The Many Places of Reverb


This dorky video fabulously demonstrates the power of place in making a sound recording. Without any processing other than editing, the video seamlessly depicts a drummer playing the same piece of music in a wide variety of acoustical settings – small rooms, large rooms, near brick walls, metal walls, rural fields with soft foliage, open spaces with different topological features or concrete-and-glass urban structures, so on and so forth. The various acoustical ambiences are starkly contrasted showing how delays (the sound “delayed” from its initial emanation) and reverberations (the “copies” of the initial sound) are manifested in different places. A snare drum is struck in a wall-less abandoned garage with hundreds of angled concrete surfaces and we hear a long deep almost ridiculous whoosh of sounds. The same snare is struck in a small messy mechanic’s garage and the sound is a clattery metallic splat. In all of these shots, I assume that the microphone is arranged far enough away from the source (the drumset) to capture all of the crazy sounds of the environments.

This is why I always recommend that you take a moment to listen to the space you are in before you record any sound. What do you hear in that space? A lawn mower next door? The Highway a few blocks over? The refrigerator running in the kitchen? Can you understand what the person next to you is saying when there is more than one person talking in the library lobby? Depending on what you are trying to capture, the place & the microphone placement will radically change how your recording will sound.

If you are recording an interview – it is almost always better to mic as close as you can to your subject. More often than not, you are trying to clearly capture what the subject is saying rather than where they are. Close-miking captures the sound from its source, where it is loudest. The further that the mic is placed from the source of the sound, the more hear the ambiance or “feel” of the place that your are recording in. With a little bit of aural awareness and good mic placement, you can make recordings that do not need a bunch of effects to have a lot of character.

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