If it takes more energy to produce a higher frequency, why do smaller animals produce higher pitched noises and vice versa with large animals?


Elephants and whales produce pitches that are lower than humans can hear, meanwhile birds sing at very high pitches. Wouldn’t it make more sense for larger animals to produce pitches that accurately reflect the energy output that they’re capable of? I understand that amplitude is another factor in play – larger animals are capable of a much higher amplitude than smaller animals – but I still don’t get why bigger animals make lower pitched sounds.

In: 1

It’s not just High energy = high pitch.

Sound has two parts, wavelength (pitch) and amplitude (energy). Essentially how quickly the waves are coming and how big the waves are.

So what makes a sound super high pitch is having a very small wavelength (or high frequency).

This is really easy to make with smaller things, like say small vocal cords, because those small cords can vibrate back and forth much quicker, leading to a higher frequency and smaller wavelength.

The “Energy” of the sound is it’s amplitude, this has nothing (generally) to do with pitch. The higher energy the sound the louder it is.

Pitch has more to do with the speed of vibration than the amount of energy input. Think of how smaller instruments have a higher pitch- flute is higher than a tuba; violin is higher than bass, etc. When the sound producing mechanism is smaller the sound bounces back more quickly with faster vibration making the pitch higher. The same is true in reverse- it takes more time for the sound waves to travel through a large instrument so the vibration is slower making the pitch lower. I hope this helps!

Same reason that low notes on a piano have longer strings. Longer strings support longer wavelengths. Bigger vocal chords support bigger wavelengths. The small vocal chamber of a mouse can only support small wavelengths