How Frequent is Frequency?

 In Audio in the Know

I’m Lanny, and I am the owner of APRA and The Beach studio. With over 50 years of experience in the audio industry, I want to share with you some key concepts, interesting audio facts, and stories from my time in the studio. I’ve worked in studios in Europe, LA, and Canada, and have had the pleasure of recording and producing some of the biggest names in the music industry, but I’ll tell you more about that in later posts.

I first want to talk about a fundamental concept in audio: frequency.

Why is the sky blue, and what makes a Ferrari red? Why does a bass guitar sound so different from a ukulele? And what does the “F” in FM stand for?

Colour is determined by the frequency of the light’s spectrum, and red makes a Ferrari look faster. Audio range and tonality determine the frequency of sound. And FM radio is technically explained as frequency modulation broadcast.

Frequency can boil water, cause irreparable damage to your central nervous system, and, along with proper amplitude, can entertain us to no end.

But before we discuss frequency, we might want to know what it is. This could seem to be a bit technical, but it’s actually quite simple. Visualize this:
• 0: exactly what it sounds like, nothing.
• Positive: an increase of energy and
• Negative: a decrease of energy.

Simple right? Now in context, imagine a wave of energy starting at 0, and increasing to a certain amount of energy, or positive amplitude, then falling back down to 0. Then it drops below the 0 line with the same amount of negative energy to form negative amplitude, then rises again to 0. Voila, you now have a complete cycle of energy, also known as a waveform. Now repeat thousands of times, and that’s where the magic begins. The greater the number of waveforms in a second of time means the higher the pitch, tone, or frequency. Having fewer waveforms per second of time creates a lower pitch, tone, or frequency. Waveforms in the air create music and light, waveforms travelling in wire can be radio, television, or music videos. Every molecule on earth consist of matter at specific frequencies and without those individual frequencies, we would be nothing but one big blob of sameness. Is this too much info? No? OK then, let’s continue.

Everything we see, hear and touch is driven by energy, and the frequency of that energy constitutes the make-up of that material. Ultra high frequencies can be inaudible radio waves for communication devices and media broadcast. Audible frequencies for humans open up our world to the wonder of music but also to the every-day annoying and distracting noise. The very low frequencies that are not heard, but are very much felt, become the explosions and car crashes in your favourite movies. And even lower ones can be found in earthquakes. Frequencies above human hearing are pure entertainment for your dog and other animals, birds, and insects. Some specific frequencies can energize liquids, causing an increase of energy vibration to heat food in your microwave. Negative frequency energy can cause severe illness as demonstrated by complaints and legal action taken in both Cuba and China against certain governments. And the brown frequencies have been an amusing, sadistic ploy in the recording industry for years. Specific frequencies in light, will determine the colour, and individual frequencies in sound will determine the audio rage of a musical instrument.

There you have it! Good frequencies make you happy and bad ones can kill you. Mozart or AC/DC will make you smile, intense nuclear radiation removes your smile instantly.

-Lanny

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