Mark R. Johnson


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[Amateur Recording]
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Amateur Recording
Part 1. Mechanical Noise

When doing any kind of outside recording or sampling, your biggest adversary will always be noise. This is especially true if you are working on a budget and can't afford all of the high-end equipment or staging used to acquire the cleanest possible recordings. Below is my amateur's view of how one can deal with this issue.

One of the most damaging kinds of noise you can encounter while recording in the field is mechanical noise. It is the result of vibrations being transmitted to the microphone via its physical casing. For example, someone bumps the microphone stand, or you are holding the mic in your hand and you adjust your grip, etc. Each of these situations send low frequency, high amplitude vibrations to the microphone and often overwhelm the recording.

This is probably due to the fact that sound is transmitted much better through solid matter than air: The mic is tuned to pick up the sound through air, meaning that the noise appears greatly amplified when coming through the physical matter. In any case, this type of noise can completely drown out a recording, and is nearly impossible to edit out.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution: the shock mount. A shock mount is simply a microphone holder that suspends the mic with elastics instead of a solid clip. The elastic material greatly dampens out the mechanical vibrations, cutting down on this sort of incidental mechanical noise. However, shock mounts do not entirely eliminate these vibrations, so one must still be careful not to knock the mic stand.

Shock Mount: microphone suspended by elastics within a pair of rings.

This takes care of the microphone, but the microphone cord is also a source of mechanical noise. One way to reduce the amount of noise transmitted through the microphone cord is to connect a section of very thin cord between the microphone and the primary cord. This section needs only to be a few feet long and should hang loosely along the microphone stand, effectively isolating the mic from mechanical vibrations.

In the following sections, I will continue to address the different kinds of audio noise and techniques that may be used to avoid or reduce the effects of this noise.

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Last modified 4/26/97.