Real Mastering and RealFeel

How does your room sound?

The following is excerpted from an live interview I did with Justin Wayne of The Justin Wayne Show last year.

We talked about a number of topics over our hour long conversation. While discussing the live recording of Bob Dylan’s album Planet Waves, we ended up discussing the room sound and the recording process.

When recording music, how important is the room sound?

It surely is one of the most important things and often, the room gets ignored. When you close mic everything, you’re pretty much ignoring the room. When you loose mic things, room becomes like an additional member of the band in a certain way.

My big beef with studios is that they’re an unnatural environment.

They bring acousticians in who change the natural acoustic characteristics of the room. They consider this their advantage in the sense that it stops leakage, meaning the sound bleeding from one track into another mic and stuff like that. But at the same time, by doing that, they suck all the natural sound out of the room. Then, you have to add back sound with all these different effects. That’s really not so cool.

The thing that we did while recording at Shangri-La was we really left the room itself as a regular room. We didn’t try to change it into being a recording studio. We did in the sense that, sure, we put things on the walls and we dealt with the floor and ceiling in a certain way that was advantageous.

You can’t just record in any old space and make it sound good because it will sound like a garage. But if you do the right things – trapping is what’s most common, but I’m a diffuser fan – you can get tremendous results very easily and very economically, as well.

The difference between a trapper and a diffuser

A trap actually traps the sound. In other words, in a bass trap, the bass frequencies will go into this area – this trap – and stay there and come back out into the room. If there was no trap, they would hit the wall and bounce back into the room.

A diffuser, on the other hand, diffuses the sound, just like its name. It breaks it up in a way that’s much more musical and much more conducive to the natural situation acoustically in a room.

Bathrooms have a certain echo to them and that echo sounds like a bathroom. You hear and you say, “That’s a bathroom.”

If you put a diffuser in a bathroom, it will still have an echo-y property, but it will lose the bathroom sound. It won’t sound like a bathroom anymore. The diffusion changes the way that things bounce back and forth on the walls, and it smooths out and makes the room more musical sounding.

Recording vocals in a steam room

I recorded the vocals for one of the songs that Rick Danko sang on the Northern Lights – Southern Cross record in the steam room – like a large bathroom. But the thing is, he was so close to the mic that it didn’t really make that much difference. A little bit.

It almost sounded like he had a reverb on there naturally. It was the song It Makes No Difference in case you want to listen to it. That was done in a steam room. That was at Shangri-La. That steam room was eventually changed into a natural echo chamber later.

Over the next few months, I’ll talk about how you can get the best room sounds, studios, and The Wingless Angels recording.