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  •  The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section


    Welcome to the EvO:R Tips Section. We call this section EvO:R-Pedia because it is like a complete reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians so that people that followed can take this knowledge and use it's power.



    The Place
    By Roberto Luz

    Now you have your recording equipment set up, and you want to dive right into the machine, so you set up some headphones…. And can hear your dog talking to his girlfriend down the street. No good. Everything that you hear will come through on you project, so, it's obvious that you will have to do something about that extra noise. Besides having to worry about outside sounds you also have to worry about inside sounds: electronic beeps, your computers noise, echoes, and a lot of other ghosts that seem to come out right at the most important and inconvenient times. Besides this, you have to worry about how the old lady upstairs feels about you trying out that hot new guitar lick at 2 AM. Your recording studio, or at least part of it, needs to be built to accommodate all of these problems.

    First you must deal with your relationship with the outside world. You just have to create a sound barrier. Usually this is accomplished by building or lining the walls with sound absorbing materials: sawdust and air chambers in the walls, thick pads and mattresses and rugs. You generally end up with a cozy little padded call. It's really hard to totally seal off an existing structure from outside noise, but you would be surprised what you can do in your bedroom with some foam mattresses and blankets.

    A far more important concern is all of the noise that the process of creating and recording music presents: computer noise, squeaky pedals, heavy breathing and a host of other hidden sources that don't emerge until you have the headphones on. And then there are the echoes, your number one enemy. When you cram a bunch of electronic instruments into a room made to contain sound and crank it up what you get is an engineers nightmare. There is sound bouncing off of every surface in the room and hitting the microphone in such a manner that the feedback and extra noise is totally unacceptable unless you enjoy that sort of thing. The way to deal with that is to eliminate corners and flat surfaces. That's why lining your walls with egg cartons works. Some foam wedges for corners and some baffles for tricky spots will help. Eliminate as many right angles as you can. When recording something particularly noisy, like a drum kit, you might even go so far as collecting all of the mattresses in your house and encasing the drummer in a cocoon while he's working (most drummers don't appreciate this step). While you are working, cover all of the glass and metal with fabric or foam (the sound engineers best friend!)

    You must also make sure that the vibrations of what is being recorded don't set other instruments to tinkling: keep your maracas and slide trombone out of the recording room unless you are using them. Of course, if you record in your bedroom, this can get complicated, so just get into the habit of cleaning up before a session.

    In an ideal situation the person playing the music will be separated from the rest of the operatio n in a separate sound room but, for most of us (who are, after all, recording ourselves) this is impractical, and the whole operation will have to be done in one room. This works fine, as long as you eliminate as much of the noise factor as possible. One way is to put the computer (the noisiest part) and whatever equipment possible in another room or a closet.

    Whatever you do, you will find yourself chasing down phantom noises each time you record. It is definitely worth it to track down the sources, as your recording will definitely show the difference. Of course, there are other ways to do it: once when I got tired of sitting in my dark cave working for hours on end I decided to liberate myself a bit while doing mixing. I took all of my stuff into my second story den. It is a great room made out of large geodesic triangles: a hexagon made of wood and huge windows (great, stimulating views!). Here in the tropics our houses aren't as insulated as the northern ones, so sound just travels through the walls and keeps going. The next job I had entailed a drummer who was reluctant to crawl into the cave, so I decided to try the loft. After eliminating the extra vibrating things I found that I didn't even need to surround the kit with mattresses. Since I have no close neighbors, outside noise coming in wasn't a problem (other than bird song), and nobody complained. The sound was immaculate. I can only surmise that the octagonal shape of the room combined with the flimsiness of the walls made just enough of a baffle to keep out the windsound and allows the other vibrations to just radiate out without interference.

    I never went back to the cave, and have recorded everything since then in the den. I must say that it's definitely a much more creative place. Nobody seems to complain when the occasional bird lends an unexpected harmony.


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