criteria, and how these have met based on a set of predefined grade descriptors that will be supplied with the assessment brief. In addition, personalised feedback will be given highlighting three clear areas of strength and three areas for improvement. The final module mark will also be made available via eVision.

Indicative reading

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

Udo Zölzer (Ed), “DAFX: Digital Audio Effects”, John Wiley & Sons, 2022, DOI: 10.1002/9781119991298

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

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.