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Room Acoustics

Lesson 9 from: Gear Gods presents Studio Pass: Kurt Ballou

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

9. Room Acoustics

Lesson Info

Room Acoustics

Talking to some guys here over lunch and I realized that I was a little bit slack on some my conversation about acoustics and the acoustics of the room in which you're working in and how to get the most out of that. So I just want to touch on that briefly before moving on. So we talked a lot about the room, my techniques that I have, where I defuse the microphones and amusing in my in my live room. So my live room is about, I think it's about fifteen feet by, about twenty five or thirty feet so it's a medium size, at least in studio terms it's, a medium sized live room, and it has, uh, these clouds in the ceiling, which are made of owens corning seven oh three, which is a basically like you know, imagine if you could take like, a two foot thick piece of that pink insulation for your house and compress it down to a a stiff board of about two inches, and that is that's just useful for broadband trapping. You'll see a lot of studios, they'll have this like foam stuff on the walls, and I w...

ould discourage you from using that in your own studio or your own your own mixed room foam is great for absorbing midrange and higher frequency sounds like the sound of a human voice cool for that stuff but as soon as you have anything with any low in content the foam stuff is pretty useless so you end up with um with you know if a foam is your only acoustical treatment then you end up having a room that's muffled in the high frequencies but still resident in the low frequencies and you end up with the pretty unbalanced frequency response in your room so what I have in my room above the drum set is the seven oh three stuff actually maybe seventy five forget the the model numbers but that's just above the drum set and floating on the ceiling in the whole live room and it's it's sort of hanging down about a foot from the ceiling so sound can bounce around behind it it's not just flush with the ceiling you know there's this um air gaps aroun does that sound could get behind it and it absorbs on both sides and that helps control bass frequencies from bouncing around too much with in the room. I also have some diffusers which is sort of designed to stagger when reflections come back and you it takes rather than sure some point you've like spoken or had to play the drum sort of right in front of a big flat wall and you can hear a distinct echo of that drum coming back at you if you have a diffuser like the slats that you see in the photos of my studio or like this cure de diffuser behind me on this wall that sort of staggers when those delays are and you start to perceive the delay mohr as reverb unless as a specific delay a lot of a lot of very short delays which happened in the size rooms that were used to working in you actually don't hear those as delay you hear them as comb filtering so you go back let's go back for a second to our earlier conversation about phase so the way that you hear very short discrepancies and faces actually not as a delay but as an excuse so if you're in a room that has all these kind of short reflections you're actually hearing a sort of change in the room you're not proceeding it as a delay so by diffusing those reflections you sort of neutralized some of the the uneven frequency response curves of your room so great great sounding rooms typically have some sort of mix of absorption and diffusion my my studio was designed by a guy named wesley show and he's he's great at what he does there's certainly other other people out there and there's a lot of d I y information out there as well too and you know I employ into our employee you teo put a little bit of work into the sound of your recording space before he's not according in there, because it'll it'll dramatically improve the tones of your recordings and then try to choose techniques appropriate for your recording space, like the kitchen at creative live is this big room with all brick walls and tall ceilings, and that, like defused room mike technique that I talked about earlier, I probably wouldn't use that. If I happen to be recording drums in that kitchen, I'd probably be doing the opposite. I'd be finding ways teo tighten up the sound around the drums, and I'd probably find some kind of baffle or some sort of walls, or maybe it's an unused guitar cabinets, or do something to kind of clothes in the space around the drum set. So think about the room in which your recording and as an extension of the instrument that you're recording and try to make the tone of the instrument's sound correct in the room before you even start to make it, and the same is true for your control room. You know this this whole thing is as a cumulative the result of many small decisions that you're making in the better, the better sounding your control room is, and your speakers are the better able you are to make good decisions, so you know very small control rooms with low ceilings or, you know, a lot of hard, reflective surfaces. Can be difficult to properly judge the sound coming out of the speakers at a friend's studio recently and he has a quite a small control room and his left speaker's like here and then his rack is right there and I was noticing that everything on the left side sounded really weird we got a piece of like absorbing material and put it in front of the rack and realize that all of a sudden it sounded way better just because of the reflections coming off the gear we're really affecting how he was hearing stuff off the left, the other another freaking problem is for you know if if you have a smaller room without any kind of absorption or diffusion, you know, so again left speaker say you've got a you know, a hard surface just to your left each time sound reflects off a hard surface and loses about six decibels, which is significant but not insignificant. So the sound you're getting you know the left speaker might take, you know, to feed or three feet or something like that to get to your left ear. But then there's also some sound from that speaker bouncing off that wallace may be coming back to your ear and after combined length of six feet or eight feet and that's such a short time delay that you hear that is comb filtering it's it's a it's a uh, you know, you hear it's any hugh imbalance, so you're not getting a real true representation of what's coming off the speakers. You can try putting some absorption material sort of at your level on the walls, on either side of you there's a guy, and I know fairly well in the boston area where I'm from called mike michael black markers in acoustician ah lot of his rooms and this is pretty easy to build yourself. If you have a little bit skills, a carpenter, his rooms, he doesn't do a lot of absorb much treatments in the walls beside him, held he'll build these ramps to take this signal, I think usually does about fifteen degrees, so, like, the signal will bounce off the left wall and then hit this like fifteen degree ramp and be reflected into the ceiling, and then he has a bunch of absorbing materials in the ceiling. So for the for the reflected sound of that left speaker tio come back to you, it has to bounce around the room a few times and it's most horrible stuff and get a few still, by the time it gets back to you, the reflections are no longer have a direct relation to the the speaker sound so if you have ah controlling that built well, that has, you know, or even if it's, just in your bedroom. You, khun even set up cem cem mobile, though. Panels that could just help tighten up the sound of your room, you'll be able to make better decisions and ultimately do better engineering. So that's, pretty much what I had to say about acoustics and there any questions before we move on? Tio talking about drum tracking? Well, let's. See about that. What I think for you guys here have any questions? Anyone in the