Isolating Sources of Sound
Sound travels in waves, and it's always loudest directly in front of the sound source—the amplifier, the guitar's sound hole, the mouth of a singer, and so on. Once sound is released from its source, it can reflect and bounce all over a room. It's very hard to control where the sound goes.
Being able to separate sound is very important in recording. That's why isolation booths are a staple of recording studios. Being able to isolate sound is even more critical to the home studio owner because you don't have the luxury of using soundproofed rooms and isolated sources. So what can you do?
Let's set up a scenario: You are recording a guitarist, and the amplifier is right next to the recording device. Unfortunately, because your room is small, you don't have much of a choice about placement. The guitar player, like most guitar players, loves to play his amplifier loud. You hook up a microphone and turn on your headphones, but all you hear is the roaring guitar amplifier 3 feet from you. How are you going to listen for microphone placement, clipping, or anything else for that matter? You need to get the offending sound (or player, whichever comes first) isolated so you can do your work.
If you're just starting out or have never recorded before, your first recordings might depress you a bit; you might not sound as good as you think! Little problems in pitch and rhythm will be very clear when you listen to your recorded music. Recording is, in a word, honest. Many people find it a great tool for learning their strengths and weaknesses.
The easiest way to isolate the sound is to put the amplifier in another room and close the door. The guitarist can monitor his sound through headphones along with you. This way you'll be able to hear what the recorder is hearing and not what the amplifier is forcing you to hear. Closets work well for this because they are small and clothes will also absorb some of the sound. The bathroom can isolate sources pretty well, too! And it's also a great place to record sources, especially acoustic guitars, acoustic instruments, and vocals. Since most bathrooms are tiled, the sound is very reflective and live, which can be really good for adding some ambience and reverb to your recordings. You'd be amazed at how many home studios rely on the acoustics of a bathroom for recording sources.
A baffle is an object that blocks sound. It's also referred to as a gobo. If you don't have the option of isolating sound to another room, a baffle might do the trick.
Figure 8-5: Drum set baffle