Concepts and Tutorials

Interpretation of sound phenomenon

This journal entry holds my own interpretation of sound phenomenon. Explanations for “Wow, what a cool sounding instrument. Oh, this bass is amazing. That acoustic guitar pattern sounds so ethereal in this stadium..” and so on. These are some of the reactions I saw myself giving after hearing sounds made by some sources in certain environmental conditions being in a specific mood under different health conditions. < REMEMBER THIS.

There. I said everything in very simple terms different sound phenomenon you got exposed to. In the same way if someone sit for a moment, they will be able to scavenge out some of the moments from their memory where they behaved like this in the past(or just a few moments before). Moments you liked, loved and danced on some songs, and hated some(your brother/sister/friend woke you up in between your sleep by shouting your name or hitting the door in some kind of excitement).

In the past, many were thrilled and used it without thinking too much about it. Their interpretation of sound phenomenon, what they went through was only about experiencing it, i.e developing the skill naturally but without any interest to study it further. But a few individuals got curious and tried to explain what actually happened. After much experimentation a very detailed scientific explanation was put forward. There are many books which describes that in detail(using mathematical equations and acoustics division of physics). Explanation..? May be later. Those men and women behind these studies did their own experiments and came up with their own conclusions. They believed in experimentation and testing and trusting one’s own methods as it actually feels amazing to be wrong instead of right because now you know one more way you tried to succeed.

In the respect for that motto and definitely not reinventing the wheel, I took the material and read(not studied) it to get the feel of what they were explaining. Some things were difficult to understand and grasp but what remained was my conclusion, i.e sound is the interpretation(analytical and emotional) of disturbance in the air particles by your brain which is connected to the auditory organ responsible for receiving external(and internal) stimulus i.e. your ears. That means only the disturbance(or motion) travels to the ear and not the air particles.

Now the big question arise, how this will help you get an insight on what you sensed with your ears and perceived by your mind ?
If you go back to the title, it says “interpretation of the sound phenomenon”. Why not just “sound phenomenon” or just “sound” or (the last resort but very heavily used term) “sound explained” ? It is because
a sound is not the same for everyone. Saying it again…
a sound is not the same for everyone. OR
a sound phenomenon is not the same experience for everyone.

Did you just made a face like this cat after reading that ? ๐Ÿ˜‚

Well, you heard it right. Why it is so ? To find the solution, lets make a very easy imaginary equation like :-


*There was absolutely no reason to take only 3 alphabets as i might have added more if you would have found any more main reasons
*All these reasons contains sub-reasons which can be broken down further but to present an overview, these are more than enough.

Its like a down-to-top approach or reversing the process of finding something out where you take the result and try to comprehend it from outside in. For example, taking a toy, breaking it and finding out whats inside and how everything is connected without knowing how to build one. Mainly by experiencing the breakdown process, figuring out yourself. No better teacher than experience, right ? ๐Ÿ™‚


You start this interpretation of sound phenomenon by making a sound.
You have just found first thing to replace “A” in your equation. A source. Any sound source is an instrument and vice versa. Your throat is such an instrument(a sound source) that produces sound(very similar to other instruments.. man-made/natural). It produces a simple basic sound but it is a sound.

You deflate your lungs/stomach thus pushing the air particles out, creating disturbance which propagates towards your throat. Your throat(voicebox) have thin films called vocal folds which vibrates because of this disturbance being targeted out of the body. Your throat only produces a buzzing sound. The combination of mouth chamber, material it is made of, moisture, disturbance amount, throat health, tongue and teeth all help produce the sound you desire. This is important hence i will add a separate entry for this one variable in the equation as its sub-parts actually explains how artificial(digital/analog) synthesizers are designed. Stay tuned ๐Ÿ™‚

So the equation now is :-

SOUND YOU HEARD = Sound_Source + B + C

Now you produced some sound no matter how simple it sounded. You could match volume of your favourite instrument playing the same pitch, that is very easy. But they would sound different from each other (textural property, which is called timbre. [pronounced tamber]) Why ?

Fundamentally both made the same sound(one frequency, so fundamental). What makes them different from each other is partials(overtones, different frequency components) .i.e. fundamentalโ€™s mathematical relatives.

Instrument/Sound Timbre = fundamental + partials.

