I have read this question:

The walls have their resonant frequencies and being large objects, these tend to be low frequencies. Therefore bass sound waves are better at triggering resonance in the walls, which helps their transmittance.

Why do bass tones travel through walls?

I have noticed that whenever a muscle car or a car with loud subwoofers passes by, everything in the environment shakes (vibrates). This includes big objects (like the answer says), the house's walls, but it includes small objects that are close too. So I do not fully understand that answers there, they do not fully answer my question (they answer more about why the sound travels through the wall). But why do higher pitch sounds not shake (vibrate) the environment? In my experience this only works with these very loud low pitch noises.


  1. Why do only bass sounds (muscle cars and subwoofers) shake the environment?
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I don't understand what about the very passage you already quote does not answer your question. "The walls have their resonant frequencies and being large objects, these tend to be low frequencies. Therefore bass sound waves are better at triggering resonance in the walls, which helps their transmittance." is a perfectly valid answer to "Why do bass sounds shake the environment?" Can you be a bit clearer about what's missing for you here? $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ Lower frequency = more displacement required to achieve the same power level = more noticeable. Also, I think you mean higher pitch sounds" in your last sentence, not lower. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind thank you, I am writing about that in my experience, small objects are resonated (vibrated) too. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen thank you, I edited. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 1:43

1 Answer 1


This question leads to a rabbit hole of phenomena, and I believe a complete answer would turn into a book. With that in mind, here are a number of considerations that might put your mind at ease:

  1. Human hearing is limited between roughly 20 Hz and 20 kHz, but the response is not flat. We hear best around 1000 Hz (see this article for more), but for lower frequencies we need more acoustic energy to perceive a similar level of loudness. Thus, having a heavy bass is associated with pumping a lot more energy into the sound than having a loud melody.

  2. Usually we think of sound as responding linearly, or if you put in a given frequency you will get the same frequency out later. However, as the amplitude increases you start to get nonlinear effects, where additional frequencies of sound can be generated (e.g., higher-frequency rattling associated with low-frequency sources). How loud do you need to get to start having nonlinear effects? It depends on the situation. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get this nonlinear behavior is to have a contact discontinuity (such as a crack in a solid or a mirror hanging on the wall). There are very different behaviors of the discontinuity depending on whether you are pushing or pulling (think of pulling the mirror off the wall versus pushing it into the wall), which is a highly nonlinear behavior and can lead to many new frequencies, usually higher than the original, being excited. Often, these new, higher frequencies are associated with the rattling of small objects.

  3. A final thought: As you mentioned in the original post, there are resonances to consider. Resonating a structure causes it to have relatively large displacements. If you resonate a small cup in a cupboard, it will shake a small portion of the cupboard itself, which does not lead to efficient radiation of sound (shaking of the cupboard). On the other hand, if you resonate the the cupboard, every single cup in the cupboard will start to shake at least a little.

I do not believe that I have provided a sufficient answer to your question, but the number of phenomena that I could keep talking about (e.g., efficiency of radiation from different sized structures) keeps growing in my mind as I write. If you have specific questions about any of what I have written, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 16:13

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