THE AUDIO BASICS SERIES

The Audio Basics Series deals with the fundamental principles of sound and how it travels in acoustic spaces. The fundamental principles outlined here underscore everything you do with audio even if you produce electronic music.

To help you get a grasp of these fundamentals I have recorded a series of audio lectures that outline only what you need to know. I have reduced all of the heavy mathematical formulas and information into easy to understand basic concepts. The lectures use practical examples and easy to remember facts that will be most useful to you for your music production work.

The following audio programs are listed below for convenient access to the whole series. By clicking on the links for each subject title, you will open a page that displays additional information about the subject. The linked pages are written to underscore the information provided in the audio programs. The audio programs for each link are also provided in the new page.


1. Audio Basics


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The Audio Basics lecture is a primer for all of the following lecture topics. It sketches an overview of the audio programs that follow and sets the foundation for all the audio principles you need to understand. This audio program covers the basics of how sound propagates in an acoustic space and the most basic principles you need to understand about sound.


2. Anatomy of the Ear


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The perception of sound starts with the ear. Understanding the anatomy of the ear and how we perceive sound is critical to understanding how to work with it. This audio program touches on a variety of subjects around the hearing mechanism and its connection to the brain. It is through this vital connection that we connect to the emotional aspects of sound. This is very important information to understand when working with music and music production.


3. Protecting Your Hearing


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Protection of the hearing mechanism is a vital part of your success in the art of music production. Of all the audio basics, these daily practices will help you to preserve the most important organ in the body for work with audio. These practical steps are not about ruining the listening experience, but rather, about how you make it more enjoyable for the rest of your life.


4. Temporary Threshold Shift and Hearing Loss


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Temporary threshold shift is a subject that is mostly tucked a way into the deep end of anatomy books and the study of hearing loss. This audio discusses the physical and mental fatigue of the hearing mechanism when working in the recording studio and the very simple ways you can use this understanding to your advantage. This one concept will help you make better music productions in far less time.

Hearing loss is also discussed in this audio program. Understanding what your hearing capabilities are is more important than having perfect hearing. Having a grasp of the strengths and limitations of your hearing mechanism will allow you to easily compensate for them and achieve great results in your music production work.


5. Critical Listening Vs. Analytical Listening


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There are the 2 basic ways we can perceive audio, critically and analytically. Whether you are a music producer, engineer, or musician, you must be able to apply these two methods of listening to music productions in order to achieve the results you desire. This audio basics program discusses in detail the importance of each method and teaches you how to switch back and forth as needed.


6. Audio Ear Training


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This audio program discusses specific techniques for improving your hearing abilities. This is a definitively hands on approach that has you working with music and music productions rather than frequency and hearing tests. The methods outlined in this audio basics program teach you how to create maps for how music is produced and engineered. Understanding how to create and use these maps will allow you to achieve significantly better results with your own music production work.


7. Physics of Sound


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This audio program discusses the basic physical properties of sound and how it travels in an acoustic space. The basic concepts outlined here, underly everything you do with audio. Ultimately, no matter what style of music you produce, sound must enter an acoustic space in order for it to be perceived. These concepts are the foundation for all your recording and mixing work.


8. The Decibel Scale


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This is the least mathematical description, that I could create, of a subject that is loaded with complex mathematical formulas. Understanding the decibel is really more about defining measurements for communication purposes. Almost all of the complex math is completely unnecessary for practical use in the recording studio. Understanding the concept of the decibel, and what it represents, and how to use it, is a vital part of all your engineering work.


9. Fletcher Munson Curves


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Fletcher and Munson did some astounding work in the study of our hearing mechanism. Their work is vital to understand when working in the field of music production. Fletcher and Munson defined the relationship of our perception of frequency response against different sound pressure levels (listening volume). Understanding this work is incredibly valuable for how we monitor sound in the recording studio.


10. Selective Hearing


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Selective hearing is an important foundational concept of the audio basics series. Our ability to selectively focus on one element in a musical recording while blocking out others is what allows us to produce music in the first place. This concept is carried out to the consumer who will focus on the elements of a mix you decide to feature. Your ability focus the listener's attention to a single sound in a mix is critical to conveying the feeling and message of a song.


11. Speed of Sound and Wavelength


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The speed of sound is a flexible quantity based on temperature. This audio provides essential information about the speed of sound and how the measurements of your acoustic recording and mixing space are connected.

The speed of sound directly affects the wavelength of any given frequency. A little bit of simple math will allow you to quickly size up a recording or mixing space and address the problems and determine what is necessary to make it sound more evenly balanced. The ability to play with this information, in practical application, is perhaps the most critical of the audio basics to understand.


12. Acoustical Phase


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When sound propagates from the sound source it reflects off of the surfaces of the room and returns back to the source. How long it takes to return and its phase relationship to the sound source is critical to controlling the tonal coloration of a recording space.

Using the concepts of the speed of sound and wavelength, the acoustical phase of any sound source in any room can easily be calculated and controlled. This audio basics principle is the most powerful tool you have to getting great sounds in almost any recording environment.


13. The Sound Envelope


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The sound envelope wraps up the audio basics series by describing how a sound starts, sustains, decays, and ends. The understanding of these basic aspects of every sound teaches you how to use the most powerful and misunderstood tool in the engineers arsenal, the compressor. It is the understanding and control of these attributes that can make a sound dynamic and alive in a musical setting.


Conclusion:

I hope you have found the Audio Basics Series programs helpful in understanding how sound works. These simple concepts are the foundation of all the work that you do. It is worth revisiting this page as your skills improve because there is an incredible amount of depth and perspective they lend to every recording situation. Revisiting these audios regularly will help keep you on a path of making great music productions that is tried and true.

In my formative years as an assistant engineer I was fortunate to have worked with many of the top engineers in the recording and music production industry. The singular conceptual approach I found with all of them was a deep understanding of these audio basics principles. They seemed to be able to get incredible sounds, very quickly and with little effort. My hope here, is that you can achieve the same proficiency with your music production work.


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