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Physics of Music PHY103 Lab Manual
Lab 1 - Measurements of Frequency
EQUIPMENT and PREPARATION
? Oscilloscopes (get 5 from teaching lab)
? BK Precision function generators (get 5 from Thang or teaching lab)
? Counter/timers (PASCO, 4 + 1 other)
? Connectors and cables (BNC to BNC's, banana plug pairs) connecting function/signal generators to
oscilloscopes and speaker.
? BNC to 2 leads
? Adaptors: mike to BNC so that output of preamps can be looked at on oscilloscope.
? BNC to banana adapters
? BNC T- adapters
? Oscilloscope probes
? Pasco open speakers
? Microphones, preamps, mic stands
? Strobes (3) optional
Warning: do not place speakers near oscilloscope screens as they can damage the
CRT (cathode ray tube) screens.
Note: The professor will attempt to have the equipment out and available for the labs. However the
TAs/TIs should check that the equipment is ready to use, that every lab setup has all the necessary
equipment. The TA/TIs should also be familiar with the lab and know how to troubleshoot the equipment.
In this lab, we will be measuring the frequency of a signal using three different methods. The first
method involves the use of the function generator. A function generator is an instrument that can produce
sine, square, and triangular waves at a given frequency. The second method makes use of the oscilloscope.
An oscilloscope is an instrument principally used to display signals as a function of time. The final method
for measuring the frequency uses the counter/timer. A counter/timer is an instrument that can give a very
accurate measurement of the frequency of a signal by counting each time a voltage crosses a particular
The frequency, f, and period, T, of a wave are related in the following way:
f = T (Equation 1)
For frequency in Hz (cycles per second), the period is given in seconds. This equation makes
sense because the frequency is the number of cycles that fits into 1 second (fT=1).
The electrical signals created by a function generator can become "sound waves" when passed
through a speaker. In this lab we will verify this by looking at the signal output from the microphone on
the oscilloscope. To send signals between the various instruments we will use wires/cables with the
BNC connector (male)
For shielded cable
Banana Plug (male)
Physics of Music PHY103 Lab Manual
?'' phone (TRS) connector
The purpose of this lab is to gain familiarity with varying electronic signals and connect detection
of sound waves to the equipment that we use to measure them. We will gain a working knowledge of a
function generator, an oscilloscope, and a counter/timer. We will look at signals picked up by an
oscilloscope probe and that from a microphone. We will experiment with different ways of measuring
frequency. The goal of the lab report is to compare and contrast our different measuring frequency
Part I - The Function Generator
? Turn on the function generator.
? Press in the button on the front panel with the sine wave picture.
? Where it is labeled "Range," press the "500" button.
? Use the "Course" and "Fine" tuning dials (where it is labeled "Frequency" on the front panel) until
the display reads 300 Hz.
? In your notebook, write "300 Hz" for the value you obtained for your frequency using the function
generator on your first trial. You will want to record your different measurements!
? Turn the Output level (amplitude) knob on the function generator so the output is at about half of
the maximum (this is so it won't make a very loud sound in the next step).
? Connect the output of the function generator to the speaker. Adjust the amplitude. Vary the
frequency from the function generator. Make sure you can hear a tone from the speaker. Get a
feeling for what frequencies correspond to which sounds.
? Explore the range of your hearing in frequency. What is the lowest frequency you can hear and
the highest you can hear?
? Change the signal to a square wave or a triangle wave. Notice that they have different sounds.
? Revert to sine wave, set the frequency back to 300Hz and disconnect the speaker.
Please keep the speaker away from the oscilloscope to prevent damage to the CRT
Part II - The Oscilloscope (you will be using Tenma scopes)
1. Turn on the oscilloscope by pushing in the power. It will take a few seconds for a trace to appear
on the screen. If one does not appear in a few seconds, try increasing the trace intensity (see #3).
2. Connect the output of the function generator to one of the inputs of the oscilloscope.
3. Adjust the intensity. This is done by turning the intensity button on the Tenma scopes in the
4. There is a FOCUS knob. You can adjust this knob to focus the line in the CRT monitor.
5. Note that if the speaker is near the oscilloscope, its magnet can distort the display. This is kind of
fun to show but if you do too much of this it can damage the CRT and permanently warp it (we
had this happen one year.)
