#TIL: The hidden music in our car horns

By Chhavi Banswal

Picture courtesy: kmuw.org

When the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highway Nitin Gadkari shared his plans to introduce vehicle horns with sounds of Indian musical instruments, many were fascinated — could music and car horns actually be married?

What is not a commonly known fact is, the love affair between music and car horns has been secretly blooming for decades. For anyone who has ever been stuck in a traffic jam, it would be absurd to think there could be a link between music and the vexatious honking noise.

While the air horns (with a plastic ball at the back) and the exhaust horns (that sounded like steam locomotives) do not have much room for calibration, the electric horns in the US were tuned to musical notes up until the mid 1960s. The horns were tuned to the musical notes E-flat and C, being the middle notes of a musical scale. However, with advancement in technology, cars started to become more sound proof, which meant the old calibrations of the horns were not audible enough. Hence, the notes were subsequently changed to F-sharp and A-sharp, which are more penetrating.

Taking this a step further, today, there are cars that have changeable horn tunesranging from Nokia’s signature ringtone to the sound of seismic charge from Star Wars. These cars offer the option to choose a sound from the dropdown menu or insert a USB device for custom sounds.

Since traffic jams seem unavoidable, we may as well move towards a future where they can be more tolerable or perhaps even entertaining.

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