tl;dr
PROXIMITY PATTERN:

when an artist suddenly features one of five auditory cues indicating closeness, resulting in listener chills when combined effectively with a Structural Pattern

“After that whisper thing at 1:09 my hairs were about to run off my body.”

Technique 1:

Non-linear loudness

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Technique 2:

Non-linear brightness

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Technique 3:

Voicelessness

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Technique 4:

Inter-ear variation

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Technique 5:

ASMR triggers

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How It Works

When artists use the Proximity pattern, they trick our brain’s object localization system. This system distinguishes between objects in our peri-personal space (~6 inches around our body) and extra-personal space (> 6 inches). Our brain always prioritizes and urgently processes sounds in, or about to cross into, our peri-personal space. The more abruptly artist introduce close or approaching sounds, the more likely we are to experience chills. Researchers have confirmed that “looming” sounds are correlated with increased skin conductance, a well-known marker of frisson.

Proximity and Harmoniciity cues share many technical features and tend to appear together.

Top Acoustic Pattern pairing:

Top Structural Pattern pairing:

Genre that most uses pattern:

Harmonicity, Alarm
Surprise
Alternative/Indie

Technique 1: Non-linear loudness

Certain abrupt or accelerating changes in loudness. Loudness is a reliable indicator of distance because the sound waves of close sounds have less space to cover. As a result, the same acoustic energy is spread over a smaller area (i.e. close sounds are louder). Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Non-linear crescendos with constant pitch (e.g., vocal swells, suspended cymbal rolls)

— Sudden transitions from muted to unmuted sounds (e.g., turning a compressor off)

— Changing distance from recording device (e.g. normal vs. close mic’d vocals)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Love Yourself
Look Back At It
I Could Use A Love Song
Orinoco Flow
10,000 (Wings Pt. 2)
You Were Right
Wings of Liberty (Starcraft)
Scheherazade: Kalendar Prince

Artist

Justin Bieber
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie
Maren Morris
Enya
Tool
Rüfüs Du Sol
Glen Stafford
Rimsky-Korsakov

Frisson Reported by Listeners

2:33
2:40
0:49
2:13
5:38
1:09
3:06
9:27

Technique 2: Non-linear brightness

Abrupt or accelerating changes in overtone resonance at higher frequencies (“brightness”). Brightness is a reliable indicator of distance because as sound travels through the air, it loses acoustic energy faster at higher vs. lower frequencies (i.e. close sounds are brighter). When artists feature sudden bright sounds or rapid transitions from low to high brightness, this can often trigger listener chills. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Upward sweeps (e.g., glissando up the keyboard, rapid chromatic motion up the register)

— Repeated rising lines (e.g. motif sounded quickly multiple times, up third or octave on each repetition)

— “Noisy” timbres that bring out upper frequencies (e.g. white noise risers, wind chimes, piano with pedal)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

This Is Me (Greatest Showman)
Cocoa Butter Kisses
Mama’s Broken Heart
Quarrel
Silvera
Sun Models
Panoramic (The Book of Eli)
XXX

Artist

Keala Settle
Chance the Rapper
Miranda Lambert
Moses Sumney
Gojira
ODESZA, Madelyn Grant
Atticus Ross
XXX

Frisson Reported by Listeners

3:17
0:14
0:26
2:27
2:04
1:05
5:12
X:XX

Technique 3: Voicelessness

Intimate vocalizations produced without using the vocal chords, which we can only hear if we are close to the sound source. When artists feature sudden voiceless sounds, or rapid transitions from normal to voiceless vocals, this can often induce listener chills. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Whisper-pop singing with a pronounced “breathy” sound

— Close mic’d vocals with limited reflectors in the studio

— Certain entrances of reed instruments that produce an “airy” sound (e.g. flute, oboe, saxophone)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Faith
Focus
Brother
Skinny Love
Personal Jesus
Show Me Love (Skrillex Remix)
A New Life (Jekyll & Hyde)
Macarthur Park

Artist

George Michael
H.E.R.
Uncle Jed
Birdy
Depeche Mode
Hundred Waters
Frank Wildhorn
Maynard Ferguson

Frisson Reported by Listeners

1:20
2:54
3:29
0:15
2:15
0:01
0:33
1:38

Technique 4: Inter-ear variation

Sounds that vary in arrival time and intensity across the left vs. right ear. Inter-ear variation is a reliable indicator of proximity because distant sounds hit our ears at roughly the same time vs. close sounds hit one ear (closer to the sound source) noticeably sooner. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Rapid alternating panning

— Spatial production effects (e.g. varying reverb and mixing)

— “3D” recording techniques (e.g. binaural records, multiple mic positions across studio for one sound)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Fun Tonight
This Is America
See You Tonight
xanny
House Burning Down
Oblivion
Adventure (Fez)
Fly

Artist

Lady Gaga
Childish Gambino
Scotty Mcreery
Billie Eilish
Jimi Hendrix
Grimes
Disasterpeace
Ludovico Einaudi

Frisson Reported by Listeners

1:08
1:46
2:17
0:45
0:03
0:49
0:01
3:28

Technique 5: ASMR Triggers

A set of sound effects that trigger a sensation called autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). While these quiet sounds are diverse, they share in common an ability to make listeners feel close to the source producing the sound. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— “Dry” crackling noises (e.g. wood popping in fire, paper crumpling, leaves rustling)

— “Wet” crackling noises (e.g. carbonated water being poured into glass, rain drizzle)

— Irregular clicking or fluttering sounds (e.g. scissors closing, fingers tapping, vocal tk sk ch sounds)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

The Shadow
Confidently Lost
Old Pine
Medicine
Crow Killer Blues
Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)
72 Degrees and Sunny (Wall-E)
Codex purpureus

Artist

Millie Turner
Sabrina Claudio
Ben Howard
Daughter
Rob Zombie
Metronomy
Thomas Newman
Salvatore Sciarrino

Frisson Reported by Listeners

1:34
2:21
3:20
2:16
1:34
0:40
0:36
10:14

Listen to more examples in the Qbrio Library