Author: nalle (page 2 of 2)

Microphones

I often get the question: Which microphone is the best, or What microphone should I use, I want just one that is good for everything!

My reply is very often: How long is a piece of string?

The most common answer to that is: It depends!

And there you go! There is your answer!

It depends on what you are after!

Many seek the perfect and clear microphone sound, only to realize that it wasn’t what they were looking for. Many microphones that have been used throughout recording history that has been widely used is because they have a certain character, giving a certain sound. So in order to help you in your choice of microphone I will go through the simplified basics of different types of microphones.

Please note that this is the simplified basics, if you want to go in depth on microphones you can do so for several hours. Which is true for just about anything… 🙂

First of all – a microphone contains a membrane that registers the vibrations (or movements) in the air. It is the equivalent of our ear. So, a microphone is the ear of the audio recording chain.

Dynamic vs. Condenser Microphones

In very general terms.

*Dynamic mic’s does not need a power source, the membrane react to the movements in the air and induces a current that can be recorded.

This makes the membrane heavier to move and you often need more energy in the sound to be able to get it registered by the membrane.

*Condenser mic’s does need a power source, either a battery inside the mic itself (usually 9V battery), or phantom powered by the equipment it is connected to (usually 48V).

Since it’s already driven by power, the membrane can register smaller changes in the air, making it more sensitive that a dynamic mic (in general).
Keeping above in mind, should you want to record gentle sounds, condenser mic’s would be the natural choice, with the downside that it is more sensitive for transients (spikes) that can cause unwanted distortions. Condenser mic’s are often more clear in their sound with less colouring.

Should you want to record that are very dynamic in it’s range, rich with transients, the natural choice would be a dynamic mic. And dynamic mic’s often have their own character (all mic’s do, not only dynamic) and colouring of the sound.

To make it more complicated, I want to add two more aspects, membrane size and microphone characteristics.

The size of the membrane on the microphone is also essential as to how it registers the movements in the air. A smaller membrane often has less span to move in, making unwanted distortions more common as a result of transients in the sound.

As to where a bigger membrane often has more room for movement, making the risk for unwanted distortions due to transients less (although, that risk is always present).

Larger membrane usually gives a cleaner or cleared sound than a smaller membrane.

Microphone characteristics. This one is tricky. There are a lot of variations on how and where the microphone has it’s “optimal pickup range” in terms of direction of the sound. There are omnidirectional mics that reacts to sounds in every directions, there are directed mics that reacts to sound in a specific direction and there are variations in between. The important thing is that you know what characteristic the mic you are using have, so you can use it and place your sound source within the “optimal pickup range” of the mic.

Bear in mind (no, not beer in mind) that above is very general basics, and there are unlimited variations and examples that you can find proving above wrong by comparing different microphones. So keep reading and look for input from other sources to get a better understanding of microphones.

Last but not least, microphone usage.

General thumb rules are:

*The closer to the sound source, the greater risk for unwanted distortion, but also less of the surrounding sounds and the room itself.

*The longer from the sound source, the less risk for unwanted distortion, but also more of the surrounding sounds and the room itself.

This being said, use your creativity and experiment. Where and how do you get the sound you are looking for? Closer to the mic, or from a distance? Does it sound better if you stand in front of the mic or behind it? What happens if you mix one take in front of the mic with one take behind the mic? (Yeah, I am serious about that question!)

There is no such thing as using the mic wrong (unless you want to use it as a hammer to drive nails into the wall). Does it sound good, you are using it right. If it doesn’t sound good, change the way you are using it until it sounds goood. And by sounds good I mean sounds good in your ears!

One more quick note regarding mics. Frequency. Different mics have different frequency curves, which means that they are meant for different purposes. I.e. a large membrane mic is better at capturing low frequencies than a small membrane mic. Look at the mic’s frequency curve to match your sound source, but don’t be afraid of experimenting with mic’s. Who knows, maybe it is a good idea to record song with a mic meant for picking up kick drums? (Yeah, I am serious about that question too!)mic

What is Sound?

A very simplified explanation would be that any sound source created vibrations that propagates through the air. Even if it’s not completely true, closer to reality would be saying it causes compressions and thinning of the air. But let’s stick with vibrations for now, or even better, waves (as in soundwaves).

These waves moves like a chain reaction in the air.

When the waves reach our ear, it affects the tympanic membrane in the ear that causes a chain reaction in the mechanical part of the ear, eventually creating tiny electrical signals that our brain interprets as sound.

