Music editing through the eyes of a visual artist.

Have you ever thought about looking at music from the perspective of a visual artist or graphic designer? It’s a fun exercise that just might help you gain a deeper understanding of how music works. If you’re a musician who is familiar with photo and art programs such as Adobe Photoshop, or you at least know the basic concepts of art and digital image editing, this post is for you!

Check out this neat list I created that compares photo-editing concepts with music-editing concepts. Some of these are naturally subjective, and I’m sure you can probably come up with many other versions of this chart that are better than mine… but the main point of this article is to make you think about music editing (and photo editing) differently than you usually do.

Comparing Art Concepts to Music Concepts

Photo EditingvsMusic Editing
Width & HeightvsSong Length
DPI/ResolutionvsSample Rate
Color Bit depthvsAudio Bit depth
Grey ScalevsMono
VignettevsSong Fade In / Out
Negative SpacevsSilence
Rule of ThirdsvsChorus/Hook Part of Song
SaturationvsGain / Loudness / Mixing Levels
RGBvsLeft-Center-Right (Panning)
HistogramsvsFrequency Analysis
Color BalancevsEQ
Curves & LevelsvsCompressors, Limiters, and Expanders
Anaglyph 3DvsStereo Imaging
TesselationvsLoopable Song
Resizing ToolsvsTime Stretching
Aliasing & Grid AlignmentvsQuantization
Sharpen & Edge ToolsvsEnvelope Shaper
PosterizingvsPitch Correction
Channel MixervsPitch Shifter
180° RotatevsReverse Audio
NoisevsTape & Distortion Effects
SmoothingvsDe-Hum / De-Click / Removing Noise
GradientvsCrescendo / Decrescendo
Clone / Stamp ToolvsReusing Audio Takes & Looping
Eye Dropper ToolvsEQ Sweeping
Paint BucketvsTone Generator
Erase ToolvsMute
Text ToolsvsLyrics
Font FamilyvsVocal Style
All CapsvsShouting
All LowercasevsMellow / Whispering
Raster LayersvsAnalog Tracks
Vector LayersvsMIDI Tracks
Vector ShapesvsVirtual Instruments
Smart Object LayervsInsert Plugins
Adjustment LayervsGroup / FX Bus
Layer Blend ModesvsSide-Chaining
Flatten LayersvsMixdown
Export as GIF / PNGvsExport as WAV / FLAC
Export as JPEGvsExport as MP3
PrintvsBurn Audio to CD

I’m sure if I thought about it some more I’d be able to find a hundred more similarities… but I’ll stop now, since it’s time to play a board game with my family. 🙂

As you can see, art and music are very closely related. In fact, you’ll notice that program suites such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud often include similar tools in their corresponding programs. For example, did you know that Audition (Adobe’s audio editing program) offers Photoshop-like tools such as selection, lasso, paintbrush, and spot-healing that can be used on the audio spectral frequency display? Those types of tools are super powerful when you want to edit noise or events that occur in certain frequencies.

I hope this short little post helped you think about music in a different way. Maybe you can now carry over all of your photo-editing chops to your music production, or vice versa!

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