the (lack of) sound of sweet exhaustion

I’m completely exhausted. I’ve been flirting with the flu all week, achy, headachy, and slightly congested. But, I’ve been pushing myself harder than I’m accustomed to this week, and we got lots accomplished on the studio front.

Phase one of the studio acoustic treatments are drawing to a close. All 6 gobos are finished, all 6 bass traps (or more accurately, broadband sound absorbers) are finished, the fiberglass is up in the first treatment spots, covered by blankets, and the entire ceiling is covered in fabric. Plus, the 2 bass traps that hang across the wall/ceiling corners are installed.

All that’s left is cleaning, rearranging, and rewiring the studio as we pretty much had to unplug EVERYTHING and move it during this process. So there is still plenty of work to be done. I also have to resolder one connector that broke off during the process. Lots of nagging details.

Another thing is that I’m thinking of modifying the desk, making it such that the speakers can be properly angled (the idea is to have the the shelf holding the 2 speakers to be at a 60degree angle so that they will make an equilateral triangle with the listeners head at the listening position). This week I hope to get to that, since there is already some reinforcing repair work that needs to be done to the desk as it’s sagging a bit in the middle.

However, last night was The Big Test(tm). We actually played some music, for the first time in several weeks. That was very cool. The effects of the new acoustic treatments are obvious. It’s one thing to absorb a lot of theory, with all the studying I’ve done on studio acoustics, yet quite another to build something that actually works. Last night was our first clearly audible confirmation as to just how well these treatments work in our studio.

Brent had put new drum heads on the entire kit, all the way around. So the first thing is that the drum kit sounds fantastic. MUCH better than it did with those way-too-many-years-old heads that wouldn’t get in (much less stay in) tune. The heads are really nice Evans heads; basically Brent copied the heads used by one of his favorite drummers (John Dolmayan from System of a Down). This is an older, vintage-ish Gretsch kit, and man it sounds good.

The sound of these drums in the room with the panels arranged around it is hard to describe. The best way I can think of is to say the sound is much more focused, since there aren’t any (or vastly fewer) reflections bouncing of the walls, floor, and ceiling. The sound actually seems to be coming from the drum, as opposed to the more diffuse sound of the drum-in-a-reflective-box thing. Again, it’s hard to describe but it is clearly audible. I had warned Brent that the difference in sound would be subtle, especially to an untrained ear, but his reaction was quite exuberant: “You said this would be subtle, this is a HUGE difference!” Even our friendly neighborhood curmudgeon-in-training bass player appreciated the difference, “this is much more like a real studio.”

So yes, I’m quite thrilled to see theory put so effectively into practice. In short, the designs work! And as always, Matt and I worked very well together in constructing them. The gobos aren’t necessarily pretty, but they are MASSIVE and heavy and effective. Cleanup work, and wrapping up some loose ends, is all that remains for phase one. And I hereby declare phase one a massive success! w00t!

Phase two will be to complete the framework construction of the room by adding more fiberglass and sheetrock, along with 2 reinforced doors. This will much more effectively isolate the room, so that when we record basic tracks, we can put Matt on the other side of the door to get his voice out of the drum mics (and the drums out of his vocal mic!).

Once the room is “finished,” phase three will be to add more room acoustic treatments, either more of what we already have (bass traps and gobos) or something that is more customized to this room (which means they’d be harder to move down the road if we ever need to). But, the wheels are turning here, I have some very interesting ideas to acoustically optimize the space we have.

And the best news is last: Freakwitch has officially scheduled April 13,14,15 as the 3-day-solid stretch of recording our first album! I hope to get basic tracks done on those days (meaning: drums and bass recorded for every song). Then we can begin overdubs with guitar (including electric as I’ll have my new rig by then) and vocals.

Ever onward!

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