If we look at ourselves, our primary source of sound is the glottis in the throat. As we push air through our throat we control the glottis (or vocal cords) to vibrate and those vibrations propagates through our throat, up in the scull, getting acoustic resonance support from different chambers inside our skull and throat, finally formed by the shape and movements of our mouth and lips, exciting as spoken or sung words, or what ever we are aiming at to mimic.

Should we look at technology, the equivalent of the our glottis would be a loudspeakers. Their purpose is to get the air moving and recreate the waves (the sound) we want to listen to again. And on the other side, the equivalent of our ear would be the microphone that captures (records) the waves (the sound) we want to recreate and listen to again.

Now that we know that sound is waves that are transported through the air (or any other matter, but let’s not get into that now) there are two more things we need to understand about these waves. Amplitude and frequency.

If we look at the amplitude first. This is a way of determine the energy or the force of the wave. How hard it will hit the membrane (or ear). The harder the impact, the louder we experience the sound.

The scale the amplitude is measured in is decibel. Or deciBel, dB for short.

Now, there are a million (well, not a million, but many) different dB scales, depending if you measure the pressure of the sound or if you are into digital or analog recording, or looking at the actual electrical signal that the soundwaves generate. There are a lot of material to read about decibel, and you can start by reading the wiki article if you are interested to know more about it. It may look like greek, but it is the reason why I do not go in depth with it.

The lower the energy the sound, the lower dB value it will get (no matter what scale you use) and the more silent we experience the sound (as do the microphone).

The more energy in the sound, the higher dB value it will get (no matter what scale you use) and the louder we experience the sound (as do the microphone).

There are two aspects of amplitude that you need to be aware about. The first located in the silent part of the scale and the other in the loud part of the scale.

I start with the loud part of the scale.

Should the sound contain very much energy it is very loud, and may cause damage in our ears. Too much exposure may cause permanent damage to the ears.

As for microphones, even if the membrane not very often break due to too much energy in the sound, it still causes unwanted distortions in the signal, since the membrane can not move past it’s maximum range, even if there is more energy that keeps pushing on it.

This results in a clipped signal which you can see (if you use some kind of audio recording software) as a straight line on the soundwave.

When the energy is too much for the membrane to handle is very individual. You’ll need to test your microphone and find the boundaries it has.

General thumb rule is mic close to sound source gives a greater risk of unwanted distortion, too far from source gives too much of reflecting sound in the room, rather than the sound source itself (which may not always be unwanted).

On the other end of the scale there is when the sound is too silent. Every electronic (analog or digital) component has it’s own noise. The lower the better. And of course the lower the components self noise, the more expensive it gets (in general). If you want to read more about this, look for signal/noise ratio. The basic principle is that you want the sound from your sound source to be louder than the noise that the components emit. Much louder. A low quote between the signal and the noise means that the unwanted noise from the equipment is a big part of your wanted sound (the noise pollutes your signal).

Frequency. This is the last aspect of what sound is (that I will go into here).

The scale you measure frequency is Hertz (Hz) and what it measures is the distance between two cycles. Should you compare it to waves on the ocean, the frequency would be the distance from the top of one wave to the top of the next wave. The longer distance between the tops, the lower frequency. The shorter distance between the waves, the higher frequency. (Same example with amplitude would measure the height of the waves, the higher a wave, the more energy, giving a high dB, the lower the wave, less energy, giving a low dB.)

A low frequency gives a low (dark) sound and a high frequency gives a high (light) sound. If you sit in front of a piano, you have darker (lower) tones to your left. They have lower frequency. And to your right you have lighter (higher) tones. They have higher frequency.

The human ear can catch frequencies from 20 Hz (the lowest) and 20 000 Hz (often written as 20 kHz as in 20 kilo (1000) Herz). As we age, most of us lose the highest frequencies.

Different sound sources emit noise in different spectra of the frequency range. I.e. the human voice has a span of 200 Hz to 3000 Hz (3kHz) – roughly, a violin that has about the same range as here a cello goes from 65 Hz to 1050 Hz, and a piccolo flute around 550 Hz to 4000 Hz (4 kHz).

A strange thing about most sound sources is that you have the pitch of the sound (the precise vibration it causes) but it is not only that frequency of that tone you hear, the sound is built up by overtones and subharmonics in different combinations, which adds up to the whole character of the sound.

 

sound

What is Guide of Sound?

GoS for short. Gos in Swedish is cuddle and I really like hugs!

But this is not about hugs, it is about sound, and how to work with it and the equipment. Completely free!

My goal is to simplify and create a basic understanding, so you on your own can develop your knowledge and experience by practicing, doing, reading more, being curious and challenge yourself and the way you work with sound, and thus, gain a better understanding of what you do and what sound is.

