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The Tracking Room Washington DC

While this approach works for some styles of music, it may not be the best solution for rock and other "organic" genres where you want a more "live" sound.

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The Tracking Room

In terms of pure physics, you still have to deal with standing waves, early reflections and all the same issues. In fact, in the tracking room these problems may be amplified (literally), as you may be dealing with loud sound sources like drum kits and guitar amps. Many people opt to simply deaden the room as much as possible to kill all those reflections, covering the room with acoustic foam, then adding “character” to the sound in the mix using effects. While this approach works for some styles of music, it may not be the best solution for rock and other “organic” genres where you want a more “live” sound.
Moreover, an oft overlooked fact is that the sound of the recording room dramatically affects the tone of the recorded instrument, including vocals. In fact, you can think of the room as being like a giant equalizer, where the early reflections in the room combine with the original sound source to produce the overall timbre of the instrument or voice. You can take away those early reflections as much as possible to get an acoustically “purer” sound, but in the process you lose much of what enlivens a sound in the natural environment and gives it character. And of course, it’s difficult to substantially change the basic timbre of an instrument in the mix.
So how to retain the character of early reflections, especially in a small room, without dealing with standing waves and other phasing problems? Some compromise is necessary. You can approach treatment of your tracking room a bit differently than a control room because after all, in the tracking room you aren’t striving for “accuracy” so much as “musicality” — you just want the instruments to sound good in the room. And luckily you can measure that without complex calculations or expensive instruments; all you need is ears. So, here are a few tips to help you achieve a good balance between “sonic character” and “acoustical problem.”

Don’t deaden everything. Don’t put foam all over the room. Leave some reflective surface on the walls, or cover two walls and leave each opposite wall mostly untreated. Same with the floor and ceiling: In most cases you want an absorptive ceiling and a reflective floor, so for best results, you want a wood or linoleum floor (not carpeting) and a drop ceiling or foam treated ceiling. If you have carpeting in your room, consider putting plywood down on the floor while recording; I’ve had good luck recording drums and guitar amps this way in small rooms, tacking up foam on the ceiling. Unless you’re deliberately going for a deader sound, live instruments tend not to sound great on padded carpeting.

Use bass traps. You’ll achieve a much more solid low end by the liberal use of bass traps. Many bass traps, such as Mini Traps from RealTraps, are slightly reflective in the high end so that they don’t completely deaden the room, yet they do an effective job of killing standing waves in the low end.

Build some baffles. Using baffles rather than treating all of th...

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