The Five Minute Sound Study Podcast

Hello everyone, my name is Rob Blazik and I would like to welcome you to the inaugural edition of the Five Minute Sound Study Podcast!  The Five Minute Sound Study Podcast is exactly what it sounds like, learning about audio and sound engineering in teenie tiny five minute segments, and what better place to start than by defining what we’re learning about? So let’s take a look at how Websters defines audio:

Definition of audio

  1. 1:  of or relating to acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves which are of frequencies approximately from 15 to 20,000 hertz

  2. a :  of or relating to sound or its reproduction and especially high-fidelity reproduction
    b :  relating to or used in the transmission or reception of sound — compare video
    c :  of, relating to, or utilizing recorded sound

So What Is Sound?

Audible sound waves, frequencies, hertz, sounds like a lot of sciency type stuff doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking, I don’t want to learn sciency stuff, I want to record some sick beats, make lots of money, and sit by a pool drinking Mai Tai’s  somewhere… And to that I say, patience grasshopper, this will help you get there.  Really the basics aren’t all that difficult to understand at all. Sound is basically a vibration that moves through a medium and is then received by someone. When you speak, your vocal cords vibrate the air particles around them, those particles keep bumping up against and transmitting those vibrations to the air particles around them, until they reach your ear drum and vibrate it and your brain recognizes that as sound. Let’s take a quick look at what a sound wave looks like:

Whoa, squiggly lines! OK so I can’t take a picture of a sound wave, but let’s pretend we can, and that that is what it looks like. In that diagram you can see two labels, one is amplitude, the other is frequency. Amplitude is how big the sound wave is and to your ears that translates to how loud it is. Amplitude is basically the size of the vibration, we typically measure that in decibels, and we’ll get to that soon enough. How fast the vibration is, we call the frequency. See how in the low frequency example the waves are further apart and in the high frequency example they’re closer together? That’s what are brains translate into bass, mid range and treble. The faster the particles vibrate, the higher the sound, and that’s what Hertz is. The number of vibrations a second.

So they say humans can hear in the range of 15-20,000 hertz. In reality however that’s not the case. As we age our hearing range decreases, as a man in his late 40’s I can only hear up to about 14, 000 hz (or 15khz, same thing, damn metric system, I know). If we listen to music too loudly we also damage our eardrums and our ability to hear as well. Being someone who has loved metal all his life, you can imagine the damage I’ve done. Want to check what frequency you can hear up until? Here’s a neat link that you can do that at.

And we learned this why?

Going back to why we need to learn all this sciency stuff about sound waves, and frequencies and all that other mumbo jumbo? Well we’re interested in audio recording, and as  you will see later in our discussions about mixing and engineering all this stuff comes into play. Recording and mixing audio is like putting together a giant puzzle, the pieces have to fit together. Drums occupy a certain frequency range, so do guitar, vocals and bass, and they overlap in areas. How do we record each instrument properly so that it sounds good, or better yet amazing? How do we make each instrument stand out in a mix? Or how do we get all of them to sound great together?

If we have a good understanding of the basics, that becomes much easier as we progress. And progress we will! Thank you very much for listening and or reading, and I look forward to our time together in future episodes of the Five Minute Sound Study!

Leave a Reply