The Sound of Silence.

August 30, 2020 — 74 Comments

A good recording isn’t just about having the right kind of microphone, although it does play an important part. Getting the right sound depends greatly on the acoustic of the room that you are recording in. Once we cracked the set up that would give us the best chances for a great recording we began trialing and recording some initial takes. Upon listening back, we realised that the microphones were picking up reflected sound of the voice bouncing off the walls in our home studio. This caused the recordings to sound boomy and the overall balance felt at odds with what we wanted to achieve.

We realised that we needed to find a way to soundproof the room and absorb some of the reflected sound. We knew from our shared experience of recording in professional studios that they manage this challenge through the use of carefully placed acoustic panels, curtains, and carpet. When done correctly this can absorb sound and provide a dry acoustic needed for recording. But how on earth do you soundproof a room during Lockdown using only household items?

Luckily before we were housebound, George alongside his brother created some homemade acoustic panels during his last trip to Romania. These were originally intended to absorb sound so that the noise pollution to our neighbours was lessened. They are made from fabric, plywood, and mineral wool. I’ll share with you the method they undertook. After deciding what size you want the panels to be, we chose 25cm2, Step One is to create a wooden frame which is as deep as your pieces of mineral wool. Step Two is to cut the mineral wool so that it fits snuggly inside the frame.

SIDE NOTE: please make sure that you are using gloves when handling mineral wool as it has small bits of fiberglass that can scratch the skin. We bought 50cm x 100cm piece of mineral wool, which was enough for all four frames. Step Three is to measure out your fabric so that it covers the front and the sides of the frame, with a bit of extra material so that it can be secured to the back. Step Four is to secure your fabric to the frame using your method of choice, George used nails but staples or a strong glue would also suffice. Step 5, once you are happy with the position of the fabric, place a square of plywood, a little smaller than the frame, on to the back for a clean finish. This piece of plywood can be attached with nails, staple gun or glue. An Ikea hack if you do not have access to saw or spare plywood, would be to use a RIBBA frame from Ikea without the glass. I think these will be perfect as they are about the right thickness and you will not need to worry about endless measuring as they will all be uniform. Hooray for symmetry! If we make more in the future I will try this method and make an instruction video.

So back to Sound Proofing the room! We stuck these panels above the keyboard as that is where my voice would normally hit when practicing. However, we didn’t make enough of them to cover the entire wall of the studio. This meant that we had to improvise and create a little vocal booth.

We had the perfect space in mind, as the entrance to our home studio forms a little square alcove. We wanted to enclose this space and so our minds began-a-turning. I personally love having small spaces well organised and in our utility closet, we made use of Telescopic Garment Racks so that we can hang our clean clothes above the washer/dryer. One afternoon we decided to take the racks down and create a scaffolding effect to aid the vocal booth. We hung a suspension rail above the door, from which we hung one blanket. Then we assembled two vertical poles, which supported a horizontal rail, from which we hung a thicker throw. Between the two assembled structures we carefully balanced a spare rail and a final blanket. Each blanket was secured using bulldog clips and hairdresser sectioning clips.

Voila! The booth was born.

Move The Slider To See Me Working

Out of excitement we began recording and found that the difference was tremendous. The voice no longer sounded like it was recorded in a bathroom and the balance was clean and had clarity. We were really thrilled!

Next Week we will share with you the next step of process – THE RECORDINGS, which I will title “Getting it done!”

74 responses to The Sound of Silence.

  1. 

    Genius! We once used cardboard egg cartons thumb tacked to walls to help absorb sound. Which meant that all of us had to eat mountains of eggs. But whatever works WILL make a world of difference. Brava!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 8:02 pm

      Now that’s another good idea, we want to make some more and some corner ones so egg cartons might have to do for a while 🙂
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  2. 

    Brilliant solutions.

  3. 

    and this is a surprise for you

  4. 

    This is the exact idea needed for recording books. Nice job you two.

  5. 

    A little too much reverb bouncing off the walls? Very clever solution to the problem of hard surfaces. The first photo of you in the yellow dress by the flowers is wonderful.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 8:35 pm

      I felt I blended in and ran over to the flower bed as soon as I saw it hehe. Recording the big arias was the trickiest bit, I may have to re-record a couple of them.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

      • 

        Rerecording happens a lot for me. Take. Take. Take. Take. Take. If you know what I mean?

  6. 

    Bravo, c’est très bien de faire ainsi vos aménagement personnels !!! Bons enregistrements !!!!
    wish you the best, always !!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 8:59 pm

      Merci Pascal, nous avons été gâtés (?) dans les conservatoires de musique avec des salles d’enregistrement incroyables, nous avons pu enregistrer des pistes d’audition à faible coût.
      Best wishes always,
      Charlotte

  7. 

