Stuff Around the House

One of the nice things about a career in sound design is that everyday listening is your job. Stopping to take in the sound of a passing car, a rusty hinge, or some birdsong is all part of building a vocabulary. Once you open your ears, you’ll start to find a myriad of things in your everyday life which will double as fantastic sound effects. Here, I’ve pulled some of my favorites from around my apartment building.

The building is old, circa 1920. It has been upgraded over the years (although the elevator permit expired in 2005) with some modern amenities. The windows, unfortunately, are old and cheap and if you’d like to hear their sounds, you can do so here. The other great things about the building are its garage door, accordion-style elevator, and the ronky wooden floors.

First up, the elevator.

Accordion Elevator by dsteinwedel

The gate is the prize here and comes in handily from time to time. Besides working out for Accordion Gates, it can double as a ronky gear or winch and has a fantastic metal latch.
Elevator Latch

The squeaky floors & garage door were especially hard to record as those areas of the building are susceptible to massive amounts of traffic noise. I’ve found over the years that 3:30 - 4:30/5 AM tend to be the quietest in terms of human movement in populated areas. As such, these were recorded in the early hours of the morning (on a holiday, no less, to make the chances of contamination as low as possible).

The floors are inside my apartment and don’t feel too loud during the day. The normal recordings actual feel better to me as rope stress than wood ronks. However, they start to take on an ominous quality when you pitch them down (the back half of the clip is played at 25% speed).

Floor Ronks by dsteinwedel

The garage door is a fantastic yet specific sound. The motor severely limits its usage but I love the character of the door as it opens and how it changes over time. Towards the back half of the cue, the door really starts to complain.

Garage Door by dsteinwedel

In the end, the things surrounding you make can make the best effects. It’s not always necessary to travel or find the most exotic things to make interesting sounds. They might be right under your nose.

Recording Geek Notes: Zoom H2 @ 24/96k.



A few weeks ago, my fiance and I took a short camping trip into the backcountry of the East Bay. We visited Black Diamond Mines, which is out in Antioch. While it was a bit hot, the landscape is beautiful and affords some recording opportunities. Being the avid recordist, I packed my gear in for the night.
Black Diamond Mines view from above the valley.
The extra 6 or 7 pounds sucks on a steep hill in 95 degree heat, but getting a chance to be out in the middle of nowhere and never have to worry about vehicle traffic is Nirvana.

Unfortunately, Antioch is up the delta and the whole place is pretty windy. The wind was light enough so as to not cause mic pops through my blimp but just strong enough for the blimp to be the cause of the wind noise. That’s not usually a problem, unless you burnt your windjammer up in a little fire escape and have yet to replace it. D’oh.

I spent a lot of time recording wholly unusable things because of that noise and you’ll hear what I’m talking about interspersed in some of the effects below (especially the gate). I ended up with two pretty cool sets of effects after all was said and done. First was the rustiest old gate I’ve ever found and a next was a night of crickets in an open field.

Rusty Gate by dsteinwedel

The rusty gate.
This one speaks for itself. It whines, it moans, it ronks and bangs. Someday when I have the chance and a good wind forecast I’m going back to get a set that’s free and clear of that damn wind.

Our campsite was next to a large, open field in the bottom of a long valley. The hardest part about recording the crickets was deciding which direction to point the mic. The chorus of insects was absolutely beautiful in all directions. At points there are also peeps in the recordings. I’m not sure what kind of animal made them although my gut says some relative of a prairie dog.

Night Crickets by dsteinwedel

At 1:42 in you’ll hear a selection of the recording pitched down at about 40% of the original speed. Below is the sun rising across the lovely field in which they live.Cricket field

Recording geek notes: Neumann 191 -> Fostex FR2