Mechanics to Metaphor: Frequency

Frequency. Back to our plucked guitar string. The harder we pluck the string, the taller the wave and the louder the sound—that’s amplitude. The longer and/or less tense the string is in the first place, however, the longer the wave it generates is from end to end—and the lower in pitch we perceive the note. Think of a piano: the long strings are for the low notes, the short ones for the high. On a guitar, the strings are all the same length, but the low strings are wound relatively loose; the high strings are pulled tight. The phenomenon manifests similarly in vibrating columns of air: the pitch range of the short, tiny piccolo is very high, while the range of the bassoon is much lower. Ditto with percussion: a large tympani creates deeper sounds than a small snare. Bigger, looser = long waves, lower pitch; smaller, tighter = short waves, higher pitch.

The actual, physical length of a wave is called—you guessed it—its wavelength. Wavelengths are easily measured, in both space and time: we can say a given pitch is made of waves of a certain length, and that, at the speed of sound, each one of those waves takes a certain time to cycle through. But it’s much more common to refer to wavelengths and the pitches they engender in terms of how often waves occur in a given period of time: in other words, by their frequency.

Say we’re looking at a wave that’s traveling across a room to our ears. If each wave is short from end to end, say 6 inches, it’s going to occur a whole lot more times, a whole lot more frequently, before it gets to us than a wave that is 3 feet long. Fewer waves in a given distance = lower frequencies, lower notes; more waves in a given distance = higher frequencies, higher notes.

Specific frequencies have a place in Muzoracle mythopoetics—they relate to chakras, energy vortices that correspond with points in the body (see Pitch, Chakras, and a World "Do" ). While the general highness or lowness of frequency doesn’t play out directly in the cards and dice, it is intertwined with the Muzoracle as a whole via something called the Rhythm Line—that’s next.