Tracking in Less Than Ideal Space (read: Apartment)

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cjac9
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Tracking in Less Than Ideal Space (read: Apartment)

Post by cjac9 » Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:05 am

I work with very low budget clients in San Antonio and though we can usually get into a proper studio for tracking basics, quite a few overdubs and often lead vocals have to be tracked at my apartment. I have a "control room" (read: spare bedroom) that I've treated relatively well - it's far from perfect but better than most home studios.

My "tracking space" (read: living room) is another story. Concrete floors, very high ceiling, parallel sheetrocked walls. I have no treatment in this room, unless you count a few rugs.

How would you guys go about tracking in the "TRACKING ROOM" without any permanent treatment and without ending up with a totally dead recording? I'm thinking something like the RealTraps PVB would be a little too dead, but I could be wrong.

FWIW I'm not interested in tracking the control room it's very cramped to do so.

Thanks everyone!

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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:43 pm

Depending on the space, it can be ok to very good/great. A lot depends on how you mike. If you're doing drums, I'd go with close mikes as the main sound, and judiciously fill with overheads and room mike(s) to taste (basically, my formula for drums wherever we are tracking).

There are some great articles/tips/how-to's on this sort of thing in TapeOp mag as well as threads here, and all over the web (Google search).

Same basic idea if you're doing guitars; look/listen for a space that the amp sounds good in, mike it up, listen, and record.

If you are doing vocals, and you have enough room and separation from any noise-making gear, I'd consider doing them in the control room (I know you said you didn't want to, but if that room is already treated, why not?). Otherwise, again, look and listen for an appropriate place, and treat as necessary (even temporary things like blankets, sheets, and pillows can be helpful, but the studio-ubiquitous packing/moving blankets are always a great asset; if you don't have any, go to U-Haul or any pro storage facility to pick-up a few).

Here are some drums that we did in a nice, but not perfect, living room, with no extra treatment (just the rugs and furniture that was there, most of which we moved out of the way)... this comes from our MySpace page, which I have tried desperately to dump, but since they are forcing me to have it, and it's the only current posting I have of this tune-- check-out the excerpt of "(Always) The Poor;" I think the bass may have been tracked live in a separate room, too:

http://www.myspace.com/greggjukeandthem ... r-20615990

GJ

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Post by Gregg Juke » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:47 pm

PS-- An old aquaintance had a studio that was basically his only visible means of support, in his second story apartment, for _years_ before purchasing a home with a big enough basement.

You can make less-than-ideal situations work. He did lots of drums and percussion there, too. You have to work when nobody else is there to complain, of course, and hopefully you're not bothering a night-shift worker, or alerting any less-than-savory neighbors to exactly which apartment to rob.

GJ

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Post by cjac9 » Mon Aug 29, 2011 7:40 pm

Thanks everyone! I'll go ahead and say I'm not tracking drums. Mainly acoustic inst. and vox.

Is there a standard, easily repeatable way of reducing the amount of reflections entering a mic?

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Post by cgarges » Mon Aug 29, 2011 10:59 pm

Those SE Reflection Filter things are kind of expensive, but they really do work. I think it's important to pay attention to the space around the mic as well as the space around the performer.

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Post by cjac9 » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:09 pm

Hey Chris-
I'm thinking the SE thing might be the ticket for this space. Any thoughts on that vs. the RealTraps one?

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Post by cgarges » Mon Aug 29, 2011 11:19 pm

I hadn't seen the Real Traps thing until now.

To me, there are a few disadvantages to the Real Traps thing. It's big and bulky and if you wanted to use it in a tracking scenario where there was more than one performer and eye contact was necessary, that might be problematic. It also seems like the Real traps thing is just a couple of thinnish panels, which is probably fine for most overdub-type situations, but I like that the SE Filter has an air gap behind the panel. It's not like that's going to trap much low frequency information, but it's got to help some and I like that design.

I haven't used the Real Traps thing, but the SE Filter works. I don't own one, but had one on loan for about two weeks. The only time it wasn't totally effective for what it's supposed to do was when I used it with a bidirectional mic. That caused some problems with reflections from the rear of the mic, but otherwise, it worked great.

I see that there are some audio comparisons on the Real Traps page saying that the SE Filter has some kind of coloration going on. Isn't that, um, what's supposed to happen? I guess I need to listen to those clips and see what's going on.

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Post by cjac9 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:54 pm

Just got a reflexion filter on eBay. Can't wait to try it out!

