Universal Truths of Music

Tags: music/theory

There are few things about music that are universally true across cultures. The few that are universally true are usually banal and say little to nothing.

  1. The octave is the simplest interval ratio (aside from unison), at 1:2
  2. The overtone series is the only naturally occurring scale. This does not mean it sounds good as a scale. 12TET is used in western music for good reasons.
  3. A division of two is the simplest rhythmic unit. It cannot be said that a further subdivision of two is simpler than a division of three, nor can anything be said about emphasis.
  4. The human ear can hear a range of roughly 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Frequencies below 20Hz can be heard to an extent, but transition more towards being felt and require more power to be felt or heard. Frequencies above 20,000Hz can be heard by some, generally younger people. There is no exact maximum.
  5. Digital reproduction of a sound can be done perfectly accurately at a sampling frequency twice the greatest frequency in the sound. This is why sampling rates slightly above 40kHz are ideal.