Musical Analysis – Sonic Components

When speaking about sonic components within music, you are referring to the concepts of sound spectrum, frequency range, equalization, dynamics, sound contrast, mix, panning, and effects processing. These will be the things discussed in the following Blog, I will explain the concepts and underline main aspects to each while trying to discuss contrasting ideas between the concepts stated.

There are different types of sonic components, there is: Natural components, which is the analysis of sound in nature and urban environments, meaning the different ways sounds can be heard depending on the environment your are in, this suggests that the placement of objects in and around a certain room will have a different effect on the sound or it would manipulate the sound in such a way due to the natural feel of the sound bouncing or being absorbed by the object in the room, a great example is of a drummer drumming in different environments creating various reverb within the different environments. Frequency Range and sound spectrum’s are part of Natural components as these elements are found in natural sounds and they are ways of measuring the frequencies of these sounds.

Frequency Range

A frequency range is characterized as a periodic vibration whose frequency is audible to the average human. It is the property of sound that most determines pitch and is measured in hertz (Hz). The standard range of audible frequencies is 20 to 20,000 Hz, although the range of frequencies individuals hear is greatly influenced by environmental factors. Frequencies below 20 Hz are generally felt rather than heard. Frequencies above 20,000 Hz can sometimes be sensed by young people. High frequencies are the first to be affected by hearing loss due to age or prolonged exposure to very loud noises.

Sound Spectrum

A sound spectrum displays the different frequencies present in a sound. Most sounds are made up of a complicated mixture of vibrations. A sound spectrum is a representation of a sound in terms of the amount of vibration at each individual frequency. It is usually presented as a graph of either power or pressure as a function of frequency. The power or pressure is usually measured in decibels and the frequency is measured in vibrations per second or hertz,  or thousands of vibrations per second or kilohertz.

Sonic Field

In music there is something called the Sonic field, this is an invisible plane described only in time and space with regards to the audio being heard. The sonic field includes components such as Mix: which means creating an equal balance between instruments in a song and sculpting a song to have a certain feel. This involves careful adjustments of the levels of instruments and EQ. The Balance of the stereo field means placing instruments in a certain way to create certain depth within the sonic field either by panning instruments or lowering the volume to create a distant feel, sometimes reverb is used to create that distant feeling of the instrument, like its being played in the background. This includes blending certain instruments to give off a certain clarity, generally used to emphasize a specific point in the mix. Some mixes sound flat and boring. Others give the illusion that you’ve been enveloped in a vast 3D universe where every sound and every track exists and flourishes in its very own sonic space.

Effects and Sound Processors

Effects are electronic devices that alter how a musical instrument or audio source sounds. Some effects subtly “colour” a sound, while others transform it dramatically. Effects are used during live performances or in the studio, typically with electric guitar, keyboard and bass. While most frequently used with electric or electronic instruments, effects can also be used with acoustic instruments, drums and vocals. Examples of common effects units include wah-wah pedals, fuzzboxes and reverb effects. These effects are all hardware effects and are generally used as sends within the mix, meaning the sound or effect is only added when programmed to.

There are also many types of virtual effects used on a DAW which include, distortion, overdrive, flanger, echo, delay, reverb and chorus, there are many more effects and these are all used to manipulate or “colour” the sound. These effects are considered to be time based effects, and dynamic based effects are effects that control frequencies such as compressors, filters, gates and limiters. Effects are a great way of adding character to the mix and help create a range of dynamics and certain frequencies to help make the mix stand out rather than blend in all together.

I use a mix of different dynamic based effects, mainly compressors and gates, the gates are used in a way to give off that melodic uplifting melody in mixes and i use side chain compression to create unique blends in the different instruments or sounds, and the time based effects are used to give off that spacey feel within the stereo field, things like pin pong delays and reverbs are used in my mixes to help create space.


SONG 1: The instruments used are guitar, bass, piano, violin, chimes, hi hats, kick drum, synths, trumpets and vocals.

The Hi hats have been panned left and right at different times to creating a sweeping beat from left to right, the vocal has been panned slightly to the left to create focus on it while freeing up space to hear the other instruments. The electric guitar has been made stereo to create that rounded space and the trumpet has been placed in the centre to create a focus point for the mix, meaning it gives the mix a centred lead sound so the ears can follow the song easily. Kick and Bass has been placed in the usual spot as the middle low end of the mix, and various synth sounds and effects have been placed either far left or right to create more character in the song. The instruments are blended together to give off that airy feel, making the mood very melancholic and slow. The differently panned instruments are placed in this way to add to the ambiant surrounding space within the track.

The frequencies of each instrument:

Piano – 27Hz to 4.2kHz

Electric Guitar – 82Hz to 1.2kHz

Violin – 200Hz to 1.3kHz

Chimes – 200Hz to 12kHz

Trumpet – 165Hz to 1.2kHz

Male Vocal – 120Hz to 16kHz

The different effects have been EQ’d meaning frequencies have been taken away from the instrument to free up space on the sound spectrum for the other instruments with those frequencies, this is done because if one instrument is dynamically louder than another, the frequencies are being squashed together so by EQing an instrument you make way for the frequencies to come through

Song 2: This song has been made using a DAW and therefore not many instruments are present in the mix. He uses synths to create the various sounds in the mix, the only instruments present are the drums and percussion. This is a Trance track and therefore has been mixed accordingly, making certain elements appear further away than others and having the bassline playing right in your face to help distinguish what sounds to “follow”. The different sounds have also been EQ2d to fit the frequency responses of each different sound therefore making the mix more clearer.

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