There are many things that beginner musicians don’t know. Of all these things, I believe that the most important and tricky is acoustics. This article is the first of a series that will deal with acoustics and the problems that the modern musician faces.
What do we mean by acoustics? Many of you will probably remember from the physics lessons at school, that sound has certain properties. It travels at a certain speed. It deflects on walls. It changes from room to room. Actually, all of us have experienced various acoustic phenomena, even if we don’t know it.
When you go to a concert, you will notice how your position affects your perception of sound. If you put a cd into your cd player and leave your room, you’ll notice how the sound changes. All these are acoustic phenomena. However, what most people don’t realize, is how these phenomena affect our music making.
So, let’s take a look at that picture for example
This is a typical room frequency response. If you think that this thing looks like the Alps, then you’re right .
What this picture actually shows us, is how loud a frequency. The acoustics of every room, treat every frequency differently. What this means, is that the music you write, will sound different in every environment!
Alright, I understand that you are shocked by now. The first time I learned this I was shocked. I was shocked, not only, because my precious mixes were useless, but, moreover, because I hadn’t realized this very simple fact of the universe! That sound has its own laws! But, back then, I didn’t have anyone to help me, like you have musikality
My reaction when I first had this epiphany
Anyway, acoustics are important for two things: mixing and mastering. When you mix or master your tracks, you want to make sure that you have acoustics done as perfect as possible. "Perfection" in acoustics, actually means that the above curve would be completely flat. Of course, this is practically unachievable, but you can try to get as close as you can. The reason you want to do that, is that you want to make sure that your mixes "translate" to other systems.
Let’s say that you have mixed a piece in the room with the acoustics depicted above. You think you have a really strong bass. Then, you go to your friend’s room, you play it, and you can barely hear the bass at all. What happened? Well, in the frequency response above, the bass frequencies are stronger than the rest. So, when you mix them, you attenuate them somewhat. However, your friend’s sound system, has very weak woofers. The bass frequencies are lower than normal. The end result is that the piece sounds a lot different than you meant it to be.
Your friend’s soundsystem might not be the perfect one
A flat frequency response ensures that you won’t make mistakes like the one in the example above. Now, you’ll ask me, how to create a flat frequency response. There are many ways to do that, according to the problems you are facing. We are not going to address them in this article, because these will be addressed analytically in the next articles that are going to come, where we will discuss things like acoustic treatment, correction EQs and monitor placement.