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Creating the Right Recording Environment (Part 2)
Written by Scott R. Garrigus - © 2005, Scott R. Garrigus. All Rights Reserved.
This article is a continuation of Creating the Right Recording Environment (Part 1).

Contrary to popular belief, the foam padding seen on a studioís walls has little to do with making the room soundproof. The padding is, however, used to eliminate reflective surfaces. In addition to being made out of a sound absorbent material, the padding also features an irregularly shaped surface. This surface helps to disperse any sound reflections rather than bouncing them back and forth (which only reinforces individual sound frequencies and creates the hollowness I mentioned earlier). Of course, these professional foam pads cost money, especially if youíre going to cover every wall in your room with them. Thatís why you may sometimes see egg cartons attached to some peopleís home studio walls. These are the working musicianís substitute for pro foam padding but they basically serve the same purpose because of their irregularly shaped surface.

Before you go tacking up egg cartons all over the place though, you may want to try a few better decorative alternatives. For instance, if you have a room with bookshelves in it, youíre already off to a good start. Because of the random surface the books provide, they keep reflections to a minimum. You may also want to try hanging a nice Oriental rug up on the wall and perhaps placing a couch or sofa right beneath it. These will both help eliminate any sound reflections. And be sure to cover up those windows we mentioned earlier, either just by closing the drapes or hanging a nice big beach towel over each one.

Testing, Testing
In addition to eliminating the noise and reflections in a room, finding the best recording position and utilizing the correct recording techniques are also crucial to good sounding audio. Most often, the best place to position yourself is in the middle of the room. Face one of the four walls at an angle so that any sound coming from your voice (or the instrument that youíre playing) gets reflected off of that wall at an angle and into one of the absorbent surfaces (on the adjacent wall) we talked about earlier. This way reflections are basically eliminated because of your distance from the wall, the absorption of the materials (that you placed around the room earlier), the angle at which youíre facing the wall, and the diffusion of any objects that the sound hits (such as books in a bookshelf). The one thing you never want to do is face directly toward a wall. This provides the most opportunity for reflections to happen.

Recording techniques are also important. Choosing the right microphone to use falls into this category. Try to get your hands on a directional mike. These types of mikes only record sound that is directly in front of them. Some other types, such as the omni-directional, can pick up sound from all around the area and this can lead to excessive noise introduced into your recordings. Placing a good directional mike at a close but comfortable distance will allow for more of the sound that you want to record and less of any environmental noises.

One last thing to remember is to disable your soundcardís automatic recording level controls. Most consumer cards have this option to make it easier for the attached microphone to pick up sound. The auto-level controls turn up the recording volume whenever the sound source gets quieter but unfortunately, this also brings in more unwanted noise from the background.

Not Perfect But Pleasant
So even though most of us canít afford to build a room for a dedicated personal home studio, there are plenty of ways to use the space weíve already got. Whether itís a bedroom, a basement or even a study, just remember to make it quiet, eliminate the echo, position properly, and take care to use the right recording tools. If you follow these simple steps, even though they wonít provide you with a pro studio, youíll still be able to make some very nice recordings and you wonít have to break your bank account to get them.

Maybe More?
The techniques Iíve mentioned in this article are really very basic, Ďhome growní solutions. They are not intended to replace professional sound treatment techniques. Iím sure there are many other possibilities for obtaining a quiet recording environment.

For more information: Creating the Right Recording Environment (Part 1)

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