Los Senderos Studio
Descriptive Audio Terms - Part 3
 Issue 71 August 2015 
Words

Words from the Glossary

This month we wrap up our review of descriptive words used to describe the quality and character of sounds, especially audio tracks recorded in the studio.

This month's terms: raspy, reedy, resonant, rich, round, shimmer, sizzly, smeared, smooth, spacious, splatter, steely, strident, sweet, thin, tight, tinny, transparent, tubby, unfocused, veiled, warm, weighty, wooly.
(Note: Click on the term to view its definition in the glossary.)

Descriptive Audio Terms, Part 3

This month we continue briefly exploring these terms in alphabetical order, covering the final third of the list.

Raspy describes a harsh sound. It is also used for vocals with excessive sibilance or with a piercing sound due to peaks in the 6 to 7 kHz range. Reedy is a high-pitched, thin, and weak sound.

A sound that is deep and clear, especially a voice, is called resonant. It also describes a sound that continues to ring or linger. Rich is the term for a sound that has an even distribution of frequencies, especially the lower frequencies, similar to full. It is also used for a special type of distortion consisting of even-order harmonics created by certain types of effects processors.

Round or rounded is a balanced sound, having a pleasing balance of low and high frequencies. A sound with a clean, clear high end, especially at frequencies above 12 kHz is called shimmer. It is similar to airy. When carried to extreme, it becomes sizzly, a term for a vocal with excessive sibilance or the sound of a cymbal with excessive high frequencies.

A sound lacking clarity and detail or that has excessive leakage between microphones is called smeared. Smooth describes a sound that is easy to listen to, having an even frequency response that is not too punchy.

Spacious is when a sound has the appropriate reverberation to convey the sense of openess or ambience in a room. When a audio signal is extremely distorted due to hard clipping and being overloaded, it is called splatter.

A sound with excessive midrange frequencies, especially in the 3 to 6 kHz range, is called steely. A strident sound is raspy or edgy, and is similar to harsh.

Wooly
Does your music sound
wooly?

Sweet is used to describe a sound with low distortion and a flat frequency response in the range of 15 to 20 kHz. A sound that is lacking in fundamentals as compared to harmonics, especially in the low end, is called thin, the opposite of full or rich.

Tight is the term for a sound that is well damped with a rapid decay. If it sounds like it came from a tin can or a telephone, it is called tinny, the description of a sound with weak lows, a boosted midrange, and very little upper frequencies.

Transparent means that a sound has very little tonal coloration. It is also a sound that is clear and detailed, the opposite of muddy. If it sounds like it is coming from a bath tub, it is tubby. It has an excess of low-frequency resonance and is similar to bloated.

Unfocused is, obviously, the opposite of focused. It is a diffuse sound without directionality, seeming to come from no particular direction. Veiled descibes the sound you get when a veil has been placed over the speakers. It is similar to blanketed and is weak in high frequencies. It is the opposite of transparent.

Warm is the term for a sound with good bass response and good fundamentals relative to the harmonics. It is also used for a pleasantly spacious sound with good reverberation in the lower frequencies. It is the opposite of cold. It is sometimes used for a sound with excessive bass and midbass.

Weighty is similar to heavy, a sound with a heavy bottom end. Wooly is similar to blanketed. It is a sound with weak high frequencies, sounding like a wool blanket has been placed over the speakers.

By the way, I have put together a chart showing the relationship of many of these terms to their frequencies. Take a look at the chart entitled Audio Terms vs. Frequency Ranges. Next month we'll discuss filters.

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Music Trivia

The last few years that Elvis Presley performed, he opened his concerts with "The Theme From 2001." When a reporter asked him why, he responded that he could not explain it, but he felt that the number 2001 had a special significance in his life. Elvis died on August 16, 1977, which is 8-16-1977. When you add those number together, they equal 2001.

After Buddy Holly recorded "That'll Be the Day," it was turned down by five different labels, including Decca, Roulette, Columbia, RCA and Atlantic. Finally, Bob Thiele of Brunswick Records took a chance and signed Holly to a contract. Soon after it was released, the song went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, becoming Holly's first hit.

Antoine "Fats" Domino got his nickname because he was 5-foot-2-inches and weighed 225 pounds.

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