Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

In part 1 I talked about the equipment you will be needing to start music production and in part 2 I talked about the software needed. In this section we are going to bring together both our equipment and room together to set up our working area up for good all round performance. There are two main aims here:
  1. Get great sound quality from our equipment and work area.
  2. Create a great working area which is comfortable and productive.
In this part of our beginners series I don’t want to get too technical, I more want to point out common mistakes that beginners will make with setting up your equipment and room. You shouldn’t have to spend any money with the tips I’m going to give here, just some hard work moving some of your stuff around and getting your area to an “advisable” way to have it, allowing you to make much better use of the tools you have available.

Your Room
For a home music production studio you are more than likely looking to transform an existing room or area such as a bedroom or study into your personal studio. Whilst this is not an ideal solution for a studio, we have to make best with the area that we have got. If you are lucky enough to have a choice of rooms available to set-up in then your first thing to do is choose which one your going to use. Here are a few things you should think about when choosing a room:
  • Your Neighbours - If your studio is going to placed where your neighbours can hear you then you will end up annoying them or not being able to work with much volume. The further away from any neighbours the better for both of you. When making your tracks the neighbours are going to hear the same track being played over and over as you change things and this will drive them crazy.
  • Unwanted Noise - The room should have no or as little unwanted noise as possible especially if you are going to be recording using microphone. Unwanted noise could be for example traffic, neighbours, pets, heating, air conditioning etc. Remove the unwanted noise or choose a room away from this noise.
  • The Shape and Size of The Room - Your room should ideally not be square as square rooms will have certain frequencies which will resonate more than rectangular rooms have. With very small rooms the sound will bounce more around the room, so maybe choose the bigger room if you have the choice.
Guitar Strings - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:elussichIf you are going for a more recording based setup you might want to think about having a completely separate recording room to your equipment/mixing room if this is possible. This means that your microphones will be away from any noise created for example by the computer or if you play music as a band, the musician and instrument being recorded can be away from the rest of you. This is not a requirement and is not suitable for everyone and you may also need to buy extension cables and thread them through your wall, so you can plug in your microphones in quickly and easily without wires going all through your house.

The Sound Of Your Room
The sound of your room needs to be good for recording and mixing too, basically we want to be hearing the sound of your music directly from the speakers, and not the sound the has bounced off the walls of the room. If you have ever removed all items from a room when decorating you will know how the room changes in sound. The less furnishings that are in the room the more reverberation can be heard. Some people like some sort of room reverberation on their recordings but most of the time you won’t want any at all. Reverberation can be added later on in your mix via the software (or hardware), this gives us more control over the final sound. Some reverberation in the room is fine, we just don’t want too much.

You can test what the room sounds like by clapping your hands. If you can hear the resonance just after you clap, you may want to add some more soft furnishings such as curtains, rugs or cushions which will all help to soak up these reverberations (dampen the sound).

Reverberations tend to happen more with sounds with higher frequencies, the problem you will have with lower frequencies is vibration from objects around your room. To solve this once all your equipment is set up, turn it on and turn it up very loud. Set up your MIDI controller to control a very low bassy sound or anything else that is capable of creating a big bass sound such as a bass guitar. Now go up each of the notes from the lowest you can hear and listen for objects that vibrate around the room. You need to locate these objects and remove them completely from the room or if you can’t do that then you need to stop them from vibrating somehow. These vibrations are adding unwanted noise to the sound of your room.

Speaker - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:therysma Speaker Locations
Your speakers need to be placed well for you to get the most out of them. They want to be facing towards you at ear level with some distance between the left and right speakers and some distance between you and the speakers creating a triangle shape. It may specify optimum distances in the manual that came with your speakers or monitors and you should use these specified distances. If not I would go for something like 1.5 metres apart from each other and 1 metre away from you, use your ears and set them up what you feel comfortable with.

The speakers should not be placed in corners of the room as this will accentuate the bass and there should be as little surfaces and objects between you and the speakers as possible as reflections (called early reflections) will bounce from the speaker on these surfaces to your ear.

The Rest Of Your Equipment
Your equipment needs to be set-up to give you a comfortable and productive environment. Everything needs to be within easy reach, you want to place your MIDI controller somewhere so you can still see your screen and play at the same time. Getting up and going across the room to play your music in is not what you want to be doing.

If your computer or equipment makes any noise from fans, make sure you put it as far from recording microphones as possible. If you have a uni-directional microphone (a microphone that picks up what is in front of it and not much from behind it) make sure that you place the computer behind it so that it will not be picked up as much. Placing your computer on the floor may also reduce the noise recorded too.

Microphone - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:maphler Other Stuff To Do In Your New Studio
  • Keep Your Studio Tidy - A room which is tidy will not only make you feel better, it will make your music better because you will enjoy being in your room and you will also be able to find things when you need them.
  • Reduce Hum - Other electrical items can create hum in your equipment and cables such as microphone or guitar cable. So remove these from the room. Dimmer light switches are particularly bad for this.
  • Remove phones and distractions - Especially if your going to be recording a lot. You might be coming to the end of the your greatest take ever when suddenly someone rings you.
  • Get a Comfortable Chair - One that doesn’t squeak :-), If you are comfortable you will spend more quality time on your music and your music will benefit from it.
Part 3 Conclusion
Hopefully this section of our beginners guide has given you a bit of an insight into creating a room for recording and mixing your music. This isn’t everything you can do to improve the sound of your room, this is just the basics that don’t cost much. Obviously there is loads more acoustic treatment which can be done but this costs money and can be unnecessary for a beginner. Following the examples set out in this part of the guide will eliminate any common beginners mistakes when setting up your room and equipment and give you a good start to work from. The benefits will be heard in your music especially in the mix down, your music will sound better on a wider variety of players as you won’t be compensating for problems in the room so much and will hear the music from the speakers and not from the room.

Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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