The Physics (Science) of Musical Instruments Course

David Dolak developed and teaches the course, The Physics (now Science) of Musical Instruments, for the Department of Science and Mathematics at Columbia College Chicago.   As described in the course description:

“In this course, students study the physics of common musical instruments and discover the mathematical foundation of musical scales. The course explores mechanical oscillation, frequency, wavelength, and the harmonic series. Students investigate the complex timbre of musical instruments through hands-on laboratory experiments using wave and spectrum analysis and develop scales using sound-generation software. For a final project, students construct functional instruments and perform an original musical composition.”


Over the years Dave’s students have constructed over 1000 musical instruments including, cigar-box guitars, copper and wooden flutes/recorders, tongue drums, tank drums, kalimbas, xylophones, and a wide variety of string instruments such as guitars, sitars, dulcimers, ukuleles, autoharps, harps, hurdy gurdy’s, and many unique, “mash-up” versions of instrument combinations.

Below are photos of recent class final projects.


Physics of Musical Instruments Honors, SP 2014




Physics of Musical Instruments Honors, SP 2016



Physics of Musical Instruments Honors, FA 2016



Physics of Musical Instruments Honors, SP 2017


Physics of Musical Instruments, SP 2016