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Could someone explain soundscaping to me a bit?
Old 31st May 2011
  #1
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QuadWing's Avatar
Could someone explain soundscaping to me a bit?

This is a rather expansive question, so bear with me.

I'd like to think of myself as a soundscapist, but my problem is.. I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to that. I'm more of a visual person when it comes to understanding things like this, so I tend to think of anything to do with sound in the same way I'd think of a room. I understand the "left/right" aspect of a mix--panning and phasing usually.. I think... But when it comes to the "front/back" aspect of a mix, that's where I get a little caught up.. Would the front or back of the mix have to do with volume more than anything else? For example, the front of the mix would be a lead guitar, the middle of it would be rhythm, back of it would be something like percussions (piano, etc.) depending on the song?

For example, if track "Piano" has a fader set at -15dB, and track "Lead Gtr" has a fader level of -9... would the lead guitar be more in the "front" of the mix more than anything else?

As far as "sides" go, what constitutes a side of a mix?

And finally... depth? What is the depth of a soundscape? I'd assume it has to do with delay and reverb, but I'm not very sure. I just play around with what I have until something sounds good, but I think it's good to understand some artistic technicalities to at least some extent here... Anyone have any articles dealing with this type of thing, or answers?

I'd really appreciate it!

Thanks,
Ngaio
Old 31st May 2011
  #2
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
I do a lot of "soundscape" kind of stuff and I have worked a lot with Robert Fripp who helped pioneer a lot of that kind of stuff.

The important thing is to try and keep space between the sounds. If you fill in all the spaces you will loose your sense of depth. Also try to combine wet and dry elements, the drier (less reverb and delay) will generally sound more forward. Also combine things that have a lot of high end with things that have very little, this will help create a sense of "height" .
Old 31st May 2011
  #3
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AlexDaCat's Avatar
 

Soundscape.......
Old 31st May 2011
  #4
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QuadWing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan View Post
I do a lot of "soundscape" kind of stuff and I have worked a lot with Robert Fripp who helped pioneer a lot of that kind of stuff.

The important thing is to try and keep space between the sounds. If you fill in all the spaces you will loose your sense of depth. Also try to combine wet and dry elements, the drier (less reverb and delay) will generally sound more forward. Also combine things that have a lot of high end with things that have very little, this will help create a sense of "height" .
So things which are meant to be well... Distant, will generally have more of that depth-y effect? Is it mainly about certain types of ambiance or?...


And Alex! As much as I love the link, that article never quite did it for me. :(
Old 31st May 2011
  #5
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C'est la vie!!...(Though I suspect you meant the mix, as apposed to writing the music) lol There are references in there, like, for instance, WHO coined the name etc...References to enable you to READ more...Like DAVID GIBSON for instance. He discusses the picture of the mix. Damn good advice and a damned good read IMHO... (a better covershot may be seen) HERE.
Old 31st May 2011
  #6
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by QuadWing View Post
So things which are meant to be well... Distant, will generally have more of that depth-y effect? Is it mainly about certain types of ambiance or?...
The key is contrast. When many things that are drenched in artificial ambiance, the over all track will become mush and loose the depth (same goes for a pop mix). Depth is created by some things being far away and some thing being close.
Old 31st May 2011
  #7
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stinkyfingers's Avatar
 

here's some decent reading on our perception of space from a book i have...pretty much talks about what makes things sound close or distant in a roundabout way...good brain food...
page 1
page 2
(you should be able to zoom on those pretty good)
Old 31st May 2011
  #8
Gear Nut
 

It's very difficult to simulate height in a stereo mix. Depth is far easier. I suggest you think about things in relation to the real world. Depth can be achieved through a careful combination of volume, reverb, and delay (or echo).

Things that have more reverb in RELATION (key word) to something else, will sound farther away. Something with more reverb and less volume will sound even farther away. Something with more reverb and more delay, depending on how it's set, will usually seem to be in a bigger space. A bigger space in relation to a small one where the small one has less volume will sound closer, but artificial. Many urban rock/hip hop tracks use this effect.

Play around with those three things and you can do a lot. The key thing is the ratios between them. And I suggest when you're starting out that you actually use 2 at a time and not 1 individually, so that you can really get an idea of what the consequences are. But when you are ready to make finished tracks with them, you really want these things to be subtle most of the time. As Ronan said, things can get mushy - and he's not kidding. Especially if you don't have the best monitoring set-up, it's easy to misjudge things and lose a track's punch.
Old 31st May 2011
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan View Post
I do a lot of "soundscape" kind of stuff and I have worked a lot with Robert Fripp who helped pioneer a lot of that kind of stuff.

The important thing is to try and keep space between the sounds. If you fill in all the spaces you will loose your sense of depth. Also try to combine wet and dry elements, the drier (less reverb and delay) will generally sound more forward. Also combine things that have a lot of high end with things that have very little, this will help create a sense of "height" .
Good points. Also, paradoxically, using echo can (if done right) push a relatively dry sound forward in the psychoacoustic soundscape.

I can't say I really hear mixes as having a vertical dimension -- but I've been mentally/visually 'mapping' sounds based on frequency to that visual dimension so long, I certainly think that way. It's very convenient.



Old 31st May 2011
  #10
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ericdevine's Avatar
 

soundscaping is something you do in your Soundgarden... I think.
Old 31st May 2011
  #11
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AlexDaCat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyro Z View Post
It's very difficult to simulate height in a stereo mix. Depth is far easier. I suggest you think about things in relation to the real world. Depth can be achieved through a careful combination of volume, reverb, and delay (or echo).
High frequencies give you height, such as the cymbals etc...The Air freqs ie around 10-12K....
Old 31st May 2011
  #12
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Forget reverb for a second.

