Energy conserving schemes for the simulation of musical instrument contact dynamics

Vasileios Chatziioannou, Maarten Van Walstijn

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49 Citations (Scopus)
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Collisions are an innate part of the function of many musical instruments. Due to the nonlinear nature of contact forces, special care has to be taken in the construction of numerical schemes for simulation and sound synthesis. Finite difference schemes and other time-stepping algorithms used for musical instrument modelling purposes are normally arrived at by discretising a Newtonian description of the system. However because impact forces are non-analytic functions of the phase space variables, algorithm stability can rarely be established this way. This paper presents a systematic approach to deriving energy conserving schemes for frictionless impact modelling. The proposed numerical formulations follow from discretising Hamilton׳s equations of motion, generally leading to an implicit system of nonlinear equations that can be solved with Newton׳s method. The approach is first outlined for point mass collisions and then extended to distributed settings, such as vibrating strings and beams colliding with rigid obstacles. Stability and other relevant properties of the proposed approach are discussed and further demonstrated with simulation examples. The methodology is exemplified through a case study on tanpura string vibration, with the results confirming the main findings of previous studies on the role of the bridge in sound generation with this type of string instrument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-279
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sound and Vibration
Early online date03 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2015


  • Musical Instruments
  • Impact Dynamics
  • Numerical Modeling
  • Sound Synthesis
  • String Instruments
  • Finite Difference
  • Energy methods
  • Collision Modelling


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