There are as many different terms to describe sound as there are people who use them. As a young engineer I struggled to find words that accurately portrayed attributes that I was looking for. There are endless debates on web forums about the use of the terms “warmth” and “bright.” Clearly the audio world lacks any sort of standardization when it comes to the etymology. I’ve found that describing this sort of thing in a visual way helps to communicate more than any single term.
For instance. Most audio aficionados can understand when someone describes a bass sound as being “round” or “fat”. When someone tells me that something is “stabbing” or “piercing”, I know just what they mean. Recently, a guitarist friend introduced me to a term that really stuck with me. As he was trying to describe what he really liked about a particular guitar and amp combination, he said, “When I put those two together, the sound just “bloomed”. Bingo!
Bloom. Such a simple word that we’ve all used. It carries weight for me because it’s loaded with imagery. It imbues a sense of an action that has a clear beginning and direction. Bloom. First you think of a flower bud growing and spreading it petals out to reveal a new form.
Thick. I like this one because I can visualize something that has mass and heft. The opposite of anemic. You can feel the weight and imagine it has dimension.
Bouncy. I like to use this one to describe a rhythmic element. It could be the beat. It could be ping pong delay that feels like it’s skipping along in a certain way.
These are just a few examples of words I use all the time when collaborating in the studio. Visual language is a way to communicate intangible concepts to others who may or may not have a different level of education or experience as you or others involved. Anyone can understand it. Nuanced communication is so important that mastering it could be the difference between a successful collaboration and one that falls apart.
What are your favorite visual words and what do they mean to you? Let us know in the comments section below.