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math and recording music

Discussion in 'Recording' started by starmusicdigital, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. Hello all, i was wondering how much "Math" per say is involved with recording technology and working in a project studio, and what levels of math are needed to be learned before you do this kind of stuff.


    (NOTE Moderator edit... : TITLE CHANGE> OK maybe this doent belong here, hmmm ..... bad title. To help this thread direction for Andy others: now changed to... math and recording music)
  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    I know plenty of people who do fine work in project studio environments that don't know much math at all. I myself am constantly doing calculations, but this is mostly due to my interest in acoustics. I'd say a strong algebra background and knowledge of the log function should be enough for most people.
  3. how bout a max knowladge of geometry? that pretty much what i know. ive been taking courses and was going to go on with math but didnt know if i needed to for audio.
  4. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Geometry is still pretty low level. Do you know what it means to be 90 degrees out of phase, or a log vs linear scale on a graph? Do you understand the nature of dB? How about binary numbers and bit depth - how much dynamic range to you gain by going from 16 bit to 18 bit (I couldn't tell you that, but I could figure it out with a little time)?

    It's been a long time since math classes, but I think this stuff comes in trig and algebra - I suspect you have at least two more semesters to take. If I were you I'd take math 'til it hurts.
  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    College algebra is the college course that incorporates most of the mathematical techniques needed to understand the things that zemlin was talking about. I would recommend that you take up through Calculus I. This involves College Algabra, Precalculus, and finally Calculus I. Since I was once a math major and was planning on becoming a mathematician, I have studied everything up through Calculus III, Abstract Algebra, and Math Logic, and I can't recall using anything over Calculus I in my recording activities.
  6. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Well, if you ask me...

    >>Hello all, i was wondering how much "Math" per say is involved with recording technology and working in a project studio, and what levels of math are needed to be learned before you do this kind of stuff.

    I guess you have to be able to count to 8 or so channels. Perhaps even to 10, but that might be a bit over the target.

    Seriously, math can be used and abused in just about any area. But you need no math at all to be able to listen. And that is your most important skill in any studio work, knowing what you hear and how turning a certain knob changes that. In many cases you can simply go by the old Nike motto "Just do it".

    Of course inside the boxes there is a lot of technology and math, but in order to use them it is not required.

    Mind you, I think it is always a good ide to read some math.

  7. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I almost wrote a similar response, but I started to think about the digital domain and decided that there is value in having a good understanding of the basic technology, and that will be a lot easier with a reasonable handle on the mathematical principles behind it all.

    I never worked in the analog studio world, but I suspect what you say is "more true" in the analog world than with DAW work.
  8. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Here's a nice example:

    In this thread, math was used to figure out how much the pitch will drop when playing 48 kHz tracks at 44.1. First, I had to know that musical intervals can be expressed as a ratio, and I had to know the formula for calculating the ratio of any interval in equal temperament, which is

    2^(# of semitones/12)

    For example, a perfect fifth is 2^(7/12), which is a ratio of 1:1.498. (this fact is useful in it's own right - let's say you have a sine wave of 200 Hz, now you can multiply 200 by 1.498 and get the frequency for a perfect fifth up, 293 Hz. - OK, back to biz) Then, I had to have the algebra knowledge to solve the equation

    2^(x/12) = 48 kHz/44.1 kHz, or

    2^(x/12) = 1.0884

    in which x turns out to be 1.467, or about 1 and a half semitones.

    I probably do a calculation like this about once a week, and while math may not be strictly necessary, it's great for figuring out problems in the studio, for making sure you do things optimally, and it just plain helps you understand what's going on. :)
  9. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Hi zemlin,
    maybe. But the math in DAW is either very simple or very complex.

    Example of the very simple things are how the bus summing works - you simply add things together. Not much math here.

    One example of where the math is complex is in how EQ filters are designed. In the analog world you generally work in the frequency plane, but there are quite a few other ways to do that for digital filters. The math here can be studied as pure math, but I would guess most people will only see it as part of special course in control systems or something like that.

    Especially as todays DAW-s are more and more moving towards becoming easily used interfaces, hiding all the details inside. It is more and more becoming like driving a car, all the complexities are hidden inside. (A distant relative of mine did spend 20 years on designing the ball bearing system in front wheel drive cars, just to put a perspective on things and got awarded a long list of patents and a number of prizes on the way. Me, I simply drive).

    Yet again, learning math is always a good thing in my world, but it will not help you very much in listening and tweaking the buttons on a DAW. It will help in some very specific instances, such as calculating the delay from spaced mics, but it will not help you very much in placing the mics to get a good sound. And mic placement in my, admittedly limited, experience is number two most important thing in the recording process, number one of course beeing the artist producing the sound.

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