Main Lecture Content (from the MTS Recording Studio/Acoustics Page Menu):
1. What do each of these people do in a recording session: engineer, producer, contractor, musician?
2. What is usually the most expensive acoustic issue to treat and why?
3. What’s the difference between being in-phase and out-of-phase? How does this apply to modes?
4. How does thickness and density correlate to the effective frequency of an absorber?
5. What are some diffusers you already have in your residence?
6. Where in a room do low frequencies normally build-up and what is normally used to treat them?
7. What issues would you expect to run into if your control and tracking room is the same, with no isolation booths?
8. A home studio only has the front and right walls treated, with headphones for monitoring. Why might this work?
Download more questions and essay prompts for free at the MTS.org TPT store.
Q: As you read through the article, note anything that is particularly surprising about studio work.
Q: If you’ve done significant studio work in the past, does your experience mirror the suggestions given by Dave Zimmerman? Does he suggest anything you hadn’t considered?
Activity: Acoustics in Recording Environments
Set up: Find a few places to record with distinct acoustic qualities. For example, if you have a recording studio on hand, you can compare the lobby to the live room to a whisper room. If you don’t, you could compare a small office to a large lobby or classroom, to a concert hall. The goal is to show students the importance of acoustic treatment and/or space selection when recording. If you have the time, you can also record with a dynamic on low gain and a condenser at a higher gain, to show how much room sound each mic type picks up (showing all patterns would take even longer, but I save that for the section on live/installed sound).
Have the students perform the same thing in all three spaces. It could be as simple as the first verse of a popular song. I try to get voice, guitar and bass, since the room sound might not be as obvious with certain instruments and sounds (in one case, the vocal didn’t change much, the bass did a little and the guitar was night and day different). After recording, play it back to the class and have them comment.
The room with the least amount of treatment or space should sound messy, since it’s highly reverberant; short room dimensions correspond to all sorts of modes that are too close together. The live room should be decent, possibly mimicking the sound of an actual gig in a small-ish space. The large hall or whisper room should sound the best (in much the same way with the dynamic and very different good ways with the condenser). Explain why a live room might be preferable to a whisper room, and vice-versa, depending on what your goal is.
If you can’t find appropriate rooms, don’t have recording equipment or you’re reading this five minutes before your class, below are a few handy files I recorded. It’s the beginning of an Italian art song your students are likely to learn in college if they attend a traditional music program. It’s sung in a bathroom, a kitchen, and a treated studio. They were recorded using a Zoom H1 (the link shows the updated version, the H1n)—nothing fancy. The audio is completely raw. They are 16-bit/44.1k WAV files.