How the heck these partials are now added to the sound when you produced only the desired fundamental ? They are generated and induced because of a combination i mentioned about just a minute ago. remember ? if not, scroll up a little and look out for the underlinedcombination. If you see a digital/analog single/pure frequency/tone from a generator/oscillator, it will have only fundamental. But in nature, pure tones are extremely rare.

partials contributing to sound_source in interpretation of sound phenomenon
Volume/Amplitude is same, but presence of different partials makes them sound different.

99.99% of the time as you can see in the example above, what you hear is a mixture of a fundamental/simple sound with some amount of partials. So the differences in the sound of the voices are because of difference in the volume level of partials and number of those partials which will be different every time, as the combination will be different. ๐Ÿ™‚


Now, for the second variable do the same exercise and look towards the next element in this chain of events. The environment this disturbance is traveling in. It could be water, sand, air, fog, stone, jelly, honey etc. In your case, it was air as you were producing some sounds. Categorizing these infinite mediums indicates 3 main environments; either solid, liquid or gas.

You can hear โ€œthat big uumphโ€ from a speaker from the room/flat/road next to your place very clearly. But high frequency stuff like dialogues/lyrics etc ? not that clear right ? Its because the walls(optionally trees and furniture) comes in the way and alter it. They deflect away less energetic content i.e. dialogue and high pitch sounds. Environment plays a very big role in altering the sound thus changing the interpretation of sound phenomenon if you compare what your ear received with what was originally generated.

Hence the equation now is :-

SOUND YOU HEARD = Sound_Source + Environment + C


Third variable of our equation is the place you receive the disturbance at i.e. your ears. When sound reaches your ears, it reflects inside the tunnel from the outer muscle structure you mistakenly call ears. It is a part of your ear system. This sound travels in the tunnel, gets amplified and vibrates the film at the next level of the tunnel. Hence, the whole structure which includes some very delicate bones, bends and beautiful construction of this organ contributes to the energy and sonic quality and, at final stop it is converted to brain understandable electrical signals.

Some other parts like the structure of the ear tunnels, the dirt and moisture in the inner structure, the sensitivity level(it becomes less responsive to high pitch sounds as you age) of the films and bones also contribute to the final signal which brain receives. The third piece of the puzzle is Ear factor.

The equation now becomes :-

SOUND YOU HEARD = Sound_Source + Environment + Ear_factor

Yesterday, i was listening to some Industrial music (started with Nine-Inch Nails Ghost I-IV and some suggestions added from the sidebar to a Youtube playlist). Surprisingly, most of my life(till the date of this entry) i have listened to alternative rock (artists like Sifar, Linkin Park, Starset), world music (artists like Jonas Hellborg, John Mclaughlin, Shawn Lane), Allan Holdsworth, Video Game original soundtracks (from Elder Scrolls : Skyrim, Frostpunk, Binding Of Isaac and many more).
I could have explored many more genres of music but somehow these genres were very successful in holding most of my interest and attention. Letting in a kind of music that has almost no rhythmic elements, No melodic entities, No harmonies; was very refreshing. In this kind of scenarios, I let the music talk and take me to unknown soundscapes of unimaginable beauty to indefinite ends. In this listening session, i was in a good mood and decided to open myself to new experiences.


I might not have done this if I would have been physically and emotionally unhealthy. Your current mind state; happy, sad, angry, worried, neutral., actually contribute to the interpretation of the sound phenomenon. No matter what you did or thought, you cannot not remove your “mental state/health” from the equation. Even though you strongly accepted it as a variable, you could not put it into the equation above. Its not a sub-part of Ear_Factor in case you are wondering.

The reason behind that i believe is that external human practices and methods are able to emulate almost all the elements (including the smallest sub-parts) of the equation but not the mood of the receiver. Humans have not made anything which can interpret emotions accurately i.e. absolutely no technology is present to do this. At Least not at the time of writing this. A sample scenario can be – A speaker/throat as a sound_source, air or wall as Environment, A Mic as a receiver. But there is no element which can emulate emotion(i.e. the mood) ๐Ÿ™‚ Hence,

The Final equation remains :-

SOUND YOU HEARD = Sound_Source + Environment + Ear_factor

This was the whole journey of the so called “sound” from the source to a brain. Phew, That was long.. But i hope it was also informative and good enough to note down. Each of the variables here i.e. “Sound source”, “Environment” and “Ear Factor” have their own sub categories and concepts. I’ll write a separate journal entry for the “Sound source” somewhere along the way (hopefully soon). There is a feeling that it will explain all the controls in a generic subtractive synthesizer ๐Ÿ™‚

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