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Which is Your Favorite Windows 7 Sound Scheme?

loudspeaker In case you haven’t looked under the hood, Windows 7 comes with 14 different sound schemes. Several of these schemes are associated with different themes that are built into Windows, so that when you change a theme the sound scheme change as well. The Microsoft Windows Team Blog recently published some additional information about the various sound schemes.

What is a sound scheme anyway?

A Windows sound-scheme is a set of sounds that signal certain events, like starting up and shutting down Windows or getting a new email or when Windows displays an error message. These are usually about a second or two long, with the exception of the login and logoff sounds which are about 6~7 seconds in length.

Even though the duration of the sounds may seem insignificant they are an important part of the operating system, and possibly took audio producer and musicians hundreds of hours to compose and perfect them. For instance, when Microsoft was developing the Vista operating system, the company brought in former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp who recorded, according to an internal Microsoft blog, “six hours of multi-channel raw tracks including hundreds of melodies, textures, soundscapes, and orchestrations.”

After three months of “iteration, remixing, and refinement” a four-second snippet was chosen as the final Windows Vista start-up sound: melody by Fripp, harmony by longtime Fripp collaborator and Seattle guitarist Steve Ball, and a “Win-dows Vis-ta” rhythm by Tucker Martine, a Grammy-nominated musician/producer who has worked with R.E.M., Spoon, and Mudhoney. [via]

From Windows Team Blog:

Something a lot of people don’t know is that there is an intentional auditory language to Windows, just as there is a visual one. If you’ve used Windows for a while, you know what the little envelope or printer icon on your Taskbar means – they’re recognizable visual symbols that indicate certain events or states. The same is true of the sounds that are associated with various events, such as a new email alert or a low battery warning. Without even thinking about it, you learn to recognize that two descending notes (E to A) mean that a device has been disconnected.

Each Windows sound has a specific, composed “melody” that is consistent across the various sound schemes. In addition to the instruments used for each sound, it is the pitches (how high or low), intervals (ascending or descending, and how far), rhythm or emphasis, and timing (slow, fast, simultaneous) between the notes that helps mark the difference between a “new mail” event and “a new device was plugged in” sound. For example, here is the notation for the Device Connect and Disconnect, Windows Log Off, and New Mail sounds:


Well, the challenge we had in developing sound-schemes based on various global musical traditions is that we had to remain true to the style and instrumentation of each of the different musical cultures while also making sure that all the sounds still spoke the Windows audio language correctly. We didn’t want users having to re-learn whether a particular sound or series of notes meant “I’ve got new mail” or “my battery is getting low.”

Here are the Windows 7 sound-schemes that are based on musical traditions:





“Here Comes the Sun” guitars, James Taylor, Beatles

12 string Taylor acoustic and 12 string Rickenbacker electric guitar


Solo instruments of eastern Asia

Gayaguem, erhu, and shakuhachi, gamelan and other bells and percussion


Smoky jazz club, slightly retro

Piano, vibes, upright bass, brushed drums and percussion


American roots music (blues, country, Dixieland jazz, etc)

Dobro, banjo, harmonica, electric slide guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass


Mostly Samba and Mariachi influences, with Peruvian woodwinds/flutes

Mariachi trumpets, Escolas de Samba percussion/drum ensemble, tango piano/bandoneon, Andean/Peruvian flute, steel drum


Classical Spanish guitar; Andrés Segovia

Nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, played in classical Spanish style


Aaron Copland, pastoral orchestral tones

French horns, glockenspiel/bells, bassoon, viola and violin textures


Instruments of the Indian region

Sarod, sitar, tabla, tambura, bamboo flute, sarangi, Indian percussion


The musical traditions of sub-Saharan Africa, South and West

Kalimba, mbira, African percussion and large drums, kora, talking drum, djembe, balafon, woodflute


Antonio Vivaldi; solo violins, small chamber strings and orchestral sounds

Solo violin, with small group viola and cello, woodwinds, orchestral percussion

Give them a try; you will be surprised at how many variations there are. My favorite sound scheme is “Afternoon” and “Calligraphy”. What’s yours?

How to change Windows 7 Sound Scheme

  1. Right click on the desktop and choose Personalization.
  2. Click Sounds in Personalization


  3. Click the Sound Scheme dropdown menu, and choose the sound scheme you want to try out. Click Apply or OK.


  4. You can also try out individual sounds without applying the sound-scheme to your system, by choosing the individual sound you want to hear, and then clicking Test.


  1. windows 98 is my fav from the childhood days

  2. I like the jazz club and the 12 string guitar.

    i would like a theme of distortion guitar. a pity that they haven't created it.

  3. out of all of them i like windows xp by far


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