In this article, we’ll be focusing on answering one crucial question: is it better to record in a small room?
Well, we all know that sound travels differently in rooms that vary in size and shape. The good news is that by implementing the principles of acoustic treatment and understanding the way sound waves travel through a room, you can get the exact result you want.
Is It Better To Record In A Small Room
The decision of what room to choose to record in should be based on your musical idea and needs. Sometimes choosing the size of the room can be a tricky task, but knowing who and what exactly you plan to record in it, makes it easy. For example, if you want to record a band playing or a choir signing, you should definitely choose a big room. But if you want to record a vocalist and a few instruments, then it’s better to do it in a small room.
While not all of us, music producers, can afford to record in a studio, sometimes it is definitely worth it. It’s highly beneficial, as you don’t need to spend extra on acoustically treating your place and purchasing equipment. If it’s not an option, you can always record at home, choosing between the bathroom, walk-in closet, or living room as your main recording place. You should spend some time on the acoustic treatment of the chosen room, making sure that room is equally good for recording as well as for mixing and mastering stages.
Recording in a small room
When you have to record one vocalist and instruments as an arrangement, you can do it in a small room. When you are recording vocals, it’s better not to do it in the closet. Even if you put in the closet a lot of soft things and hand clothes everywhere, there is a good chance that reflections will be amplified.
Before you start the recording process, you should acoustically treat the room so that you get the sound that you want without any unpleasantries, such as noises or reflections. While doing that, it’s good to keep in mind that to achieve a lively sound. The room should be of irregular shape, which doesn’t mean that you have to demolish the walls or build new ones. Instead, you can add bookcases and sound diffusers. Treating the room for both recording, mixing, and mastering might be a bit challenging task. Because for mixing and mastering, you need the room to be dead, and for recording, the same room needs to produce a lively sound.
Does the size of the room actually matter?
Some may argue that it is better to record in larger rooms because they are spacious and let sound waves bounce more before beating the wall. Recording in a small room may present a lot of issues, but nothing serious, which could not be dealt with acoustic treatment. Now, we want to talk about 4 types of rooms based on the size in which the recording can take place, such as a vocal booth, small room, studio, and big room.
While vocal booths vary in size, they all are based on the same principle, which is the isolation of the performance and making it sound crispy. The vocal booth is always insulated by sound-absorbing panels, which suppress any unwanted frequencies. Nowadays, on the market, one can find different vocal booths which are portable and can surround the microphone or ones that can be placed in the recording studio.
Small rooms, especially if treated correctly, can be a good place to record. Depending on the acoustic treatment, you can get a bit of short and dull reverberation.
Studios are always acoustically treated in the right way, and the sound that you achieve depends on the character of the treatment.
When we say big rooms, we mean concert halls or cathedrals. It can be quite beneficial to record in such rooms, only if you specifically need such sound with lots of reverberations and space.
Generally speaking, it is a great idea to record in a room that is dead because it provides you with neutral sound, which is easy to work and adds any amount of character that you need. It might happen that you like the sound of the room where you are recording, and it is absolutely okay.
Sometimes you can record in a room that can be very bright if it’s exactly what you need for your idea. But you may face certain problems when you are collecting the mix together, such as having an excessive reverb that sounds unpleasant and muddy, and there is little that can be done to get rid of it.
Pros and cons of different rooms
Speaking in favor of recording in the vocal booth, we should mention that owning one would help you to achieve a much cleaner sound by isolating the instrument or vocals from all other sounds. Secondly, the vocal booth eliminates any reverb or echo. Thirdly, recording in a vocal booth saves you a lot of time on the mixing stage. Lastly, the vocal booth lets you control the recording environment, which is utterly important if you record vocals. Vocalists shouldn’t worry about being distracted and should be able to focus on the task at hand.
The disadvantage of recording in the vocal booth is that you need to invest some money to construct or purchase it.
Speaking about the advantages of recording in a small room, we can say that it’s relatively easy to control reverberations. Secondly, you don’t have to spend that much to treat a small room.
Recording in a studio has many advantages, such as it has a proper acoustic treatment. Secondly, you can find all the needed equipment. Thirdly, you can ask for help if you recognize that you have a problem with your recording.
