Timbre

Henry
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Timbre

Postby Henry » Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:26 pm

It seems to me that a lot of production is directed to affecting the timbre of the recording created.

One description of timbre (Wikipedia) that I found somewhat useful is:

J. F. Schouten (1968, 42) describes the "elusive attributes of timbre" as "determined by at least five major acoustic parameters", which Robert Erickson (1975, 5) finds, "scaled to the concerns of much contemporary music":

Range between tonal and noiselike character
Spectral envelope
Time envelope in terms of rise, duration, and decay (ADSR, which stands for "attack, decay, sustain, release")
Changes both of spectral envelope (formant-glide) and fundamental frequency (micro-intonation)
Prefix, or onset of a sound, quite dissimilar to the ensuing lasting vibration

I am interested in learning more about the arrangement, composition, instrument manipulation and production techniques affecting timbre that other AM listeners have discovered to be especially appealing or otherwise compelling in their favorite songs.

As a former violin player, my take is that vibrato changes the fundamental frequency (micro-intonation) and can provides a compelling impact on many listeners.

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acroamor
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Re: Timbre

Postby acroamor » Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:23 pm

Julia Holter loves reverb, Daft Punk loves compression and high pass filters, and most of My Bloody Valentine's work is subtle variation of timbre over relatively static harmonic progressions.

Henry
Die Mensch Maschine
Posts: 1242
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:39 pm

Re: Timbre

Postby Henry » Wed Oct 03, 2018 6:27 am

I would place distortion techniques among the many aspects of production that relate to timbre.

I wonder if others agree.

Another description of timber states:

Our perception of timbre, or tone quality, seems most closely related to the physical phenomena of unfolding partials in the spectrum of a sound, called the spectral envelope. It is what allows us to distinguish between two different instruments playing the same note at the same amplitude. What we expect of familiar sounds, say of a piano note, are certain characteristics that change over time. If one were to chop off the attack of a piano note and hear the remainder, it may not sound very piano-like to us at all. As mentioned above, classical studies of timbre were written in the 19th century first by Helmholtz in his book On the Sensations of Tone, in which the overall envelope, which enveloped a complex waveform, comprised the basis for our tonal judgment. A more accurate picture was created by Fourier: he stated that all complex waves can be expressed as a sum of one or more sine waves.

We say sounds with stronger upper partials sound "brighter," and those with weaker higher partials sound "duller." More natural spectra will roll off with varying slopes at higher frequencies. Computer music is capable of creating any rolloff desired, and so harmonic sounds that have equal energy in their upper partials, compared to their lower ones, are often characterized as being "buzzy." Noise with equally strong higher-frequency components is characterized as being more "hissy."

Other aspects of timbre include vibrato (most important) and tremolo (less important). Violins have very narrow formants (or resonating frequencies), and the addition of vibrato may push a tone in and out of a peak formant region, making for a very dynamic sound. This is further tempered by our perception of the complex of formants for a particular sound or instrument regardless of its register, so that, although somewhat different, a low clarinet note may still be considered related to a much higher one. The art of orchestration depends heavily on the ability of a composer to mix the spectra of numerous instruments, not necessarily playing the same pitch or octave doubling, and create a single timbral entity, perhaps unheard before. Most wind players are familiar with the slang term floboe, referring to the frequent octave doubling of melodic lines by a flute and oboe in Classic symphonies.

Some studies have indicated it takes at least 60 ms. to recognize the timbre of a sound. It has also been hypothesized that we hear differences in tones up to the 30th partial. (Recall how closely related in pitch higher partials become.) Temporal relationships also form an aspect of timbre. Though highly influenced by the intervallic distance between pitches, if a series of tones is played rapidly enough, they will merge into a single timbre in a process called fusion. With sufficient reverberation, even disparate tones can fuse. Stockhausen used this principle in Studie II to create mixtures of sine tones played though a reverb to create unique timbres.

Finally, instruments do not radiate their spectra equally in all directions, making it tricky to mic such instruments and gather their full tonal qualities. (See the excellent diagram of the radiation pattern of a cello in Huber-Runstein, pg. 37.)


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