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Acoustics: What Are They?

Mar 13, 2008
When you're working on a recording, of course knowing how to use the various pieces of equipment is important, but you also have to know how to use acoustics. The acoustics of any recording are just as important as any other element as you develop your particular sound. If you do this, you also have more capability in recording sounds just as you want them and will be able to determine just how you want to portray the audio sounds you are developing.

Acoustics first starts with utilizing air's vibrations. In some instances, an electronic device is used instead. If the acoustics are natural, the air moves through a particular compartment, such as an instrument or voice. As the air vibrates more, it creates more sound for the instrument or voice. This in turn leads to sound waves, which are recreations of the air's vibration moving through the space it's in.

The air's vibration determines how acoustics respond in a particular space. It also means the simple concept of their vibration that gives you specific ideals as to how you should set a recording studio; the right sounds must be produced for the recording. When you learn how to control acoustics, this is your basis for setting up a recording studio and is the main concept as you control sounds when you are recording them.

When a particular sound is made from an instrument, it utilizes a variety of air levels that it strikes and causes to vibrate. On one level, this becomes a note we hear as it is played. However, the acoustics can take on different characteristics in producing different sounds that are not heard by the human ear.

The first sound produced comes from the environment in which the sound is played. If a room is larger, has higher ceilings and has more space, the sound will bounce against the walls. This causes the sound to move faster, become louder and to resonate. When recording, the walls are deadened and smaller spaces are used, to diminish the reverbrations. If echo is included in the sound, the rhythms themselves can begin to sound off.

Acoustics also change sound by resonance. With resonance, the sound's vibration is heard, even when the note itself is no longer being produced. The resonance can continue as long as the air's vibration continues to hit the particular area in question. Most of the time, resonance will be a diminishment of the original sound as the vibration of air continues to decrease. When recording, this resonance is also muffled through the sound proof rooms used so that you can make a clearer sound.

Lastly, acoustic sounds contain overtones. It's true that we only hear one note being played or sung, but this is not the only note in the air. Acoustics create a vibration of sound waves that continue vibrating and resonating at different levels. These different levels become pitches created above the original pitch. There are specific spacings in the pitch. They are not heard necessarily, but they'll still create an effect as the sound hits the ear, when the vibration is moving through the air. This also makes a difference when recording, as the overtones can produce a different effect and can be recorded as a wave file. This in turn may cause differences in peaks and can also change basic sounds heard in the piece itself.

Once we understand these acoustic ideas, we can begin to control them within the recording studio. With a recording studio, particular areas are soundproofed so that the audio becomes a pure wave file. This stops the acoustic sounds from their distortions, such as echoing, muffling, or changing the sound intended.

With recording and acoustics, there are many ways to look at sound waves and how they work. Once you understand this, you can create a recording area more conducive to controlling certain acoustics while others are allowed to resonate.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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