PH1090 - The Physics Behind the Music

Instructor: B. H. Suits
Office: 105 Fisher Hall
Phone: 487-2093
Requried Text: There is no required text. Some optional reading is suggested in the syllabus.

Course Description

Live Version

The "live" version is a more traditional class which meets twice a week for 75 minutes each (1.5 normal class periods) during most fall semesters. Demonstrations and in-class exercises are used extensively.

Course materials are accessible to registered students using MTU's Canvas site. Go to and log in using your MTU user name and password. If you are registered for the course, an entry for PH1090 should appear.

Note that this is a Physics course which deals with scientific issues related to music. It is not a "music course." You do not need to be able to read music, play an instrument, or sing. You do need to be able to think logically and do math at the precalculus level.

Online Version

An online version of this course is expected to be available during MTU's spring and summer semesters for the forseeable future, and occasionally during the fall semester. Please check here to make sure you meet the minimum system requirements before signing up for an online course at MTU. This class primarily uses Canvas with video streaming from Panopto (the Silverlight plugin is needed). Also be aware that there is currently an extra fee for the online version to help support the extra technology necessary. General information about taking online courses at MTU can be found at

To view a short video presentation explaining how this online course currently works, verify you meet the minimum system requirments and then click here. If you are unable to view this short presentation, you will also be unable to view most of the course material.

Note that individual "computer problems" are not generally accepted as an excuse in this class. Hence, you should not leave assignments to the last minute and should have a back-up plan in case your primary computer experiences difficulties. The computers in the MTU library can be used with headphones (you can check them out at the front desk or bring your own). Many other libraries have similar facilities.

The online version may require more self-discipline on the part of the student than does a more traditional course.

The online material is made available through the MTU's Canvas site to those registered for the course. Lectures are presented through your browser using the Panopto Streaming System. In-class problems and homework are done online. Proctored hour and final exams are done either at MTU or, by arrangement, with another proctor. Contact with the instructor can be via email, phone, and/or in person (if local). Depending the particular arrangments with each student, their exam may be online or in a written format.

The online course is done "asynchronously." That is, you view the lectures on your computer and do online problems at your convenience within a time window of a few days for each. If you don't have time to view the entire lecture in one sitting, you can view half now and half later. If you fall asleep, no problem, just "rewind." Note that thought the schedule is flexible, this is not a "self-paced" course.

The MTU scheduling systems lists the online class meeting time as "TBA." Read this as "Times By Arrangement" and not "To Be Announced." There is nothing to be announced -- the online class does not meet regularly as a group -- and you can arrange your time accordingly.

Non-MTU students who would like to take this course are welcome. Contact the MTU admissions office and ask about being a "non-degree seeking student (NDS)" or go directly to the online application page. Information about cost can be found here. Limited funds are available to help support certifided high school teachers taking PH1090 online course during the summer (send inquiries to The course can be taken for credit or as an audit. (As an audit, there are no hour or final exams but some effort on the online quizzes is expected for a "satisfactory audit" grade).

Note that this is a Physics course which deals with scientific issues related to music. It is not a "music course." You do not need to be able to read music, play an instrument, or sing. You do need to be able to think logically and do math at the precalculus level.

Other Information

Since access to the current material requires a password, etc., a copy of a previous year's information is made publicly available below to those who are interested. That information will be updated from time to time.

Lab Section, PH1091

An optional lab section associated with this course is now regularly available during the Fall semester only. Summer sections may appear from time to time as demand warrants. Sign up for PH1091. Seating is limited due to space limitations. PH1091 is not available as an online course. The lab syllabus, lab grades, and some written lab materials will be available to registered students via the Canvas system at PH1090 is a pre/corequisite for PH1091; you may not take the lab by itself.

Previous Year's Info

Course Description
PH1090 Syllabus
PH1091 Description

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Physics of Music Notes
MTU Physics Dept