room? So I was this's going back to drum set up. Look, I was curious about your workflow as faras seemed like you were sending up overheads first and not even being concerned with anything else and getting those right and then moving on. How do you do that? Yeah, well, workflow for me is that was a little bit of a special case for this class, because I knew that I wanted I chose those mikes. I do sometimes use amount overheads, but I chose those mikes primarily because of the switchable pola patents. And I knew that I wanted to demonstrate a few different positions and polar patterns on you that I could use those mikes for overheads and for room so basically, just plug him into a mic cramp one's set some game and then moved him around and just to the pattern. So that's, why I started with overheads and in this particular case, typically I'll get the drum set, set up, get the drummer comfortable and then mike the entire kit with what might best first guesses as to what I think will work for them. And, of course, I'll go back and change microphones and move positions as I as needed. But however, um, as I'm as, um getting tones, I'm not the kind of guy who does the typical like front of house and near thing where it's, you know, bass drum first than snare, then rack toms, I usually start with the ambient likes, so I get, like, the broad brush picture of the kid first, usually the first thing that I listen to is thie overheads, and then and then the room mikes, and then I start to bring in all the close mikes, and I usually start by having the drummer just sort of run through the record play, play the songs that you're going to be playing at the intensity that you're going to be playing them, so I get a realistic impression of how they're going to playing on the record and, uh, you know, then then you know, start by getting everything on and kind of happening and then once them at that point then I kind of go back and start saying like all right, let me hear the kick and solo I didn't start start checking phase and check for polarity between the various mike's sort of at the end of the process and then I'll have them run through the whole kid again and make sure everything's working with each other and sort of find it got a question from kid pyramid so when you use the figure eight polar pattern on a space to pair how do you negate phase issues from river from the ceiling? Uh well uh in the case of my studio you know, like I was just describing an acoustic segment that I have a cloud above the drum set so that's doing broadband absorption of you know everything from low frequencies up through high frequencies so I don't have a ton of those reflections, but yeah, it is it is an issue in certain rooms if you have ah more like a reflective ceiling, you have to be really careful about that, especially if you're recording like if you're doing like a basement recording or something like that anywhere with this low ceilings you've got to be really careful about that figure eight pattern and we'll probably be going with cardio in the same thing holds true with omni directional microphones one more, maybe, from a fret lord, just wondering if there's a better quality of sound when a drummer tracks at louder volumes, in other words, is louder, better? Um, yeah, to a certain extent yet we'll also depends on the tone of the song, the record, I mean, most of the stuff that I record, I would say medium hard is the best, and that depends on the drummer there sticks, you know, like a heavy stick sound different in light sticks and nylon tips sound different than would tips and, you know, different heads happened, you know, I feel like a ah a drum itself has a natural compression, or maybe maybe it's a result of the drumming and the drumhead that there's like a a sort of a minimum intensity need teo get a tone out of the drum and then there's also a maximum intensity where you're hitting it harder and harder, but it's not getting louder. It's just getting more dead. Um, and so a great drummer knows howto play within that window for for their drum set and the heads that they're using in there, playing style and or if they're on an unfamiliar kit, they you know they have enough feedback coming off the off the drum set that they can compensate foreign hit hit lighter or harder the titanium snare drum of mine that I mentioned earlier. One of the reasons why I really liked that drama's it seems to have a wider dynamic range than a lot of other drums have recorded, you know you could hit it really quietly and still get tony out of it and then you just keep getting harder and harder and just it responds to you and grows with us as you grow in volume and then symbols medium eyes what I like for symbolize the thie great the greatest drummers for me hit very consistently in volume regardless of whether they're playing faster, slow or thurman ride like this when they're on the high hat there stare still be hitting the same spot playing similar volume all the time it's you know it's a blast speed or if it's super slow be what happens? A lot of drummers get like they're playing the super hard thing and they're like, oh then here comes the easy part oh yeah, I could finally write rock out this is so fun but it's sort of awful as a recording engineer because you have this great disparity of volume between two segments, so few khun sort of really work hard to play consistent on things that are maybe a little faster or more challenging for you and if you can also work hard, it reeling in your enthusiasm when there's something easy to play the same thing happens to like when you know slow and easy people tend to push the tempo and like fast and hard people tend to drag the temples to tryto become aware if your drummer to become aware of your own natural tendencies and avoid avoid that and rehearsing even if you don't record to a click track rehearsing to a click track can really help point out your own natural inconsistencies and that's that's true for any any instrumentalist but especially remember how much do you uh you know some people are very directive of the drummer when they're tracking like hit harder hit softer they'll really and keep tracking and over and over and over until they're hitting at the volume that you think is correct you know how how much do you how directive are you in that sort of situation? I mean if something's really off all encourage people but I'm not typically working with a band long enough that I can afford to spend the time to really do that and I'm not in the business of changing people too much, you know, tryingto capture and enhance what they're doing rather than change them you know, like I always say that I'm I'm making their record they're not making my record so I'm just trying to do the best with what I have but I will often try to plant the seed in a drummer's mind that, like, hey, next time you come in here and record here's some things that you could work on without without putting them on the spot, making him feel as though I feel like they're inferior player or something like that, you just wanna give them words of encouragement or things that I think that they can improve upon the next time just be like, next time, you could probably just stay home. Yeah, I mean, you know, I know you guys have done stuff with with aol, and he has certainly much different approach on drummers, and I think the bands that he records are, you know, really concerned about perfection or affection in that in that in that really polished finish product and that's, the kind of aesthetic they're going after for me and the bands that I typically record, you know, I think they're more concerned about making something that's, a reflection of who they are or maybe an optimized version of what they are, who they are. But, you know, feeling like, you know, a group of people participating, something you together and, you know, making the record that's, their record is usually their goals, so I'm not not typically trying to replace me on members, but sometimes I want to

