Audio Recording (Home Studio) Noise Issues

A Review By: Alphonso Soosay

Musical instruments produce beautiful sounds and they are also capable of making unwanted sounds (noise), the release of an acoustic piano pedal, the breath of vocal sounds (wind), sounds of an acoustic guitarist left hand moving on the finger board, ringing sounds of an acoustic drum (Snares and Tom-Tom’s). Note that unwanted noises can be produced by musical instruments during the basic tracks recording sessions. These sounds can also be easily removed during the basic recording process through proper tuning, altering microphone placement, and changes in performance technique and through repairs to its musical instruments if necessary. Your multi-track recorder must be free from every unwanted studio and live performance sounds, as these sounds will be much more difficult to remove later in the final-mix procedure. Recordists must foresee the final mix down process while building-up basic tracks. Recordists have to undertake complete control of treasures of sounds during the final mix.

In spite of the fact that tranquil lighting in Home Recording Studio control room will benefit your creative audio mixes to flow, note that ceiling light dimmers have been known to home recording noise issuescause a few headaches too in some home studio situations. Some cheap wall-plate dimmer switches can be pretty coarse and often result in noisy mains supplies as well as causing acoustic buzzing from the switch unit itself. A better solution is to purchase quality dimmers or fit LED lower-wattage bulbs in the main room lighting, or to use a number of small, low-wattage decorative lights instead. Not only will this will prevent the nasty mains and buzzing wall panels, but it will also reduce your electricity bill.

Note: It may possibly be practical to create your audio recordings at late night when the world seems to be a much quieter place. Keep in mind that in a very tranquility situation it may mean that your music making will cause notable disturbance to others in the house, unless you have excellent soundproofing within your room.

The key to successful one-room recording is to maximize the separation between any ambient room noise, and the sound of the musical instrument or vocals. That means adopting close-miking as a technique and setting up the microphone as far away from the noise sources as possible, which basically means at the other end of the room. However, avoid getting too close to any boundary wall and especially the room’s corners if at all possible, as these are regions where standing waves will be made worse, and where reflected ambience will be stronger.

Directional microphones can obviously be used to advantage when there is a specific source of unwanted noise to reject and that includes reflected sound from walls, ceiling and floor as well as noise from distant equipment and its reflections.

Just like analogue recording, it is safe and sound to start your recording a few seconds before the actual performance begins. In the early days of analogue tape transports this was compulsory to prevent the clunk (plus reverb) of the pinch-roller solenoid from trashing the opening notes. In spite of this, it is still good practice with current hard disk recorders, as its noise can noticeably change when you start recording and playing back large amounts of data into the buffers, remember that changing background noises attract far more attention than constant background noise.

As a concluding point, no matter how respectable your Home Studio is, there will always be some unnecessary sounds somewhere that will need to be removed. Thank goodness, console automation and DAW editors can quickly come to the rescue: editing out the ‘silence’ between wanted material or using automation to dip its level is far superior to employing noise gates which always clip the beginnings of everything. On the other hand, if you can solve these predictable noise problems at the source itself (which is important) and experiment with microphone technique then you will not need too much in the way of such corrective issues at the final mix. Also you will be able to have more time to deal with your creative music recordings, so by planning and producing your music this way you will be developing the advantageous out of your home recording studio environment.

Alphonso Soosay

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