The Snail: A Real-time Software Application to Visualize Sounds

Thomas Hélie; Charles Picasso
DAFx-2017 - Edinburgh
The Snail is a real-time software application that offers possibilities for visualizing sounds and music, for tuning musical instruments, for working on pitch intonation, etc. It incorporates an original spectral analysis technology (patent-pending) combined with a display on a spiral representation: the center corresponds to the lowest frequencies, the outside to the highest frequencies, and each turn corresponds to one octave so that tones are organized with respect to angles. The spectrum magnitude is displayed according to perceptive features, in a redundant way: the loudness is mapped to both the line thickness and its brightness. However, because of the time-frequency uncertainty principle, using the Fourier spectrum (or also Q-transform, wavelets, etc) does not lead to a sufficient accuracy to be used in a musical context. The spectral analysis is completed by frequency precision enhancer based on a postprocessing of the demodulated phase of the spectrum. This paper presents the scientific principles, some technical aspects of the software development and the main display modes with examples of use cases.