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

GodCity Salem Impulses

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

I've been engineering out of my home studio for the past 7 years. I recently graduated from college for studio production and recording bands has been my main source of income for the past 5 years or so. Honestly, this course was incredible and completely worth the $100. Kurt Ballou truly understands the art and he really got me excited to be a recording engineer. I already knew a lot of the techniques and details he went over, but he presented his ideas so intelligently that I was happy to sit through the topics that focused on beginners. I'm not a huge metal or hardcore fan, but Kurt has amazing taste in the way he produces these bands. It's hard to listen to some of the releases today that have the life sucked out of their music with full-on drum replacement and crazy amounts of autotune. It was just refreshing to listen to an engineer who totally knows what makes rock music exciting. This class is worth checking out even just to watch a successful modern engineer show you the basics of his craft.

Fariz Junaini

This was a great course to pick apart the brain of The Kurt Ballou, but I felt some of the topics could be presented a little better and went more in-depth in like the framework of the mixing process. I fell like if you don't have an understanding of basic audio engineering you would be pretty lost but thank god I knew enough to get me through. But nonetheless, Kurt shared some pretty interesting techniques like the crossover method. Love this guy! Hope to see more of him!

a Creativelive Student

This course has been the most comprehensive I have watched concerning the art of audio manipulation. The points made in terms of phase relationships, mic technique, and polarity are valuable insight into getting good sound. My personal favorite was the way he edits toms. All the content is good stuff and well worth your money. Icing on the cake in the included IR samples. I purchased the course for $79. I love you Kurt!

Student Work