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The Mathematics of Sound: Scientific Comprehension or Conceptual Understanding

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Jumpmonkey, May 16, 2013.

  1. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member

    In my quest to understand more about recording I bought a textbook. This methodology has worked well for me in many situations. I picked up the 3rd Edition "Handbook of Recording Engineering" by Eargle. Chapter one has in a certain sense left me in the dust. I understand the material presented in a conceptual way. At the same time, if someone asked me to calculate the T60 of Room A with surfaces X. Y and Z for frequency F, I'd pass out.

    If I want to grow as a recording engineer, is it important for me to have a detailed, scientific comprehension of the mathematics involved, or do I need a conceptual understanding of the principles underlying the mathematics?

    Recording is a hobby I love and enjoy. Being a hobby, I am limited in the time that I can give to it. However, it is a hobby with some very practical and productive uses for myself and others I know, so aspiring to excellence is not unfruitful.

    Some information which may be pertinent to response:
    Currently I only use my gear for VO and annually for recording speakers at a convention.
    I am hoping to put together a "radio talk-show" podcast within a year.
    I want to be capable of TV set recording and ENG in the future.

    Thanks for your time,
  2. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    Even though I have a technical degree, I never used my math skills to calculate the T60? of anything.

    I mostly use my instincts and trust my ears and make adjustments.

    If you spend all of your time on theory then you mould never have time to play and record music.
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    you should have an understanding of the how and why of the physics of it, ya know the 101. there are plenty of acoustical calculators, and test mesurment devices/precedures out there (some better than others) that will do the math for you, should you actually ever have to know what the rt60 time is at a certain frequency in a room. as long as your familiar w/ the concept, and how it effects what your hearing/mixing, that should be enough, unless your going to be an acoustician, or room designer.

    between hobbyist and professional work, in the past 14 years, not one person, not one, has ask me to figure rt60 times. not clients, not other engineers, not bosses, not even myself. now had the studio's i've built been looking for a specific decay time, well that would have been different. Theory is good. and the numbers come remarkably close to the real world often, but someone can tell you all day, this room his hot in the 200hz range, but w/ so many variables like mic choice instrument, ect ect ect, it's merely just something to keep in mind. if you hear a long decay, just be careful not to make your mixes too dry. you only need to know the formulas if your gonna use them, otherwise just being aware of the concepts is enough.
    you should know about phase, polarity, comb filtering, how acoustic assemblies interact, how to sweep eq's, and more importantly, what your actually listening for w/ all this. i wouldn't get too hung up on math formulas, unless you needed to for a specific reason, but they are for a certain purpose, and won't help much in general engineering. awareness of the concepts, and understanding how everythig interacts, will be just fine, and is not small potatoes.
  4. Jumpmonkey

    Jumpmonkey Active Member

    Gdoubleu, Kmetal,

    Thank you for the replies. I really appreciate the input from people who have done this a long time, rather than my assumptions based on ignorance. I'll keep plugging away at my book and wont sweat the maths too much.


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