Chapter 14: Earcons

by David McGookin and Stephen Brewster

Description

This chapter introduces Earcons: short, structured musical phrases that can be parameterized to communicate information in an Auditory Display. We outline their history and review classic studies to understand the advantages and issues Earcons bring to Auditory Displays. Finally, we present areas where Earcons have been applied and recent research that pushes Earcons beyond their classic studies.

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Download the chapter: TheSonificationHandbook-chapter14 (PDF, 1.2M)

Media Examples

Example S14.1: An Earcon representing a paint file.
An Earcon representing a paint file, played with a brass timbre.


media file S14.1
download: SHB-S14.1 (mp3, 43k)
source: Brewster, Wright and Edwards (1994)

Example S14.2: An Earcon representing the “open” operation.
An earcons representing an “open” operation, played with a piano timbre.


media file S14.2
download: SHB-S14.2 (mp3, 38k)
source: Brewster, Wright and Edwards (1994)

Example S14.3: A compound Earcon representing the open paint file operation.
The Earcon is composed of the consecutive playing of the examples in 2 and 1. This forms a more meaningful message.


media file S14.3
download: SHB-S14.3 (mp3, 79k)
source: Source Brewster, Wright and Edwards (1994)

Example S14.4: A transformational Earcon representing a theme park ride.
The Earcon represents a high cost, high intensity static theme park ride.


media file S14.4
download: SHB-S14.4 (mp3, 59k)
source: McGookin(2004)

Example S14.5: A transformational Earcon representing a theme park ride
The Earcon represents a medium cost, medium intensity static theme park ride.Note how the register and rhythm vary from example 4, but the timbre, representing the type of ride, is the same.


media file S14.5
download: SHB-S14.5 (mp3, 70k)
source: McGookin(2004)

Example S14.6: A transformational Earcon representing a theme park ride
The Earcon represents a low cost, low intensity static theme park ride. Again, the register is dropped as are the number of notes in the rhythm. However the timbre remains constant.


media file S14.6
download: SHB-S14.6 (mp3, 49k)
source: McGookin (2004)

Example S14.7: A transformational Earcon representing a water ride
The Earcon represents a high cost, high intensity water theme park ride. Note how this Earcon is the same register and rhythm as example 5, but played with a different timbre.


media file S14.7
download: SHB-S14.7 (mp3, 63k)
source: McGookin (2004)

Example S14.8: A transformation Earcon representing a rollercoaster
The Earcon represents a medium intensity, medium cost rollercoaster theme park ride. Note the similarity with example 5 but with a different timbre to represent the cahnge in ride type.


media file S14.8
download: SHB-S14.8 (mp3, 74k)
source: McGookin(2004)

Example S14.9: An example of an auditory scrollbar
An example of how simple (one-element) Earcons can be used to augment a scrollbar to provide context in a long document.


media file S14.9
download: SHB-S14.9 (mp3, 712k)
source: Brewster, Wright and Edwards (1994)

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