Learning to Listen

When working with sound, especially during the recording process, you need to be more conscious of the range of sounds around you--however pedestrian or soft they may seem--and the reflective nature of the space you are in. To begin thinking more about sound, take just a minute to consider the following questions:

Wherever you are right now, be still and try to identify all of the subtle ambient sounds you can hear. Is there...

  • a light woosh or buzz from your computer?

  • a barely audible high pitch ring or low pitch rumble?

  • the hum of a fan or refrigerator?

  • the rush or roar of distant traffic?

  • something ticking or clicking, a clock or a radiator perhaps?

Now clap your hands and listen. Does it...

  • reflect (slap or bounce) off the walls?

  • sound sharp or does it have a duller quality?

  • fade or suddenly die?

By asking yourself these kind of questions, you gain a greater awareness of the sound around you and the acoustics of the space. What you discover will help you make better decisions if you record in that room as it will help you decide on any changes you need to make. For example, you might realize you need to turn off a fan. You might also become aware of how reverberant the space is and that either you need to take steps to dampen the sound or choose a different room. Further on, we will discuss how to address background noise and reflection issues, but first, we will talk in greater detail about acoustics and ambient noise.

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