Thursday, February 11, 2010

Research I've read

“Sound Recording Handbook”, by John M. Woram
Howard W. Sams and Company (1989)

Seriously, this got really interesting.

Waveform … It’s like seeing a TV special about ocean waves. You find out water waves go down below the surface a long way - I’ve forgotten how far, but many dozens of feet - but you only see the top bit. You don’t realize, watching one come running straight at you, that it’s dragging its feet along below the surface. But when that wave knocks you on your ass, hello!

Same with sound waves.

Spherical waves, plane waves, the speed of sound! Density, elasticity and temperature of the air! To anybody recording sound, this stuff matters. It seems that, for sound engineers as well as the rest of us, the devil is in the details.
Threshold of pain - someday I’ll write a poem based on that phrase. Something with a title like that might make a great song too. Phase shift - great heavens, it’s a miracle anybody can memorize this stuff and be able to use it. (If I read it correctly, the threshold of pain is about 140 decibels.)

Psychoacoustics - is that a great word or what?

Threshold of feeling - yeah, gotta use that too, somewhere. That’s about 120 decibels. Not much space between smiling and screaming.

Microphone manufacturers … yeaahh, I don’t really need to know that. But I did find out there is a specific mic type often used to record drums. Drum kits also normally are recorded with several mics.

I gotta say, since I’ve started reading more about what goes on in recording studios, I’m able to hear things in the headphones I had no idea were there. I pay particular attention to percussion; maybe it’s because my heart has a beat. Whatever, I’ve been in love with percussion since I first became aware of rock-n-roll. I can’t play a lick - oh that was a bad pun!

I knew there was more to making records than putting people in a room with instruments and vocalists, telling them to rip into it, pushing ‘play’ then backing off. I’ve never been able to talk to anybody about it, though. I didn’t realize that sometimes a sound is added that’s more felt than heard. I hear triangle dings in songs that I never guessed were there. Sometimes, I get so caught up in listening that I completely forget what I was writing about. So many of the songs I’m completely in love with were recorded in bits and pieces, but the finished product sounds like everybody did their parts together, at the same time, in one effortless session.

Sound engineers and producers, my hat’s off to you. I hope to create the same illusion through my story.

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