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What is this called? How do we say oscillogram of the sound in one word?


The visual display of a sound wave can take many forms. You ask what the "graphical representation of a sound" is called, and you show an example. There are different terms for different forms of graphical representations of sound, for example sonogram, (audio)spectrogram, waveform, (audio) oscillogram. Which one to use is a technical matter.

One form is usually called a sonogram, or alternatively an (audio)spectrogram in technical usage:

A spectrogram is a time-varying spectral representation that shows how the spectral density of a signal varies with time. Also known as spectral waterfalls, sonograms, voiceprints, or voicegrams, spectrograms are used to identify phonetic sounds, to analyse the cries of animals; they were also used in many other fields including music, sonar/radar, speech processing, seismology, etc

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This image shows Time (X axis) vs. Frequency (Y axis).

However, the picture you show in your question is different, called an (audio) oscillogram or a waveform:

Waveform means the shape and form of a signal such as a wave moving in a physical medium or an abstract representation. In many cases the medium in which the wave is being propagated does not permit a direct visual image of the form. In these cases, the term 'waveform' refers to the shape of a graph of the varying quantity against time or distance

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This image, like yours, shows Time (X axis) vs. Amplitude (Y axis) and is generally called a waveform or oscillogram. Use "audio" if you want to refer specifically to the waveform of a sound as opposed to some other signal.

EDITED thanks to input from commenters.

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    I suspect the word sonogram is being taken over by medical imaging; and so is being replaced by spectrogram. – Peter Shor Mar 18 '12 at 17:30
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    That picture is neither a sonogram nor a spectrogram, however - it is a waveform. A sonogram/spectrogram is a time vs. frequency plot, whereas a waveform is a time vs. signal level plot. – fluffy Mar 18 '12 at 17:53
  • @fluffy That looks like frequency vs signal level to me. Where do you get time? – Mark Beadles Mar 18 '12 at 20:08
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    Looks like time (in samples) on the X axis and signal level on the Y axis. If it were a spectrum plot the signal level wouldn't be centered on 0.0. Also, the original question referred to it as an "oscillogram" which implies oscillations or being an oscilloscope-equivalent - thus, a continuous signal plot (i.e. waveform), NOT something in the frequency domain. I do a lot of audio work and am very familiar with how different things look. – fluffy Mar 18 '12 at 20:18
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    Also @Lucas it's worth noting that in a sonogram or spectrum plot, you actually CAN see negative amplitudes, if it's using the decibel scale - generally you either have your Y axis such that 0dB is peak (i.e. most everything will be negative, and anything >0 represents an over-spec signals which will generally - but not always - clip in the digital domain) or representing SPL (i.e. 0dB is extremely quiet, but still not totally silent). 0dB peak is actually the most common representation you'll see. – fluffy Mar 22 '12 at 5:22

A common word I hear used a lot in music production is Waveform.


Since you need a word that would indicate sound, then it would be as simple as "audio waveform", since plain waveform could indicate any kind of waves.

I would also like to point out that a sonogram is not the same as a waveform, since sonogram in two dimensions represents intensity vs time and in three dimensions intensity vs frequency vs time.

  • You say "sonogram in two dimensions represents intensity vs time"; frequency vs. time is commonly used as I have shown above. – Mark Beadles Mar 21 '12 at 12:06

I think oscillogram is the best you'll get.

  • perhaps acousto-oscillogram ?!?! – Lucas Mar 21 '12 at 4:35

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