What Is Digital Music and How Does It Work?

Sound in numbers makes beautiful noise

Digital music (sometimes referred to as digital audio) is a method of representing sound as numerical values. Digital music is often synonymous with MP3 music since that's a common file format that digital music exists in.

We usually use the term digital music only when contrasting it with analog media where the sound is stored in a physical form, like with magnetic tapes or vinyl records. In the case of cassette tapes, this information is stored magnetically.

Physical Digital Media

One of the most well-known physical sources of digital music is the compact disc. The basic principle of how this works is that a laser reads the surface of a CD which contains pits and lands.

The information on the CD changes the reflected power of the laser beam which is measured and decoded as binary data (1 or 0).

Digital Audio Files

Digital audio files are non-physical sources of digital audio that use various encoding formats to store audio information. They are created by converting analog data into digital data.

An example of a digital audio file is an MP3 that you can download from the internet and listen to on your computer or mobile device. When we talk about digital music or other digital audio files like audiobooks, we normally refer to this type of digital audio storage.

Some other examples of digital audio file formats include AAC, WMA, OGG, WAV, etc. These file formats are readily available for playback in numerous programs like VLC media player but are also supported by a number of free file converter programs that can convert one digital music file format to another.

Playback for digital music files is also supported by various hardware products in addition to computers, like TVs, smartphones, etc. Bluetooth devices utilize digital music codecs too, to enable the streaming and playback of various sound file formats.

Amazon is one of the most popular places to download digital music, and streaming services like YouTube and Pandora are well known for providing free digital music streaming services.

  • How do you make digital music?

    The overwhelming majority of music today is digital in the sense that it exists in files on electronics. Making "digital music" is just making music: Use your computer to record you playing the guitar and you'll have your own piece of digital music.

  • How do you give digital music as a gift?

    Today, the easiest way to buy digital music is to purchase it off a storefront like iTunes or Amazon Music. Purchasing a gift card for the appropriate storefront will give somebody the choice of what digital music to download.

  • What is digital music production?

    This is better phrased as simply "production," because much production today is digital in the sense that it happens on computers. Producers use DAWs, or digital audio workstations, to produce digital music. A DAW is an app you can download and install on your computer.

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