6.7 Creating a 3-Dimensional track

As music lovers, we can consume up to 4.5 hours of music a day. We love our music! Whether you listen to music with headphones on while you work, or the radio while driving, music is consumed at an incredible rate. We soon get to know what music we like and don’t like. Have you ever stopped to think about why you are drawn to certain songs and not others?

A big part of this can be how much 3-dimensionality the track has.

Let me explain what I mean.

We know that a modern stereo system comprises two speakers, a left and a right. It’s the same with headphones.
We also understand that when we put those headphones on, we become so immersed in the song that often it feels like you are actually inside the song! Have you ever felt like that? I know I have. This is because the artist/producer is using the three axes available to us in a clever way.

Every song ever made has used these axes in some way. They are the boundaries for our music making playground. These are

  1. Track Height
  2. Track Width
  3. Track Depth

Axis 1 – Track Height

As already referred to in a previous module Equalisation 101, Track Height consists of the lowest frequency tone of the track up to the highest frequency tone.

Modern pop songs have extremely low low-end, whilst also including sparkly high-end. These songs use the full frequency spectrum available to create their track height.

Motown songs of the 60’s, often have much less low-end. The high frequencies are also subdued due to the recording equipment not being able to capture those frequencies in that era.

It’s important to know that the frequency spectrum is vital in giving clues to the style of music.

Axis 2 – Track Width

Track Width refers to the soundstage from left to right. When you see a live orchestra you don’t hear all the elements coming at you from one direction. The violin’s are sometimes over to the left, whilst the cello is more in your right ear. This creates space for each element to be heard clearly through the mix.

Modern pop songs love to use the full spectrum for width available. Synth’s may be hard panned left and right to give the listener a particular listening experience.

Axis 3 – Track Depth

This refers to the soundstage front to back. Let’s use an example to understand this clearly.

If someone is standing right next to you when talking, you can understand them extremely clearly. There’s next to zero interference from the room you’re standing in. Now put that same person in an aeroplane hanger 50m away. Suddenly, their voice is in the distance surrounded by the sounds of the space.
This is depth. It is the reverb in the room that is pushing their voice further back.

This same effect can be used in a track. When you add reverb to a source, it pushes that element to the back of the mix.

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