Among the obvious disadvantages, we can say that it is much pricier than recording in a treated room at home. Also, you don’t have infinite time.
The benefit of recording in a big room such as a concert hall or cathedral is that you get sound that is rich in reverberations and is spacious. Among the disadvantages of concert halls or cathedrals is that you may spend lots of time setting microphones so that they will catch all nuances of the sound. Also, to treat such big places as concert halls, cathedrals, and hangars, will be pretty expensive.
Recording in a big room
When we talk about a big room, we mean any place that exceeds 40 square meters, such as a hangar, concert hall, church, cathedral, etc. Most often than not, your decision to record in such a place is based on your needs to record a lot of people and get that wonderful reverb. Luckily for you, concert halls, cathedrals, and churches have certain acoustic treatment, so you should not worry that much. It’s true that you spend more time placing the mics so that you catch all vocalists, instruments, and sound in the room.
Recording at home
While, for various reasons, it’s not possible to record in the studio, recording your audio at home is the most convenient and cheap option. Though one might be left puzzled by which room at home is actually the best for recording. The ideal answer would be a spare, spacious room that was left to be a studio. But in all other cases, you can convert almost any room at home to a good place for recording.
When you are choosing a room for recording at home, you should be guided by the following principles, such as having enough space for proper recording. Also, being aware of the room acoustics and knowing how to treat the room acoustically to eliminate any issues. And whether there are any interruptions present and how to manage them.
Every house or flat has three rooms that are the most suitable for recording, such as a walk-in closet, bedroom, and living room.
The walk-in closet is the top place for recording at home because it’s compact and has a lot of clothes hanging on the hangers. And clothes tend to absorb sound really well. Also, it’s relatively easy and cheap to treat it acoustically, and there are no windows to provide background noise.
In the majority of cases, you need to cover the ceiling, floor, and stack empty shelves with any number of pillows and duvets. The best option to cover the ceiling is to spend a little and acquire sound-absorbing panels. To eliminate any unwanted reverb from the floor, you should place any rug. Try not to leave any place uncovered because you will get a boxy sound.
The bedroom is the second preferable place for home recording because its size is a bit bigger than a walk-in closet and needs more material to cover empty walls. Depending on the house or apartment, you might land with a compact bedroom and no walk-in closet, then recording in the bedroom would be your prime choice. In any case, the bedroom has a lot of soft objects such as matrasses, pillows, duvets, curtains, rugs, and hanging clothes, which are perfect for absorbing sound. A good decision would be to record closer to the soft object or surface instead of recording near the wall. Also, you need to place something soft near the microphone so that the sound wouldn’t bounce off.
The living room is the least favorable option because it’s the biggest room, so you need to spend extra in order to treat it acoustically. But if you plan to record several musicians, the living room would be your top choice. So to make the living room to be a good environment for recording, you should place enough soft furnishings, curtains, and rugs. Also, you should put acoustic panels in the places where you expect to be additional noise and reverb, such as in the corners of the room, covering doors, and behind the microphone.
Among the least favorable places to record are the kitchen and bathroom, despite which you might get pleasant reverberation. The obvious disadvantages of recording in the bathroom are you might get too much reverb and also unwanted sound from pipes. Speaking of the kitchen, even though you can acoustically treat the room, you might still get unwanted sounds from the fridge or any other electronic appliances.
When you choose the right room to record your future masterpieces, you should know a bit about the place in the room where your recording will sound at its best.
You should stay away from corners because corners are responsible for giving you a lot of low end, which in some cases can be a good thing, but in the majority, it isn’t. Also, you should steer away from walls too because absorptions or reflections will change the sound of the instrument in contrast with what you are looking to achieve. Another good idea is to be as farthest from the glass as possible because you end up with lots of reflections that again change the sound in the opposite direction from what you want to achieve. The best idea would be to record in the center of the room.
While recording on the bare hard floor may be beneficial for the sound, in all other cases, you should place the rug under the instrument or vocalist. Finally, you should place a speaker cabinet or an amp on the higher ground. By doing that, you eliminate almost all phase cancelations and make the sound to be more distinct.