Recording In Unwelcome Environments

Often, I’ve found myself wishing I had much more knowledge on this specific topic.

Time and time again, I’ve happened to find myself in various unwelcome situations whereby I’ve got very little control over the variables, conditions, or general environment I have to record in.

However, sometimes you can put this to good use and turn something thats a disadvantage into something that breathes new life into your recordings, mixes, and much more.

So over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring the harsh environments, and the positive and negative effects that can be had and of course how to overcome them.

Let’s dive in.

Ambience as a Main Instrument

There’s not a huge amount of genres that explore this option, however, I’ve happened across more and more in the recent years - from classical, to electronic, the one main one that’s struck me as being incredibly intelligent, and stupendously creative is Lofi Hip-hop.

One particular favourite artist of mine is in fact an Instagram artist by the name of Shiloh Dynasty who regularly keeps the fidelity of his recordings low and incorporates either large amounts of self noise, general pink noise, or background noise - which brings me to this point; using ambience in the correct way, subtly yet not buried, can change the atmosphere, feel and flow of the song.

This is one of the many locations here at the base of Mount Snowdon that I chose to record (as well as take in such an amazing view). The sound of this area would be great as a backing layer in a Lofi beat, although I almost wish it had rained so I could capture the sound of it hitting the lake!

It’s a layer you end up not focusing on, yet without it the composition would feel less contrived and much flatter in timbre.

The use of various noises can be an integral part of your music if you know how to reflect the feel and emotion you’re trying to convey - such as a sense of discovery or mystery reflected by forest noise, or the deep drone style film composition reflected by winds or gentle grassy Knowles being blown - the world is quite literally a palette waiting to be explored.

Synths with Sounds

With the additions the Pigments 3 from Arturia have added recently, I’d be remiss to not mention the utility function featuring 2 oscillators, and the use of ambient noise to generate the added shimmering layer of possibility to your sound design. I’ve found the the use of this one function has helped inexplicably more than what I’d first assumed.

Using generated noise is a good way of adding attack or making electronic drums to mimic the sound of a snare wire, or the beater hitting a kick drum. When using ambience noise it becomes a totally new beast which makes this so much more personal as well.

You can quite literally record anything - so tailoring your snare sound to what you’d like it to sound like by using a short snippet of say rustling leaves or ice breaking, can make the attack and the weight of the synth you’ve chosen to make feel different depending on how much you dial in, but more so the sample of ambience that you use.

Next time, we’ll explore the pressures of recording in unwelcome environments, the obstacles you’ll likely how to overcome and the choices you’re likely to be forced to make even before hitting record. In the meantime, make sure you join our new members area on Facebook where I’ll be sharing an exclusive look into the sounds I got and how I used them!