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Friday, April 6, 2007

Room Sounds - Avoid the Node

posted by on April 6 at 11:31 AM

rooms.jpgToday weíre talking room sounds with Gary Reynolds from Electrokitty Studio and Jonathan Plum from London Bridge.

This is usually a Thursday post, next week it will back on Thursday.

** Gary and Jon will be monitoring this, so if you have any questions, ask away.

When dealing with room sounds, Trigonometry is involved. Be not afraid. Proceed, crank, and yield the rock that is within you.

They speak of modes. Room modes are the result of standing waves and sound being reflected back off the walls and interfering with the original travelling wave. At certain frequencies, there will be some points in the room where the waveforms will add to produce a node or loud spot, and others where cancellation occurs to produce an antinode.

Gary says:

The dimensions of any room are going to accentuate or cut out certain frequencies. Better sounding rooms have fewer modes. Every room has itís decay time too.

When dealing with room sounds, there is reflection, absorption, and diffusion.

Reflection is what happens when the sound bounces off the wall. Parallel walls are bad. In square rooms, the soundwaves bounce back and forth and make your recording sound like shit. You want unparallel walls and surfaces. Splaying the walls is what itís called when you make them unparallel.

Absorption helps deaden the sound and keep your frequencies from going crazy. Studio foam and compressed fiberglass are other things that absorb. You can use bass traps for low end.

Diffusion is a brick wall. Diffusion disperses or scatters the sound and makes for even sound distribution. Anything with hard uneven surfaces.

Living rooms can be great places to record. Windows are good, they give sound and frequencies a place to escape. But at home, in the living room, you have to deal with neighbors. Also, there are ambulances going by or jets flying over that could mess with your recording. So people go into the basement, with square walls and no windows - not an acoustical friendly place to be.


Another problem at home is that the dry wall or plaster in your walls vibrates and essentially becomes a drum head. The frequency of that vibration is going to cancel out whatever else is at that frequency. Say your wall is vibrating at 100 Hz. Well that cancels out your bass and kick drum.

In the studio, we have 4 layers of dry wall and all this compressed fiberglass that help. Itís just a matter of working with a room and knowing where the weird boosts and dips are.
Auralex and RPG Diffusion make good sound design kits.

Jonathan Plum from London Bridge says:

You can try every mic or compression technique in the book, but you can't mask or enhance a bad sounding room.

Itís always about experimenting. I often, by accident, find a great room sound out of a mic I set up for the singer to sing scratch tracks. This happens all the time.

In smaller rooms, you can place a uni direction mic close to the source yet pointing away to maximize the size and length of the room. Fast compression on a room mic can strongly change the apparent size of a room. With a fast attack and fast release you can virtually eliminate the source sound and isolate the slap back and ambiance of the room. Adding too much compression will usually lead to an unnatural washy sound.

Ultra bright room mic's tend to get too washy. I try to find a warm sounding mic like the Neumann U87 or Royer ribbon. An sm7 is also a good room mic.

Sometimes it's hard not get rid of a room sound. Some spaces can be so live that you have to fight to get a close sound. Oops. Getting off subject here.

I've had great success recording in my friends kitchen. He has a large open area with hard wood floors and a slanted ceiling. Parallel walls just make the sound echo back and forth.

Put a couch in there, a mattresses on the wall. Tip over a table on an angle.

Best places to record are large open spaces with varied surfaces (ie brick, wood, fabric).

A room sound is essential if you want your recording to sound as if there was a musical performance that took place in a specific time and space. Room sounds give the listener a reference to where the performance took place. The listener can get inside the recording not just in front of it.

RSS icon Comments


Jon, could you talk a little more about your fast attack and release? What are you talking about there?

Posted by shane | April 6, 2007 11:53 AM

And if you could expound on the slapping and the length. Especially the slapping.

Posted by mamma | April 6, 2007 12:05 PM

I hear my neighbors doing it at night. How can make a cancellation on that?

Posted by ps | April 6, 2007 12:10 PM

Itching powder. PS, can you get into their room? Itching powder in their bed, it's old school. Not fast attack, but sneak attack.

Posted by trent moorman | April 6, 2007 12:18 PM

Isn't there a 10:00 noise ordinance? You can make noise till 10. I think. Tell your neighbors they will learn to love your jam.

Posted by stover | April 6, 2007 12:26 PM

you have to learn to look at things from the best possible angle. you could record your neighbors and sell it on the internet for some quick extra cash

Posted by gary | April 6, 2007 1:00 PM

Thank you for all the info, this is a rad and informative series of posts!

Posted by Pecknold | April 6, 2007 1:55 PM

God I love Geektalk. Someone compress me, now. I want long, slap delay. Fuzz wah my ass, for the neighbors through the window.

Yeah, love the gear posts, Mr. T.

And when do we get to hear more dreams?

Posted by darling | April 6, 2007 3:41 PM

I'm confused about the ordinance too. And wait, so when there's modes, and you still can't get rid of them, what do you? I've got angles and uneven surfaces in my little recording room, but it still sounds kind of dead. I guess there's no getting around the square room.

Posted by darling | April 6, 2007 3:44 PM

there is a 10 pm ordinance which means you can tell the people next to you to FO. as long as it's below 95db at the property line I think
darling, little and square are the key words

Posted by gary | April 6, 2007 10:26 PM

I thought I was the only one who was still in to the itching powder. You can get it at Pike Market and there is no ordinance on it.

Stellar posts, Trent.

Posted by heather | April 7, 2007 11:30 AM

I always thought the kitchen was a bad place to record. Now I can knock stuff over and have it be for a purpose.

Posted by Spiz | April 8, 2007 2:10 PM

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