I compared the waves of the track of someone else and my own and my track is very thick. Can you please explain who knows what's wrong with my wave? I think a thick wave like this means a lot of bass? 1 -mine

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  • 3
    Don't worry what they look like. What do they sound like?
    – Laurence
    Jan 6, 2021 at 13:43
  • Can you explain exactly what you mean by 'fat'? To me, 2 looks 'fatter' (it seems to be higher amplitude for more of the time). Jan 6, 2021 at 13:45
  • What's the difference ? I want to have more cycles like in the second picture and I have such wide waves. Looks like the Waves logo Jan 6, 2021 at 13:48
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    AFAIK, the waveform represents only time and amplitude. You can't really see bass (frequency) in the picture. One of the main things to look for in the waveform is clipping when the amplitude is too high. Jan 6, 2021 at 13:50
  • Is this "thick wave = t h i c c bass" something you picked up from youtube?. (because your terminologies seem like it). Nothing wrong with that, but I'd say learning from there puts you in a risk of picking up stuff that arent really true. It isnt an authentic source. Jan 6, 2021 at 14:24

3 Answers 3


The waveform documentation page for Audacity give a concise overview of what information is in a waveform graph. That pages is specific to Audacity, but I think the concepts covered will apply to most any waveform view. Basically it's a graph of time an amplitude.

You mention "fat" and "cycles" but it isn't clear to me what you mean. I think you are comparing...

enter image description here

...which has wide looking humps.

Whereas this one...

enter image description here

...tall looking spikes with space between them.

My expectation of these two is the first would have a more sustained sound and the second would have more space (quiet) between sharp attacks.

It's hard to say more. Sometimes the picture is not what you might expect. A sustained sound might be fairly low in the mix and on the graph it wouldn't rise up very high. It might seem to be missing in the graph, but it could be clearly heard.

You might want to do a bunch of test files to see what their graphs look like: a totally dry drum track, then one adding heavy reverb, just a sustained sound like an organ, a guitar power chord fading to zero, etc. etc. You can do the same, but specifically look at effects like reverb, delay and compression and how they change the waveform.

If you look at that instruments separately, you might get a better sense of what the waveform represents, and how the separate parts come together in a mix.

  • I think it is because of sub frequencies that i add with equalizer it is fat Jan 6, 2021 at 15:11
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    Could be. About terms like "fat", "thicc", etc. They won't make sense to everyone. Some might be commonly know, others may be the lingo in some subculture. If you really want to get into sound engineering, learn the technical terminology. It will make it easier to control the technology and talk to other knowledgeable people. To be sure there are people who know both the cool subculture lingo and the technical terms. Jan 6, 2021 at 15:25
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    I think you're assuming a larger time domain than we can actually see here. The posted shots have no time indicator, but the waveform snippets in your answer visually would suggest under a second, maybe half, so you are almost directly seeing 'pitch + overtones''. The first being smeared with multiple higher frequencies and one big sub-frequency & the 2nd much more pure, sine-like. The apparent changes in the level of the sine are harmonic interferences & additions.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 6, 2021 at 15:56

They say you can't tell a sound by its wave - but sometimes you can guess a bit, based on having seen a lot of them.

This to me looks almost criminally distorted with a very large sub-bass fundamental & massive smearing high frequencies, almost unrelated to the fundamental pitch.

enter image description here

Whereas this bit looks clean, almost a single sine with subtly changing harmonic interference.

enter image description here

…and, no, I honestly couldn't tell you what each would sound like exactly, but I would guess each is pretty much a 'single note' as opposed to a snippet of say a rock band or an orchestra. The first note is going to be harsh & smeary, distorted, the second considerably cleaner.
If someone told me the second was a clean-ish guitar, I'd believe them. I've honestly no clue what the first could be.

However, based on that analysis, then "thick" is distortion; many unrelated frequencies fighting over the same domain.

When you're zoomed in that far, then if you do know the actual time domain on the x-axis, you could go to the tedious trouble of counting the peaks to know what note it is (not something I've ever actually felt inclined to do ;)


First of all, NEVER DECIDE WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE USING THE WAVEFORM. Waveform can possibly be used to monitor compression, limiting, or clipping. But I'd say that's about it

I like to take two different "thicknesses"

  1. Along Time - Above answer by Michael Curtis gives a picture of how spaces between attacks indicate sustain, reverb, delay ...
  2. Along Amplitude - "Thick" being perceived loudness. Which can indicate the amount of compression applied, essentially whatever Mastering aims at. Perceived loudness is what one might call "Thickness" or "Fatness".

Both of the ways, like how comments say, Have nothing to do with Bass. There's no way you can look at a waveform and say "oh this one's got a lot of these frequencies". Some people call it "thick" if they hear a lot of bass but that has nothing to do with how thick the waveform looks like. If you need Bass and see why yours doesn't have, more appropriate (if not by Ear, Ear's always the best way) would either a spectrogram or more preferably the display that EQ plugins show you (not sure about the name for it)

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