I am fully aware that I sometimes oversimplify, and you should be aware of it too! Do not take only my words, question them and look at other sources to gain a better understanding.

I hope to inspire those who want to start, but doesn’t know where or how to start, and hopefully give a fast crash course into what sound is and how it works, along with some tips and tricks so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again.

When I have written all parts of this little guide, I will end it with a small test. If you pass that, you will get your own, completely useless, Son of Sound approved Guide of Sound diploma that you can save as an achievement. Stay tuned for all lessons! 🙂

…and one last thing, I answer questions if I can (and have time), and if something is unclear (or very wrong) please correct me or ask me to clarify, and you may put in requests for guides on things that are not in here yet (without any guarantee that I will cover them).

Enjoy!

 

sound

Inga kan Àlska som vi

Inga kan Ă€lska som vi – Noone can love as we do

Cover of the Swedish song from Grace who had this hit song.

I do not have any rights to this song!

I made this as a gift to my wife on our 5th wedding anniversary.

 

sound

Angel Island

Finally completed, Angel Island. It is (almost) the name of my hometown. Thought I had to make an EP to honor it! Ängelholm – this one is to you!

Lyrics Never Alone

When dreams are calling to you
from the great beyond
hear the breath of angels near you
as they stand beside

never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone

never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone

Whenever you feel you’re falling
and you can’t get up
they always stand beside you
ready to lift you up

never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone

never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone
you are never alone

Lyrics Angel Island part I:

So much water, so many tears
so sweet, so salty
so hard to stear

but steady on hand
course set straight
slowly approaching land
with the city in seight

Angel Island
only ment for a few
Angel Island
hidden in the misty dew

Angel Island
where love is free for all
Angel Island
not devided by a single wall

no king, no nobles
ever walked these streets
no trace of war
victory or defeat.

holy ground,
with dignity and pride
respect and love
with nothing to hide

Angel Island
only ment for a few
Angel Island
hidden in the misty dew

Angel Island
where love is free for all
Angel Island
not devided by a single wall

 

Lyrics Faithful:

I close my eyes and see the world spinning
this is not the end, it is a new beginning
a journey without start or destination
a journey we should all be celebratin’

no loose ends, no hidden agenda
both God and Angels without gender
bring it in, bring it on, come on, get in
step up, get down, swirl around

get jetlag in the jetstream
get lost in a vivid dream
but I tell you this, my sister and brother
we are all in this together

and have faith I tell you
I am faithful
noone will get lost
I am faithful

 

Lyrics Angel Island part II

Angel Island, only meant for a few
Ange Island, hidden in the misty dew

 

 

Angel-Island

The Somethings

This EP is the result of me challaning myself. I randomised a soundsetup and had to complete this EP without changing either of the sounds. For the third song I had to cheat a bit and add song. Enjoy!

The bonus track, available for download if you buy the full EP on Bandcamp.

Lyrics Another Something

There is a lot of song with words
about this and that and love and stuff
but this song ain’t about that

It’s not even a song about something
not even nothing
it about another something
yeah, another someting

 

the_somethings2

EP:IC

There might be a bonus track if you buy the EP trough Band Camp! 🙂
(but it’s so not worth it… the last song is an internal joke between me and John Marwin)

Lyrics IC

I C, you & me
togerther, like integrated circuitry
Our chip is not for sail
Our love is not retail

 

Lyric Never forget 303

Never forget 303

 

Lyric Candyman (aka My most honest song)

don’t eat my chocolate cake now
please let my cookies be
don’t even taste my candy

all sweets are nessesry
don’t take a single bite
leave all the candy to me

 

Lyric The Beatless

In the 60’s there was a quartet of fine young men
doin’ something that had never been done before.
There was a John and a Paul and a Geogre and Richard
and that last guy he was a real Starr!

He had style he had rythm he had the beat,
But I, little me, little I, little me, am beatless.

Help, I need somebody, to help me
with the rhythm, with the beat
I need help with the beat
‘caus I am beatless

Because I, little me, little I, little me, am beatless.

They changed the world, changed music, changed the world took a great leap forward.

But I, little me, little I, little me, am beatless.

Like sgt Pepper in the army they charged forward
winning battle after battle after battle
No guns they used only their music
peace was goal was their hope was their goal

But I, little me, little I, little me, am beatless.

 

 

epic

Back on track

I was very active in producing music in my youth, but then I had a long gap where music creation was not a common part of my life. But then, all of a sudden, I felt the urge to start again. Back on track is my first EP in many years, the start of a new era. I’m back on track…

 

back-on-track

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