Posts Tagged ‘ Acoustics ’

Find a big room

Find a big room and go record something in it!

It doesn’t matter where it is, or what you record… just find a large space and record something in it.

Large spaces usually have a very distinct sound to them. They also often have a noticeable reverberation. If you’ve chosen a public place as your big room, you’ll also have the benefit of having something interesting happening in that space too.

Use your imagination! Even if you don’t have a large room in your home (or even if you do), you can probably find somewhere large with an interesting sound. A shopping centre close to midnight? An underground railway station? A school hall? A cafe? A lift lobby?

You can choose to record the sounds that you find there or you can make some sounds of your own and record them. Don’t get stuck on preconceived notions of what is or isn’t a musical instrument – use this as an opportunity to break free and experiment!

And don’t worry too much about having to purchase equipment to do it. If you’ve got a professional field recorder, that’s great. If not, you can always use your mobile phone or borrow someone else’s gear. Again – break free of the notion that you must record with accuracy and high fidelity. The goal is to produce something interesting, not necessarily to document reality.

And then, make a point of incorporating the sound into your next project. Be creative. Use it as a background texture. Chop it up and turn it into percussion. Play it backwards for an eery atmosphere. Load it into a sampler, change the pitch, process it… Maybe that distant door slam can be subtly layered with your kick to make it sound huge. Maybe that train horn can be sampled and filtered to become a new synth lead. Maybe you could bring your vocalist and record some backing vocals in the subway. Or busy shopping centre.

Whatever you do, do something. Don’t just reiterate the same old approaches – be creative!



How to convince yourself to invest in acoustic treatment

You need to acoustically treat your room.

You know it. You’ve read the articles, you’ve had people tell you. You already know that it’s holding you back.

The problem is that you haven’t done it yet. Despite you knowing how important it is, it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe you’re not sure how to do it, maybe that money has mysteriously disappeared into more plugins or instruments or other hardware.  Maybe it’s just not sexy.

If you’re not quite sure how to do it, relax. It’s not that hard. For a basic studio, you should start with some wall panels and some bass traps. The wall panels absorb and disperse the first reflections from your speakers. Imagine mirrors on your walls – anywhere you would see the reflection of your speakers when you sit at your mixing position is where you should put a wall panel. The bass traps hide in the corners and edges of the room. That’s it. That approach will get you decent results for the first round of treatment, and will most likely be a noticeable improvement on your current environment (you can get more sophisticated if you want, but wait until you’re designing your next studio for that).

If the money keeps mysteriously disappearing into more plugins or other gear, take a good hard long look at your setup. Chances are, you’ve already got plenty of gear. Chances are, you’ve got enough gear to last you the next few albums, at least. Don’t kid yourself. How many more analogue-modelling synths do you need? How many more kick drum samples do you need?

Chances are, you need a new chair more than you need more music gear.

Despite what anyone else will tell you, acoustic treatment is sexy. It adds more sex appeal to your studio than any plugin or computer upgrade. Acoustic treatment impresses people who don’t even know what it is, or why it’s important (you’ll recognise them as the ones who call it ‘sound proofing’). Acoustic treatment is how people instantly know you’re serious about your studio – especially if it’s a modern computer-based studio which isn’t necessarily brimming with hardware.

It’s also how you know you’re serious about your studio. Acoustically treating your room will motivate you and make you work more than you expect. It will make you excited to listen to music, it will make you excited to work on your own music. It will actually make you more productive.

And besides, there’s nothing quite like telling people you spent $600 on foam!


The space

The space you listen in is just as important as the speakers. There are many different types of acoustic spaces, and if you want to get the best out of your space you should try to understand the relevant acoustic properties. Spaces generally have three broad properties that you should pay attention to:

  • The size and shape of the space
  • The surface coverings
  • The placement of objects within the space

Size and shape

The size and shape of the studio are a critical factor in determining the general acoustic character of the room. Parallel walls create standing waves, which skew the native frequency response of the room. Unfortunately, most rooms have several parallel walls! The more square a room is, the greater the problems with standing waves. Larger rooms have standing waves at lower frequencies, which interfers less with the audible audio range. Conversely, smaller rooms have standing waves at higher frequencies, which interfers more with the audible audio range. The ideal size is a trade-off, however, because larger rooms bring other problems, such as reverberation.  Also, the ideal room shape wouldn’t have any parallel walls, but you might have to settle for less if you’re not in a position to design a new room (or inherit a previously-designed acoustic room)

Surface coverings

The type and arrangement of surface coverings will affect the reverberation characteristics of the room. Uneven surfaces (such as bookshelves) will “break up” the reflections and make the  reverberation smoother (which is less distracting). Soft surfaces (such as foam or fabric) will absorb sound and reduce the reverberation time and level. Again, correct treatment of surfaces is a trade-off. Too much absorption will makes the room sound dead and unnartural, which may encourage you to create mixes that are more dense and washed out.

Placement of objects

The placement of objects within the space also affects the sound of the room. Large objects can help absorb lower frequencies that surface coverings can’t absorb. This can be used to make the room less boomy. Objects can also diffuse the reflections in the room, helping to make the reverberation smoother.