N is for Noise

I live in a noisy flat with whistling windows on the corner of a busy road. It makes recording acoustic guitars or vocals quite awkward. It’s easy to plug an electric guitar into your computer to capture it, but if you ever want to use a microphone then all sorts of external factors get in the way. Even if I manage to not catch the random bumps or clatters or engine noises that creep into my home, the recordings never come out sounding great.

Almost every time I’ve tried to record via microphone, I’ve listened back in dismay, hearing a dreadful “hsssssss” permeate the recording. There is an inevitable “noise floor” that’s going to get into your recording; nothing’s ever completely quiet. I’m simply not very good at setting up my recording equipment to minimise the background noise. And once you’ve recorded it, it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of that hiss. It’s so frustrating! But I just need to keep on practicing.

Could someone please buy me a recording studio? 😉

Careless recordings

This morning, I set up my microphone in my living room and, in the moments between buses driving past, I played my classical guitar.

I’ve mentioned before that Track 3 is a bit of a non-song. I’m not keen on it, but I’m stuck with it, as I don’t have the time to write a song to replace it. I figured I might as well try something different, so I mixed things up a little by recording the guitar parts with my classical guitar. I originally wrote the music with electric guitars in mind, and wrote an energetic drum beat for the chorus which probably won’t work so well any more, but whatevs!

They say that when producing music, nothing is more important than having great recordings to begin with. No matter how good you might be at mixing and mastering a track, you can’t polish a poo.

In the other songs that required guitars, I plugged an electric guitar straight into the computer (maybe going via some effect pedals), but I wanted to use my classical guitar this time. Classical guitars with their nylon strings can sound wonderfully wholesome and earthy. But since there is no direct way to plug one into the computer, you can’t avoid using a microphone, and it is easy for unwanted noise to get into the recording.

There are all kinds of factors to consider. It is often desirable to “deaden” the room by hanging blankets on the walls to absorb sound reflections. Reverb would be added later on to make it sound like your song was recorded in a concert hall or a cathedral or a canyon or whatever you’re into. But I’ve also read that acoustic guitars should be recorded in a real-sounding room, whatever that means. I don’t know. So much information, so little time to experiment and figure it out for myself. It’s overwhelming.

It takes lots of practice to hear sounds properly. No point stressing out, I reminded myself, and I just pointed a microphone at my guitar and played it.

So now I’ve pretty much ticked off everything on my to-do list for the writing and recording stage of the project, and just in time! Tomorrow is the start of week 9 and I am going to start mixing all my bits and pieces together into something amazing! (Positive thinking!!)