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Pink Noise vs. White Noise: What’s the Difference?

In music production, noise is usually a production “accident” or the result of low quality recording tools. Many musicians and producers feel that excessive noise is a hallmark of lower quality and should be avoided at all costs. 

While this is true in some areas, the reality is that noise is much more than just static buzz or “noise pollution.” In fact, noise can be a critical factor in creating different levels of intensity in music and moving from octave to octave. Mastering noise can be very helpful when making all kinds of music. 

But the concept of noise goes much deeper than just the typical analog hiss that many people hear. There are multiple types of noise, including black, red, blue, and brown. But two of the most common and popular types in music production are white noise and pink noise. 

Here is the major difference between these two types of noise and how they can both be mastered. 

What is White Noise?

From a purely technical standpoint, white noise operates in a very similar way to white light. In the same way that white light is essentially a combination of every different wavelength of light, white noise combines various frequencies of sound waves, from low pitch to high pitch. Since the human ear can hear up to 20,000 Hz, white noise is usually composed of every frequency from 0 Hz to 20,000 Hz, low frequency to high frequency. 

White noise plays back all of these different frequencies of sound at the same amplitude so that it just sounds like a great big cloud of noise. It is usually made up by playing back the different frequencies at random across the whole frequency spectrum, which typically sounds like radio static. 

Because white noise is composed of all of the frequencies that humans can hear, it is often used to mask other sounds. For example, many people use white noise generators to block out sounds that distract them while working or disrupt them while in a deep sleep. White noise is very useful in many areas because of its ability to fill up a lot of sonic space, similar to heavy bass beats. This is a characteristic used by various producers and musicians to fill out sounds and mixes. 

What is Pink Noise?

Pink noise is a similar type of sound, but it is constructed a little differently. Instead of creating noise with equal loudness across the entire frequency spectrum, pink noise creates equal amplitude based on the octaves. There is a lot of complicated science and sound knowledge behind pink noise. Fundamentally, the benefit of pink noise is that it tends to get softer and less abrasive as the pitch gets higher. The lower frequencies are louder, and the higher frequencies become easier on the ears. 

Pink noise shows up in many different places in nature, which makes it seem a bit more natural to most people’s ears than white noise. Pink noise can often be found in the wind, rain, and the sound of leaves rustling. This is all because pink noise technically has a fundamental frequency, which is how most natural sounds and noise work. 

How Are White and Pink Noise Different?

White noise and pink noise are fundamentally different. But they are similar in one way–they are both very good at masking other sounds out of normal hearing range and can help people who struggle with extraneous noise. Due to their softer nature, both white and pink noise are often used as ambient sound. Ambient sound is used to drown out other noises, especially for sleeping or focusing at work. 

White noise is technically the most efficient at being an ambient noise because it covers the full frequency range and can cover up everything from low rumbles to high pitched sounds. Its ability to fill up the sonic spectrum from the lows to the highs makes it so that virtually every sound can be masked if the noise is played loud enough. The added noise just can’t compete with the already existing white noise, and it all fades into the background. 

Pink noise is also used as another form of ambient sound that can help to mask other noises that may be distracting or disrupting to a person. It technically doesn’t work as effectively as white noise, but its softer and less harsh sound makes some people gravitate towards pink noise more than white noise. For most people, pink noise can be much easier to listen to, which causes them to want to use it instead of white noise for various purposes. 

How Can Producers Use Noise?

One way that many producers tend to use noise is by making their songs sound more lo-fi. The low fidelity aesthetic has been fairly popular ever since producers began using cassette tapes to record music. That feeling of warmth that comes along with using vintage equipment that is technically less efficient and powerful is something that many producers love to use. A big part of low fidelity sound is adding various types of extraneous or white or pink noise. This helps to make the song feel older, more worn-in, and less squeaky clean. This isn’t always the right choice, but it is used all over modern music very effectively. 

White noise and pink noise are used to give more weight to a mix or sounds within a mix. Because these kinds of noises technically cover vast frequency ranges, they can help fill in the gaps that a song has in the instrumentation. Even when they’re very quiet and almost imperceptible inside a mix, that kind of noise helps a song feel fuller and denser. 

White noise is also often layered with drum hits to give them more weight and density. Often, the main sound of the drum hit will still be whatever the main sample was. But the white or pink noise can create more sound underneath the actual sample and make it sound bigger. It’s subtle, but it is still a great way to add depth to drums. 

How Unison Can Help

Often, it can be very difficult to find ways to fill out the sound of a mix. While white noise and pink noise can be very helpful in this regard, Unison is here to provide even more resources for making full-sounding songs. The Unison MIDI Collection can help the arrangement of songs themselves to be much more densely arranged. The Unison Serum Collection can help create sounds that are highly effective at filling up mixes all the way. 

If you are looking for ways to spice up your sound, look no further than Unison to get you to where you want to be as a producer.

 

Sources: 

What Is White Noise? | HowStuffWorks

What is Pink Noise? | LiveScience.com

What Is Pink Noise? | Right As Rain

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