Thursday, 13 March 2014


 The  Domestic Elements sample libraries would be aimed at a couple of specific genres of music (ambient and electronica). 

These are genres of music which encompass experimentation in terms of production techniques and processing and tend to be unique in the sounds they use within their productions. These factors suited the nature of the project, where, unconventional sounds would be utilized, processed and molded into musical material.

 Focusing on these genres would also provide a clear idea of the types of domestic objects which would be useful in the creation of the final sounds and also provided a clear idea of how the recordings could be manipulated into useable sounds for the project. This would give the project a definitive focus with clear perspective on the sounds that would be useful to record fore the project.

Recording Process

 The recording process would be the first stage in the project overall and arguably the most important as the quality and usability of the original sound recordings would determine the overall quality of the samples at the end of the project.

At the outset, it was important to establish the resources that would be used in the recording process. This would include the software and hardware resources that would be needed to record the raw audio material effectively. A list of all resources is included in the appendices.

Recording Process

The initial recording process involved making a list of all the objects within the household which I had ear marked as being suitable for making the types of sounds I was looking for, bearing in mind, the genres of music that the library would eventually cater for, providing a clear focus on the final sounds that would be created for the library. 

The list would be split into individual rooms within the home and each object would be ticked off as it was recorded. This process of taking notes and keeping a log of each sound recorded would be repeated throughout the project and was essential in organizing and archiving all the raw sounds recorded in the initial stages of the project.

First Recordings

The first sound recordings  would cover an overall period of about 3 weeks in accordance with the scheduled timeline.

The first recordings were centered on any objects capable of producing useful sounds in the living room. Initially, most of these sounds would be of a percussive nature and were designed, not to replicate, but represent the percussion sounds commonly found in many vintage drum machines and samplers. This would include sounds that would represent kick drum sounds, snare hits, high frequency content (hi hats) and other percussive elements.

Microphone Placement

The microphone placement technique throughout most of the project would be single microphone spot placing as close to the sound source as possible.

One of the first elements to be recorded was the flick of a switch from a wall socket. The idea behind recording this sound was that it would be an effective percussion sound, similar to some of the percussion sound used on modern dub step productions. 

The sound could add some variety to a loop such as simulating a snare rim shot sound. The microphone used to record this sound was an AKG C1000s and the placement technique involved placing the microphone as closely as possible to the sound source.

For recording purposes, at this point, it should be noted that Audacity would be used to record the audio into with the Line 6 UXT2 being used as the digital audio interface. Audacity is a useful piece of free software, particularly for recording samples. The interface of the program is simple to use and allows for easy editing, processing and exportation of recorded audio.

 Audacity would be used in the early stages of recording to capture the raw recorded audio from all sound sources. When it came to further editing, cutting, pasting and creation of loops, other software would be used. Reaper is more effective at performing the aforementioned tasks quickly and effectively. Reaper is an emerging DAW that provides the same functions as the established packages and can be useful in quick editing due to the simple key commands it employs for cutting and pasting audio files.

As in all instances of recording audio, it was essential to maintain a good signal level into the software, maintaining as clean and strong a signal path as possible whilst keeping a low level of noise to signal ratio negating artifacts such as hiss, pops or unnecessary clicks. The close micing technique was employed to help obtain as much of the direct signal from the sound source as possible without any real influence of early reflections or room sound which is impossible to remove at a later stage. 

By ensuring at this stage that all the raw audio sound sources were being recorded effectively, the foundation of the project would be stronger as the actual raw material that was being worked on in processing and manipulation was strong and therefore easier to produce musical and percussive sounds out of. Poorly recorded sounds with too much hiss or other undesirable or non deliberate effects would be a poor foundation on which to build the sample library as these problems would be either impossible or time consuming to rectify at a later date.

One technical aspect of digital audio recording which would be strictly adhered to in the initial recording stages, was to record the audio at 24 bit to help minimize clipping whilst recording and to maintain a wider dynamic range for the recorded audio.

 The sample rate would be 44.1 KHz as the library was to be intended for CD duplication and this sample rate would be suitable for this purpose. Some samples would later be exported at 48 KHz particularly if they were stereo samples or samples of a harmonic nature where a higher sound quality would benefit the actual sample or loop. 

The nature of the project involved recording unconventional sound sources such as light switches, dripping taps, extractor fans amongst others. 

One of the first challenges was to ascertain the exact most effective area to place the microphone when recording some of these objects. In many cases, this was straightforward with the best sound usually emanating from the most obvious point of the object. A small percussive sound such as the click from the light switch was simple with a close microphone placement at about 5cm to 10cm from the source being more than adequate to effectively capture a strong signal.

 Most of the percussive type sounds were all captured using a close micing system with the AKG C1000 being used for most of these tasks. The AKG is an effective condenser microphone with a directional cardioid and optional hyper cardioid polar pattern. Aiming the C1000 at the source at close proximity would produce the best results for the majority of percussive type sound sources.

In the next post, i'll delve a bit further into how some of the harmonic and musical sounds were recorded  for the Domestic Elements series.

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