A music analysis software: Sonic Visualizer 2 comments


Sonic Visualizer is a free professional software for audio analysis and more; designed for musicologists but useful for all music lovers.

Musicologists will be happy to know the main features of this  software developed for audio analysis of recorded music. Sonic Visualizer is an open source professional software developed by the Centre for Digital Music at the Queen Mary, University of London, and free available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

The version 2.2 was released in July, 2013; to underline how this project is still active, to improve his functionality.

For those with experience with audio editor software, like Audacity, we can point out as the GUI is very similar, although used to different goals.

But what are those goals? First, a frequency analysis, with a virtual spectrogram, then for waveform analysis, or to studying a particular performance, and many others.

screenshot-sonic-visualizer-01

A screen shot of Sonic Visualizer after uploading a song.

Certainly the first step is to download and install the application. You can download Sonic Visualizer here; choose your operating system.

Run the software and upload a song clicking on File menu. So you can see the a picture like the previous image, where the green signal is the graphic representation of your audio sample, and the rectangle above point out the listening selection.

The main menu is very simple. You can see button as Play, Stop, and Skip, as a familiar Mp3 player. Then you can find others classic commands as Copy, Paste, Cut and so on.

The most interesting menu is that named Panel, where you can find commands to visualize the spectrogram or the waveform visualizer. You should know that the main feature of this software is the presence of levels and panels. Panel is the horizontal area for graphical visualization, while levels serve to control the elements represented in the Panel area, exactly as levels in Photoshop. So, try to activate a spectrogram: click on Panel, then Add Spectrogram and look how the screen changes.

screenshot-sonic-visualizer-02

Sonic Visualizer after activating the spectrogram.

The new screen is so different, after closed the waveform screen. We can notice as with different colors is represented the global range frequencies of our audio sample. For every frequency intensity there is a different color intensity. On the left you can see the frequencies, from low to high.

This professional software has a large amount of music analysis features, but my goal isn’t to make a tutorial, because I want only point out the main functionality useful to make you a free user of Sonic Visualizer.

By means the index you can browse all topics rapidly, and obtain a response to all your questions. I’ve saved a pdf version of the html manual, to reading it offline. Download it on musicainformatica.

There is another resource, made for those interested to musicological issues: A Musicologist’s Guide to Sonic Visualiser. You can download the pdf version or reading the online version. Either way, you have to do two step, needed to run the tutorial realized by  Nicholas Cook and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson.

The latter wrote a book on studying and analysis of recorded music: certainly with Sonic Visualizer. The Wilkinson’s book, titled The Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performances is free available online: click here.You must only cite the Wilkinson’s book according to the indications in the Intro section.

There are two others tutorial: the first to learning the Selection command, useful to analyze a single section, the second to examine the sound alignment topic with Sonic Visualizer and the MATCH plug-in.

What is the MATCH plug-in? I don’t’ want to examine this specific feature, but you must remember the free availability of many plug-in, each with a new interesting functionality. The entire list is here.

More? Yes, a group of video tutorial to learn the basic features of this professional software.  Enjoy the show!

What else? Sonic Visualizer is a very powerful music software analysis. Useful to those interested to electronic music, but oriented to all music genres. Even if you have a perfect pitch, now you don’t have no excuse, if do not recognize the frequencies of your favorite song.

Have you utilized Sonic Visualizer? Share your experience, I like to know!


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2 thoughts on “A music analysis software: Sonic Visualizer

  • Peter Eliot

    Hello, I’m not sure if this is possible, but I regularly need to dissect songs to make charts for our band. All we mainly need the chords and lyrics and I can usually manage to get that info. But I also would like to analyse the beat pattern so that I can print on the chart for example ‘country shuffle’ or ‘latin feel’ but due to my inexperience I cannot always describe the song feel that the band needs to play. Can you offer any suggestions. Thanks Peter

    • alex.dinunzio Post author

      Hi Peter, thanks for your comment! Your question is very specific, so I don’t know if you can do what you want, but the only thing that I can do for you is to link to this very interesting page, where Nicholas Cook and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson write about a musicologist use of Sonic VIsualizer and present many issues concerning beats and other problems in analyzing music: http://www.charm.rhul.ac.uk/analysing/p9_1.html