… Exercise: “Recording 101”


Engagement with your medium will define the conceptual scope of your practice. (In other words, your art will suck if you don’t know how to make things.) In this exercise you will learn how to capture environments in sound.

Submit 3 tracks:

  1. A radio-style voice-recording (without using a professional vocal booth).
    It should be close and clear, without ambiance – the classic disembodied voice. I want to hear the voice and nothing else, so alter your sonic environment to eliminate echoes and unwanted noises. Get under the covers, tell your room-mates to take a hike. Put your keys in the fridge and pull the plug. (The keys will remind you to plug it in again!)
  2. A complete soundscape from the “reduced listening” assignment.
    Listen through the microphone while recording. It hears differently than your ears, so you need to be a translator. Try to capture the interesting elements you wrote about, the tension between the sounds. I’m listening for distinct elements in different planes of depth (foreground and background layers at minimum). What makes it more than your average boring “noise”?  This can be difficult!
  3. An isolated element from the “reduced listening” assignment.
    Get closer to something – make it the foreground. Use mic patterns and mic placement to “crop out” unwanted sounds so your chosen sound is unambiguously the center of attention. (This should sound very different than track #2. If it doesn’t, try again.)

I will collect 3 labeled files from you in class – not via network or email!
(We probably won’t listen in class, but I’ll give you written feedback.)

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • For this exercise, do not use the (dynamic) mic included in your “Sound Kit.” Borrow a condenser mic instead. Dynamic mics are OK for speech, but not for critical details. If you use the dynamic mic I will hear it and ask you to do it again.
  • Most of our mics come with mounts that isolate them from your hands, but you still need to move quietly and carefully to avoid rumbling sounds.
  • Use furry wind-muffs if you go outside. Some mics are so sensitive that just waving them around will fill your tracks with swooshy wind noise. When speaking, loud “P” and “B” sounds will do the same thing.
  • Record several solutions to each prompt, but only give me three files. I will interpret everything as intentional, so be clear. If your recordings don’t sound good enough, I will ask you to do them again until you’ve mastered your tools.
  • We haven’t covered editing yet, so just download your tracks from the recorder onto a computer and bring them to class on a portable drive, CD, etc.)