If something has a lot of highs, you perceive it to be close like a whisper in your ear. When those highs are muted, it seems to be further away.

This is how we perceive things. Reverbs, echos and the stereo images just add to what we are able to do.

I close my eyes a lot when i listen to mixes, cause i listen to each instrument, and i try to imagine where they are, as if i was in the same room as them
Old 31st May 2011
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by thepilgrimsdream View Post
Forget reverb for a second.

If something has a lot of highs, you perceive it to be close like a whisper in your ear. When those highs are muted, it seems to be further away.

This is how we perceive things. Reverbs, echos and the stereo images just add to what we are able to do.

I close my eyes a lot when i listen to mixes, cause i listen to each instrument, and i try to imagine where they are, as if i was in the same room as them
True.

But getting back to delays, I've known of people who actually would delay tracks they wanted 'in the back' -- just by a handful or two of milliseconds. But their take on the idea was that that's how you'd hear a larger ensemble in the real world. So you might use a combination of a very high, gentle low pass filter, delay the track a little and use reverb to further contextualize the sound. (Probably not. But imagine for a moment you wanted the effect of a military snare player way in the background...)

It's also worth mentioning the Haas effect (also called the precedence effect), where very tiny differences of a few ms in time between stereo channels can seem to weight the directionality toward the earliest of two otherwise identical sounds.
Old 31st May 2011
  #14
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AlexDaCat's Avatar
 

To go wide send track to 2 Busses panned left an right, delaying one track under 12 mSecs mix bout -15 to -12dB.
Old 31st May 2011
  #15
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generally speaking,

front: dry and highs and presence (where our ear is more sensible)

back: reverb or delay and less highs, lows and presence

regarding the height of sound i really can't help, i think its just something we link to our memories, i mean, we usually see cymbals high above the drummer, so we link the high frequencies of cymbals with height, but i don't think it has anything to do with the specific sound
Old 31st May 2011
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by HoRNet View Post
generally speaking,

front: dry and highs and presence (where our ear is more sensible)

back: reverb or delay and less highs, lows and presence

regarding the height of sound i really can't help, i think its just something we link to our memories, i mean, we usually see cymbals high above the drummer, so we link the high frequencies of cymbals with height, but i don't think it has anything to do with the specific sound
Good point about the cymbals. I used to think about that years ago, too, when I was first puzzling out why mapping pitches to the vertical axis in my my mind felt sort of natural.

And, it's interesting to note that the reason they are sometimes high is the same as why percussion in orchestras is typically on risers: to get those easily absorbed, more directional high frequencies up out over the heads of the audience in order to have a better direct sound from cymbal to ear.
Old 1st June 2011
  #17
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QuadWing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HoRNet View Post
generally speaking,

front: dry and highs and presence (where our ear is more sensible)

back: reverb or delay and less highs, lows and presence

regarding the height of sound i really can't help, i think its just something we link to our memories, i mean, we usually see cymbals high above the drummer, so we link the high frequencies of cymbals with height, but i don't think it has anything to do with the specific sound
So as an example, generally (yes, I know there is no "general" in this field) what kind of instruments would be more "in the back" presence wise? And what would be in the middle and front? And how would I go about executing all that? I'm not sure where to start mixing with this concept in mind.
Old 1st June 2011
  #18
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AlexDaCat's Avatar
 

Think of a live stage, then try and create that scene...lol...Listen to Pink floyd albums.

Seriously, consider reading Gibsons book...he has pictures and everything...you will see what you are asking...
Old 1st June 2011
  #19
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Jerrick's Avatar
 

For ITB, try the DrMS plugin, lots of good options for depth and, width, and giving something a focus point.

Dave Pensado also goes into depth about this in one of his Pensados Place episodes. Dont remember which one, but he talks about early reflections and stuff. Try to watch those episodes or just look up the terms on here or with google.

If you can schedule, just pick a day and spend hours messing with your favorite reverb and delay.
Old 1st June 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexDaCat View Post
Think of a live stage, then try and create that scene...lol...Listen to Pink floyd albums.

Seriously, consider reading Gibsons book...he has pictures and everything...you will see what you are asking...
what's gibson's book??
Old 1st June 2011
  #21
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FireMoon's Avatar
Get yourself a decent set of monitors that can image properly. With the best will in the world NS10s are not going to help understand soundscapes at all. A hell of a lot of studio monitors are forwardly voiced to project the upper mids and allow one to hear detail. The down side of this equation is that, they tend to be rather 2 dimensional in their sound. Great on right to left but front to back is often, considerably foreshortened.

it doesn't help that modern music is often mixed for phones and and systems that, themselves, have little depth. As such, some monitor manufacturers have gone down this line and developed new ranges that cater for this sound.

There's one world famous recording that has one amazing piece of soundscaping in it. It really will test your monitors ability to separate out strands of a mix and place them accurately within a soundstage. Believe me, there are some bloody expensive monitors that have little or no ability, given their level of cost, to provide truly accurate imagery.

Lou Reed's Walk on the wild side.... When the chorus go ..doo de doo etc... On a system that images properly they are a pinpoint physical presence that seems to, actually walk from behind the speakers into the room and past you. The first time you hear this properly it is a real eye opener.

If you're wanting to become involved in proper soundscapes them set yourself up a monitoring system like a proper hifi without a desk intruding and use that system to check mixes for imagery and depth Hard to make any outright recommendations for specific speakers as your price range is an unknown.
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