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Post by bronsonmestizo » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:31 pm

Great advise here so far... +1 Gregg. Move the kick drum around the room and have the drummer hit it. Move it around until it sounds great... Then set up the rest of the kit in that spot.

My living room: Wood floors, 14 ft. ceilings about 18'x20'. The ceilings make such a nice difference... However, my place has a traditional foundation which is in essence a floating wood floor over dirt. If you're tracking drums, you may consider some sort of riser? I know you said impermanent, but the riser would be portable and would significantly reduce a world of frequency problems due to the density of cement floors. Just a thought.

If your client isn't too uppity, you can always drag in a mattress, stand it up in defiance of gravity, place a chair on each side and ratchet strap it all together. This is a free room divider. I've done this on MANY projects. Also, sofa cushions, or a whole sofa are great for this. In fact, I often use my couch as my lyric stand and point the back of my Beesneez in fig. 8 at the couch (2' to 3' away) and the null at my guitar. The couch helps keep the guitar's high end and early reflections out of the vox mic, while still allowing later, more defused reflections.

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Post by themagicmanmdt » Sun Sep 04, 2011 6:01 pm

another suggestion (from the internet peanut gallery that everyone is, in a way)...

perhaps all you need is good diffusion. and, i may add, not necessarily a 'professionally manufactured' diffusion.

but, actually, stuff in the room. add a sofa, actually. it's the poor man's bass trap! make an 'L' in the most offensive corner, add some heavy thrift store pillows at the nook.

for the walls - scatter your parallel surfaces - ie - try not to have TOO much bare wall facing each other without something interesting on the other side. yeah, you can do something like a hanging rug....but that tames the high end. scatter it. may i suggest....cut wood hemispheres? you can hang them like a picture frame - get some firewood or something similar, go to lowes and get cheap stuff to hang them all around. make sure they don't rattle by maybe adding a little felt to the noisy ones. think out of the box like that - see what's around the fill the room up with some random stuff - move the stuff around to make the room sound good - !

try to think, other than rugs on the floor and some sofas - in terms of the rest being diffusion - then just move whatever you're recording around the room to taste. listen. listen, listen, move around, listen again, move the mic and the singer, listen, move the amp around a bunch, listen, mic, listen.
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Post by bronsonmestizo » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:00 pm

Speaking of Lowe's, they have a product called "Soundboard." It's similar to rigid fiber in application minus all of the airborne toxic fibre. It's CHEAP! It's also cardboard colored on one side and black on the other. It's great light weight, rigid and dense for isolation or diffusion like cjac9 suggested.

Bookshelves, filled w/ books work great as well.

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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:36 pm

Head over to the nearest U-Haul and see if they sell shipping blankets (some locations do, some don't). Shipping blankets draped over boom stands make a quick and easy vocal booth. You can make it as big or small as you need. Leave one or 2 sides open for more room, move all 4 sides in tight for a dryer sound. Lower one side to give the performer a sight-line to other players.
They won't do much good if you're trying to isolate multiple sources but they'll do wonders for taking the room sound out of the mic.
+1 on couches and rugs helping. Book cases are also a good diffuser.

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Post by cgarges » Mon Sep 05, 2011 4:18 pm

bronsonmestizo wrote:Speaking of Lowe's, they have a product called "Soundboard." It's similar to rigid fiber in application minus all of the airborne toxic fibre...rigid and dense for isolation or diffusion like cjac9 suggested.
Which is it? Rigid fiberglass is ideal for absoption, not diffusion. They're two completely opposite things.

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Post by cjac9 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 4:34 pm

Thanks everyone, I received my reflexion filter in the mail and will be trying that out. I'm going to have to get creative with the furniture and packing blankets for the rest because I can't install anything. Great suggestions so far though!

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Post by bronsonmestizo » Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:24 pm

cgarges wrote:
bronsonmestizo wrote:Speaking of Lowe's, they have a product called "Soundboard." It's similar to rigid fiber in application minus all of the airborne toxic fibre...rigid and dense for isolation or diffusion like cjac9 suggested.
Which is it? Rigid fiberglass is ideal for absoption, not diffusion. They're two completely opposite things.

Chris Garges
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My mistake! I mean to say, you could use "Soundboard" for isolation IN CONJUNCTION WITH... I'm only suggesting things i have used to good effect. What's more, your suggestions are spot on, Chris.
Soundboard is $7 per (4'x8') sheet... Fits the budget. It does not spec out with 705 in temp. or sound coefficients etc., but is a HELL of a lot cheaper and very effective for the price. I'm sticking with my mattress suggestion...

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