6. There is a MODE switch in the "Vertical" section. If your signal from the function generator is
going into Channel 1 then move this switch to "CH 1." This allows you to look at channel 1.
There are two channels available so that it is possible to compare two traces at once. To show
both traces at once (that is the signals going into channel 1 and 2), select the DUAL mode.
Ordinarily you look channel 1 or 2 in the y axis vs time in the x axis.. The X-Y mode allows you
to look at an x versus y display. The horizontal (x-axis) signal is connected through the CH1 X
Physics of Music PHY103 Lab Manual
input connector and the vertical (y-axis) signal is connected through the CH2 Y input connector.
The ADD mode allows two traces to be added together. If your signal is going into Channel 2
then you would make sure that the MODE switch is either on "CH2" or on "Dual".
7. There is a SOURCE switch in the "Trigger" section. Make sure this switch is on "CH1." (if your
signal from the function generator is in Channel 1) or on "CH2" (if your signal is going in
8. Using the CH1 Y shift control (the vertical arrows) in the "Vertical" section to make sure that the
trace is in the middle of the screen vertically.
9. Using the X shift control (the horizontal arrows) in the "Horizontal" section, make sure that the
trace is in the middle of the screen horizontally.
10. Turn the VARIABLE knob, in the "Horizontal" section, clockwise to the CAL position. If this is
not done you might measure incorrect times.
11. In the "Vertical" section, there is a GND (ground) button. Make sure that this button is sticking
out (i.e. not pushed in). This will keep the signal from being grounded or shorted out. On other
Tenma scopes you must select either GND, AC (alternating) or DC (direct current). Make sure
GND is NOT selected. If GND is selected you will not be able to see your signal (but you can
center the signal and make sure you know where 0Volts is).
12. If the waveform on your screen is not stationary, adjust the LEVEL knob in the "Trigger" section.
When the waveform is not stationary it is said to be "free-running". If your signal is not stationary
then the TRIGGER may not be adjusted properly or you make have selected the wrong channel for
13. The CH1 dial contains an inner and outer dial. Make sure the inner dial is pushed in and set all
the way clockwise to CAL. This way the voltage read from the screen can be converted into
Volts. Otherwise the voltage read from the screen in boxes will not correspond to that chosen
from the voltage knob in Volts.
14. The TIME/CM or TIME/DIV knob in the "Horizontal" section specifies how long it takes for the
trace to sweep through a centimeter box on the oscilloscope screen. Adjust the TIME/CM or
TIME/DIV knob so you can see about one or two full cycles on the monitor.
15. The VOLTS/CM or VOLTS/DIV knob in the "Vertical" section determines how tall the signal
will be on the screen. Adjust the VOLTS/DIV knob for channel 1 to obtain a waveform that fills
almost all of the screen vertically.
16. Re-adjust the INTENSITY and FOCUS knobs to get a clear trace.
17. At this point you should have a stationary waveform positioned nicely on your screen. If this is
not the case, ask for some help from the instructor.
18. Count the number of squares in one period of the wave (peak to peak). Record this number in
your notes. Remember that each square is 1 cm by 1 cm.
19. Multiply this number by the value that the TIME/CM knob is set to. Make sure to convert the
value that the TIME/CM knob is set at into seconds per centimeter. For example, 0.2 ms/cm =
.0002 s/cm. The number that you have just calculated is the period of the signal in seconds.
Record this value in your notes.
20. Determine the frequency of the signal using equation (1).
21. In your lab notebook, write the value you obtained where it asks for the value of your frequency
using the oscilloscope on your first trial.
22. Error estimation: Suppose you mis-measure by 1/5 box on the screen. Redo your calculation.
Compare this frequency to the one that you calculated in #20. The difference can be an estimate
of the error or your uncertainty of your measurement. Record your estimated error (uncertainty) in
Part III - The Counter/Timer
1. Turn on the counter (switch on power supply module on left). A counter toggles every time the
signal crosses a certain level. It can be used to count the number of crossings per second.
2. Connect the output of the function generator to the counter input area. The black lead from the
generator should go to the GND (ground, black) input. The red lead from the generator should go
to the white or 0.5V p/p MIN lead. This stands for 0.5Volts peak to peak. To get the counter to
trigger the input must go above 0.5Volts peak to peak. Note: there is one counter that is simpler
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