    Great insight. Obviously at of thought has gone into this. I never realised it was so involved.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      In the past we’ve just hired a room with a grand piano and good acoustics or a recording studio with a decent piano but they were all closed. I think some are re-opening now but they are very worried about singers (and all of the reports about singing and wind and brass instruments spreading the virus further than they would just speaking) so all the equipment has to be sterilised with every user.
      Thanks for checking in with me and following our little recording adventure.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. 

    Enjoyed reading about the creation of your (beautiful looking) booth. Thank goodness we can now record on HD’s. I remember recording on tape many years ago (very stressful)… don’t want to go back to those days.
    Occasionally, I used to record vocals (and electric guitars) in my living room because of the natural reverb created by the 6 m high ceiling.
    Looking forward to read about your next recording adventures!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 9:46 pm

      The throws were from my student digs in chilly Glasgow we tried long towels but they weren’t big enough lol. We’re getting the tracks mastered, fortunately both of George’s brothers are trained sound engineers as well as Ionut being a talented opera singer!
      All my best wishes always,
      Charlotte

      • 

        Well, I guess the combination of trained sound engineers and a talented creative opera singer is a perfect match…

      • 
        Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 10:03 pm

        I think they had it in their conservatoire modules very handy and practical right now.

  9. 

    Great way to make homemade acoustic tiles. I once priced out “real” ones, and they can be very expensive! Cool impromptu isolation booth as well. The make shields for mikes that attach to the stand, but the can be expensive, and heavy. They won’t solve the problem as well as isolation, but it can help – every little bit helps. Can’t wait to see the recording process part 🙂

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 10:20 pm

      We did the same thing on pricing when we lived in a shared house with five other people 😮 couldn’t believe how much they were, we had to take the mattress off and put it up against the door when we practiced 😂.
      I heard Ikea were doing some accoustic fabric rectangles I’ll have to check those out next time I’m in there. Some items are just long term investments but we are trying to save up for a better piano right now.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  10. 

    I wondered how you were going to soundproof – makes a real difference. Necessity is the mother of invention – you needed and you invented!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      We looked online at the price of sound absorbers they are so expensive, we really wanted our cd to be an authentic lockdown memory piece and I think we’re getting there. One of our lovely neighbours is a photographer and she took some photos for us so we’re on to trying to design our own cd cover from those. I remember you choosing your book covers so I don’t need to tell you how difficult choosing what to use is.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

      • 

        I’m glad you have a photographer friend to help. I had my husband of course and my daughter to pose! You and George are so photogenic, it should be easy!

  11. 

    So cool. Thank you for sharing.

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      You’re most welcome thank you for reading and your constant support I really do appreciate it 🙂
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  12. 

    You two keep coming up with ideas you’ll have your own reality show on TV…wow, complete with great m

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 30, 2020 at 11:03 pm

      Haha a reality show sounds like fun not sure George would go for it 😂. I did ponder going in for Don’t Tell the Bride show a couple of years ago he was horrified at the thought.
      Best wishes to you
      Charlotte

    • 

      Thanks Shehanne, when I start out I feel completely hopeless but its amazing what you can find out on YouTube and google search now and just reusing bits of skills we’ve picked up along the way 🙂
      How’s it going up in Scotland are you outside of the lockdown areas? I was supposed to be at the Edinburgh Fringe this year oh how I miss it.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      • 

        That is too bad Charlotte. You’d have been amazing there and I hope you get there next year. We like to take a day through there at Fringe time. We especially love the Mardi Gras at the Grassmarket. Always an amazing day. If you’re on the Fringe I will come and see you! Very true re feeling hopeless when you start out at things but one step at a time gets you anywhere I always believe. It’s a case of being patient and kind with and to yourself. Look at what you both achieved there. We’ve been doing fine. Always been very fortunate where we live throughout this.

  13. 

    Great, Charlotte! Always so much energy coming from your posts! Please say hi to George for me and you both have a great week ahead! Best wishes!!!

    • 

      Hi Fabio, I have been full of energy recently but its lovely to hear you’re getting that hehe. I have passed on your good wishes and we wish you a happy, contented week too.
      All our best wishes
      Charlotte and George

  14. 

    Brilliant Charlotte! Takes me back to the days when we dressed up the crèche for imaginative play! 🤗😂 well done 👏👏👏 😘

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 31, 2020 at 9:35 am

      Happy memories, can you remember the puppet shows and the action man and barbie assault course made out of cardboard boxes? I must ask Dad for the photos for my own album.
      All my best wishes Gill,
      Charlotte

  15. 

