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How it works... A litte more in depth

Oh so you are REALLY interested?!

Lets start with the basics. A song is made up of a collection of sound waves over a duration of time. You can imagine listening to a band where a piano, guitar, bass, drum, and someone’s voice are all playing. All of those instruments are emitting sound waves that eventually reach your ear. All the tones and intensities from those waves converge at your eardrum to create a super complex waveform. Like you saw on the previous page, the raw audio file (that purple squiggly line) is a very complex waveform. Just by looking at the raw audio its hard to tell what’s going on. Luckily we have science and computers and math! That super complex waveform can be broken down into much simpler waves. Take a look at the three-paned graphic. Lets say we have this red complex waveform in the first image. Well that is just a collection of smooth undulating curves called sinusoids (those blue curves). When you add all of those blue curves up it looks like the red one, math is crazy I know. Depending on how much those sinusoids are undulating tells us their frequency. The more squiggly the higher the frequency. You can break down any complex waveform into these basic sinusoids and then collect the frequency content of that complex wave. The frequency content can tell you a lot about a song. Low frequencies tell you the sound wave is bassy whereas high frequencies are in the treble region (think Mariah Carey). With this extra information from raw sound waves we can start to understand what is happening in the song.

raw sound wave

To tie this all together I want to show you a great graphic by Jacob O’Neal to help explain this a little more:


He goes into great detail on what I explained above, but also talks a bit about the reverse process: taking that raw audio file and turning it into music you hear. I’ve extremely summarized it in the graphic below and added a little bit about my process.


Thanks for slogging through the explanations and I hope you learned something. Now go look at some of my creations!

audio conversion
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