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How Acoustics Shape Sounds: Recording Techniques for Developing Your Creative Vision

written by: albaitis•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/2/2011

Hone your creative sense within your sonic environment in order to produce compelling sound works unique to your artistic vision.

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    How Your Rich Acoustic Environment Shapes You

    When you start your new life as a careful observer of sound, a whole new world opens up to you. We are naturally visual creatures. In a world flooded by the constant influx on visual stimuli, many people who begin field recording feel as though a deeper visceral dimension unfolds within their world.

    Begin by engaging with objects and spaces in search of their acoustic identities. You will start to discover familiar places in your life that innately have unique resonances. Sound is very intimate, very much like our sense of smell. Think of the feelings that are conjured when you smell your mother’s perfume, or the sound of a melody that ties you with a distant lover from the past. These sensations are irrefutable and deeply personal. With sound recording, you can tap into these universal memories, adding layers of complexity to your post production, video or strictly audio work. Get in touch with what noises fill your life and try to detect how they create your mood or interpretation of that environment.

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    Inescapable Waves: Sound Fills the Shape It's In

    Shout in a hallway, then in a bottle. Listen to the difference between water filling a bathtub and a coffee cup.

    Are you documenting, engaging or participating? Sonically, how would you distinguish between the three?

    If there are things engaging with each other in the field of space, get in between them. Experiment with locating the most exaggerated distinctions. Consider different times of the day. A good exercise is to make audio studies of a certain subject, using varied positions, equipment and times of day. What is lost between these examples? Which version is closer to the truth?

    This leads me to the next obvious thought: listen to what you record. So many times what you record, and what you thought you recorded are two very different things.

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    Earth-shattering Silence

    Think about the dynamics of what you are recording. What does the silence between two loud sounds impart to a sonic “sentence?” How long should that silence linger? How can you layer textures to create a mood? Silence can be your most profound tool. Do not be afraid to use it. See if you can record silence. By remaining acutely aware of the delicate layers of acoustic happenings within your environment, you can begin to experiment and live within a more meaningful, rich world that constantly unfolds and dances within your (and your audience’s) field of perception.

Essential Creative Techniques for Digital Sound Recording

Develop your sensitivities towards your acoustic world, creating compelling digital audio recordings with virtually any type of equipment. Work with the limits of the environment, equipment and the position of your body to enhance your work with post production, video and individual sound projects.
  1. The Basics of Digital Audio Field Recording: Observation, Preparation and Quantity
  2. Digital Sound Recording Tips: To Move Or Not To Move, That Is The Question
  3. How Acoustics Shape Sounds: Recording Techniques for Developing Your Creative Vision