The sound of summer

The sound of summer

Summer is watermelons, rainstorms, mosquitoes, burning sunshine and air conditioning. But a summer is not a summer without the chirping of cicadas.

By: Liangwei Shen
Technical Training Manager
Brüel & Kjær China


Cicadas are born underground, and after 2 to 17 years, the nymphs emerge, climb to the nearest tree, shed their old skins and become adults. Regardless of species, adult cicadas perish within a season or two and do not live multiple years in their adult form.

Cicadas live in groups, so it’s not easy to find a single individual. However, I was lucky enough to record an interview with a Mr. Cicada in Haidian, Beijing, using a Hand-held Analyzer Type 2250 in high resolution setting with a sampling rate of 24 bits.

Vocalism principle
The male cicada chirp is generated by the vibration of the tympanic membrane, which is pulled and compressed by the tensor tympani muscle. The cicada chirp lasts for tens of seconds at a time, reaching deafening levels before fading out again.

The sound of summerWe carried out an FFT vs Time analysis to obtain an RMS spectral density spectrogram
Period and peak view
Our recording covers the final part of a chirp. By dragging the file into a display in PULSE Reflex™ Core, we can clearly see several 1 s periods in the chirp signal. The peak value is about 0.7 Pa, around 90 dB.

FFT VS Time Analysis
Zooming in on the 1 s period shows that the period signal is composed of pulse trains. We carried out an FFT vs Time analysis to obtain an RMS spectral density spectrogram. The spectrum’s frequency range – from 20 Hz to 12.8 kHz – dominates between 2.5 kHz and 6.1 kHz, with the highest peak occurring at around 5.7 kHz.

The sound of summerFinal part of the cicada chirp signal
Soon, leaves will fall from the autumn wind and the air will cool. It will become hard for cicadas to chirp as their lives come to an end; their song turns sad, as winter is upon us.

Cicada chirp, the sound of summer: