What is Soundwave Art?
Visualising and “printing” sound
Soundwave art is a sound recording that has been printed and made into an artwork.
[photo credits: image 1 and 2 created by Katie Wardrobe. Image 3 by music teacher Linda Horne of Tafelmusik]
Before you get the students to create artwork, you can teach:
- How sound is produced
- What a waveform is
- How the waveform changes when sounds are loud or when they are soft
How to create soundwave art – the basic steps
After learning about sound, students can create a visual “sound message” for someone they know. The basic steps involved are:
- Open your audio recording software and record a short message
- Take a screenshot of your recorded waveform
- Import the screenshot into Google Docs
- Optional: edit the image
- Print and assemble artwork!
It’s really simple to do, lots of fun and there are many applications. Students can stick their soundwave art on to a card, print it on colored paper and decorate it however they like.
Ideas for using soundwave art
Creating soundwave art is a perfect way to celebrate an event, holiday or other special occasion in your class. You can leave it up to the students to choose what they will say in their recording, but SHORT messages usually work best.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – “You’re the best!” or “I love you” or “My Dad rocks”
- Valentine’s Day – “I love you” or “be my Valentine”
- Holidays – “Happy holidays!” or “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Thanksgiving Day”
- Halloween – record a spooky laugh or imitate a ghost!
You do not need any special equipment for this – the built-in microphone on the laptop or Chromebook is more than adequate. This is possibly the only time that you don’t really need to worry too much about the quality of the recording. You only need the sound wave to look good since it will be seen and not heard! Having said that, if students are too close to the mic or speak too loudly, the waveform won’t have much variation in it (it will look like a “block” of sound). They might need to experiment with their speaking volume and/or distance from the microphone to get the best-looking result.
Here are the steps:
1. Record your message
- Open Audacity or Twisted Wave (if you’re using Twisted Wave online, you’ll need to give it permission to use your microphone) or any other software/app that records audio and produces a visual waveform
- Click the Record button
- Say your message
- Press Stop
- Take a look at the waveform you recorded. If you need to record it again, press the Undo button to remove the recording and go back to step 2 (or select your recording and delete it)
2. Take a screenshot (screen capture) of the waveform
Next, take a screenshot of the waveform and save the image. You can use screen capture software, or use the inbuilt screen capture option on your laptop:
- On Mac: press Cmd+Shift+4 (or 5 if you’re on Mojave)
- On PC: press the Printscreen button
- On Chromebooks: Ctrl+Shift and the Switch Window key
NB: Save the screen capture with a descriptive file name. Include the student’s name, class, group etc. so that you can locate it easily next time.
3. Import the image into a Google Doc
- Open a new Google Doc
- Go to Import > Image > Upload From Computer or select Drive if your image is stored there
- You can also simply drag the image into the document
4. Optional: edit the image
In Google Docs, you can change the appearance of the soundwave image before printing it.
To crop the image: click on the image first and then click on the Crop button. Crop to the desired shape:
To change the background of the waveform: click on the image to select it, click on Image Options and then adjust the Contrast (drag to the right to make the background lighter or white):
To change the color of the waveform: click on the image to select it, click on Image Options and then choose one of the options in the Recolor drop-down menu. Some of the options will affect only the waveform and some will affect the waveform and the background. Experiment until you find one you like!
Here are four examples using a waveform image from Twisted Wave:
5. Print your soundwave and create your artwork
The final step is to print the soundwave. You can then add it to a card or print it as is and then frame it.
Listen to a podcast episode about soundwave art!
In episode 98 of the Music Tech Teacher podcast, I described the process for making your own soundwave art and gave some examples.
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Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.