    Great idea you two ,the things you think up genius.
    Lovely photo in the flower garden.xx

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather August 31, 2020 at 9:37 am

      You would both love Greenwich flower gardens they are really beautiful, the photo was taken on Mum’s birthday. Got to be inventive right now 😂 very conscious that the neighbours are at home too.
      Best wishes always,
      Charlotte

  16. 

    You two are certainly using your heads!! Terrific ideas. You two compliment each other in so many ways.

    • 

      Thanks GP. I think understanding each other’s crazy music schedules is certainly one of the best things, when he’s intensely practicing every night till 10pm (with his headphones on after 7pm! Lol) I just get on with my own thing, make sure all my work and practice schedules are up to date and watch which film I want on Netlix.
      All my best wishes always,
      Charlotte

  17. 

    This is so fun watching it all come together!

  18. 

    Looks like you guys are ready to make some beautiful music in your new (and improved) studio. Brilliant.

    • 

      Thank you Sheila, we’re working hard, preparing for our first performance with an audience for a long while I’m praying to the weather gods for a good dry spell for a couple of weeks.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  19. 

    Clever and brilliant, Charlotte! You both make a cute couple and a great team! 🙂

    • 

      We were introduced to work together ready for a competition by our Conservatoire and shortly afterwards I fell head over heels he is a very calming influence on my kind of crazy 😜!
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  20. 

    So inventive! Well done! x

    • 

      We’ve got to innovate right now, there is very little in assistance to the pair of us, we do have a booking for an outdoor concert still on, we need the weather gods to smile on us. We’re just making things up as we go along, if we don’t make things happen for ourselves we won’t be able to continue making music, my last two opera booking cancelled this last week, audiences just won’t come in to indoor spaces which is understandable with all the fear still raging.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      • 

        I’m so sorry for all the stress and worry all creatives are suffering at the moment. You and George are doing the best you can in a difficult situation. It’s a shame you can’t make some kind of income from online or YouTube concerts. I watch a tour guide in New York and she asks for tips, perhaps this is something you can look into? I’d pay for a concert online xx Good luck xx

  21. 

    Improvise, adapt, overcome. 🙂

  22. 

    I scratched myself on fiberglass years ago. It is insanely, maddeningly itchy.

  23. 

    Covid sure brings out the ingenuity in us. You are so resourceful! All the best in your recording, Charlotte. 🙂

    • 

      Yes we’ve have to think outside the box. I’ve been seeing friends emerging out of the cocoon into performances but my last two opera roles have sadly cancelled so I’m going to push on and just work even harder to try to find opportunities.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  24. 

    Yay!!! This is fabulous Charlotte!
    Looking forward to hearing produced pieces!
    In the meantime, I got a rough draft ready for you. I made a gorgeous header, very happy.
    I sent the link, and the passcode in a Twitter message!
    Glad to see you and George zooming along!
    ❦🎼❦🎼❦🎼❦🎼❦🎼❦🎼

  25. 

    Brilliantly enterprising! Just the kind of workaround I go for.

    • 

      I love workarounds too, we’re saving resources for the mastering and then we’ve got to make sure they are all balanced and good enough or we’ll have to redo tracks. Then the difficult bit of finding out which tracks have copyright and licences and paying the royalties up front for that and promotions etc. It is keeping us nice and busy though.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  26. 

    What a cool post! I love hearing about creative Covid projects!

    • 

      I think I’d start to worry if I didn’t have something positive to concentrate on Andrea 🙂 and like you I love to hear about creative projects right now too.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  27. 

    Hi Charlotte, I think your stress-buster solution of taking a shower with your clothes on really does create a freeing and reset mental state. But I firmly must let you know that taking a shower with headphones on is definitely a safety issue Hehe.

    Great luck with your recordings!

  28. 

    How I have missed you and your voice, Charlotte 🙂 Nothing like the incredible Ave Maria making its way around my flat this morning ~ and then to also read you again after such a long absence. It is good to see that you are well and handling the chaos of 2020 with such creativity ~ looking forward to your new recordings!

    • 
      Charlotte Hoather September 6, 2020 at 9:45 am

      Thank you Randall are you posting again too? I have missed your super posts, words of wisdom and photographs, I will check to see. Keep well my friend.
      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  29. 

    Well done, Charlotte and George! The skills one gets from a project like this are enjoyable in their own right. 🙂

  30. 

    Charlotte, this is great example of resourcefulness and creativity!

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