Field recording

i use field recordings as backgrounds to pretty much everything i make, but especially ambient + electroacoustic songs. sometimes the field recs are given the same focus as the melodies themselves. for example, skydance: the bird sounds naturally, gradually come to the foreground as dozens of hummingbirds in the eucalyptus grove surge into joyful, noisy squabbling at the same serendipitous moment.

i record local nature sounds: birdsong, wind and leaves, rainfall, trickling streams, shuffling footsteps across a dusty trail, ocean waves. these are memories of a specific time and specific place, and they help bring home the other instrument sounds in the song. i put them all together to convey to the listener what it was like to be in that one place at that time of day or night, and all the beauty of the natural world around it.

i generally do some light EQing in software, using the basic ableton live EQ8. most of my sounds are recorded in busy urban or suburban environments, so i have to be careful about noise leakage from the world outside the nature preserve. i usually spend awhile listening before pressing “record” on my H5; asking myself questions like “is there a prevalent unwanted noise source direction (traffic, planes),” “what frequency is that noise; does it overlap the desirable nature sound too much,” and so on. so i’ll know where i need to aim the mic capsule, and how close i’ll need to get, if i need to isolate certain sounds.

i generally try not to process the recordings at all; only doing very light subtractive EQ–anything too heavy tends to erase the fullness of the sound, as well as the specifics that made it memorable and special. when placed in a song, they’re left as-is, aside from perhaps editing for length. my goal is to share the wide-eyed wonder of the natural world, so i let the recorder run as long as possible, listening to how things change over time. i generally use just one or two of those recs in a song; ideally, one long uninterrupted recording that runs for the full length of the piece. though i might need to combine a few sessions from a fieldrec outing, if i was only able to get smaller bits and pieces that day.

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the noise concept is always super interesting. I don’t really view anything as noise personally. I’m always interested in capturing what I hear, even if it’s like cars mixed with birds or something.

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ok whoa. I’ve done the windy fence thing before but this is a whole new level.

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I’m not sure if this falls into the same category, but lately I’ve been grabbing samples from a web SDR for stuff. It’s been a great source of noise, voice, music, and everything in between and it’s gotten me interested in field recording in general. Anyone doing stuff like this?

Once I’m out of the money hole I’m gonna pick up a recorder and get into this more.

this is the SDR I use the most
http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/

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it’s my secret weapon. i have some hardware decoders for sdr stuff that i use with various length antennas, and the cool thing is that they work without internet signal, so you can use them in un-traditional places.

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Today I visited the local quarry and did some recording. I also attempted to make a vlog out of it.

I’m not entirely sold on the presentation, it’s just a little weird trying to fit field recording into a reasonable video. Criticism is welcome!

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Interesting idea. I like the format and video, but it would be nice to hear longer sound examples. You can probably credit watchers of a field recording vlog to have a certain degree of patience!

Where was it? Is it an actively working quarry? I felt concerned for your safety (on future expeditions) somewhat…

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Way better than my attempts, and exactly what I’ve always wanted to see! I think it’s great and the only criticism I can think of is the distant shot of you recording looked a little awkward - maybe just keep the cam with you at all times?

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Yeah this thread has been a lot on the equipment side of things lately, but if you scroll back, there’s been several moments where the discussion was more about the process.

Another thread you might want to check:
Field Recording Performance and Organization

It definitely would be. That’s something I hope to work on in the future. I mostly didn’t do that this time around because I get tired of just standing there, and my recordings were often interrupted by a gust of wind, which was a problem because I was unable to attach the windbubbles to my mics. But yes, more long-form stuff would be ideal and is in the works.

Yeah, it really is. Ideally, I don’t really think the mikroUši’s are perfectly suited for this style of recording. I’d much rather just set up a pair of mics on a tripod and take a step back. But my Uši Pro’s are on preorder, so hopefully that will work itself out in time.

I believe it’s active. I went there on a Sunday though, so there wasn’t anyone around. And yeah, safety is always a bit of a concern kinda, but I have a long-standing habit of sticking my nose into places I shouldn’t, and thereby putting myself at some level of “risk”. This is never the intention behind going to these places, mind you, I just think I’m sometimes either oblivious to obvious dangers or I have a bit of self-destructiveness in me. It’s something to work on, but I appreciate your concern. :slight_smile:

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nice, keep it simple and fun! :slight_smile:

I just think maybe showing your perspective - what you’re looking at/recording - would be more intriguing than just your back.

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Nice, thanks for sharing!

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I agree, definitely.

i have two reasons why i generally only want to include nature sounds in my recordings.

the first is aesthetic. the sudden roar of a car or plane is invasive, intrusive. they disrupt the tranquility of the place and time, and of the gentle melodic music that will eventually be paired with those nature sounds. very occasionally i’ll use parts of a noisy recording as accents, or after heavy processing and sampling for e.g. rhythmic beats. but mostly, i find human-produced noise to be detrimental, clashing with the rest of a song, and would rather present, in sound, the delicate fragility of a beautiful natural place, before it vanishes.

the second is practical, related to deafness & disability. as my hearing loss progressively worsens, it’s extremely difficult to distinguish one sound or frequency from another. leaving everything “as-is” in a recording, without any attempt at on-location isolation, makes it impossible for me to perceive and understand the quieter, more delicate, nuanced sounds of nature – a bird calling softly, leaves falling, the crunch of dirt, a rustle of wind, tiny raindrops. the broad-spectrum sounds of human activity & traffic wash out all the moments i really want to focus on and share with the listener.

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watched it yesterday and quite liked it! It’s interesting to see the places the sounds come from, even if one of the things I like about field recording is that you experience places just from their sounds.
The only thing I would have liked to see a bit more is how you recorded the sounds, though I guess that might be tricky for you, since it seems you are doing this alone.

well art + microphone technology working together toward that end is a really beautiful thing

Couldn’t quite work out the most appropriate thread but should be of interest to some:

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It’s also on mixcloud now:

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Today I visited a local mall with my mikroUši’s and recorded a few ambiences there.

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