5 common mistakes when recording sound effects

In this article, I will tell you about the experiences I have gained over the years and talk about common mistakes made during recording sounds that I have observed.

Posted on May 4th 2023

In this article, I will tell you about the experiences I have gained over the years and talk about common mistakes made during recording sounds that I have observed.

Recording sound effects, city or ambience recording can be done both as a hobby and as a business. It is also a very exciting endeavor, but when you first get into it, you can get nervous and get disappointing results. The factors that cause this are sometimes the equipment, and sometimes it is due to the listening process during recording.

Although the list goes on and on, there are most common and simple problems for beginners. There are a few things we need to be aware of during each recording and editing process to make you more comfortable.  I'll try to talk about the mistakes that will help you achieve the result.

Hand and body sounds

During the recording process, it's inevitable that our clothes, our body movements will be recorded since they are between the sound source and the microphone while we are performing.

The cloth sound it makes when we move our hand is an example of this. Especially if we are using a handheld recording device, our muscle movements in our hand, our strength to squeeze the device with the microphone will be in direct contact, so they’re being recorded.

So how can we avoid this?

Wearing more comfortable and plain t-shirts and simple shoes during the recording to a lesser degree. In the same way, trying not to rub our arms, feet together and avoiding general body movements altogether is also a solution.

In order to avoid hand movements on the handheld recorder, the clearest solution is to use a suspension tripod. DIY suspensions schemes that you can do it yourself are available for handheld recorders. If you don't have the opportunity, a simple tripod to hold the device in a softer way is also a solution of course.

Cable noises

Especially the headphone cable is the most annoying noise here. Usually when recording, we are accustomed to using reference headphones, and the cables of this type of headphones are quite long. In the same way, the cables of the microphones we connect can suddenly fall in front of us in the recording process and spoil the recording.

So how can we avoid this?

If your headphone cable is long, you can wrap it around your head or hand for a few turns and wrap the cable to control the tension or to replace your cable with spring-loaded, also known as the old telephone cable. A non-sagging distance between your recorder and the headphones can avoid these noises.

If you are using a microphone stand, to avoid microphone cable noise, you can insert the cables into the cable clips on the foot before recording. Or shorten the cable with Velcro or get a shorter cable if you are not using it.

Although these may seem like simple advice, it is important that you know what to do before you start recording to minimize common cable crises during recording.

Record and stop

Actually, it may be a personal preference to see this item as a mistake or as a good piece of advice that will make things easier.

When recording a series of similar sound effects in the same environment, record and stop for each sound recording may be extra files to transfer and deal with during the editing process.

If you are already recording these sounds in the same environment, if the noise floor is the same, the materials are similar and the volume levels are similar, you can record a long and complete recording in a single file instead of repeatedly recording each action. This will not take you away from your performance as well and make it a lot easier.

Not providing enough information about the recording

Let’s say you have started recording and have recorded dozens of sounds in a single session or in different sessions. Sometimes a long period of time passes between recording and editing. This period can be much longer if you have a busy schedule. When you transfer these sounds to the computer, you may not be able to recognize the sound you recorded because you did not provide detailed recording information at the time.

So how should we give detailed recording information?

I try to be very meticulous about this. It makes your work much easier when naming and writing descriptions for metadata and editing if you give full details about the performance of your sound effect during the recording session. You can tell the microphone the size, volume, floor, speed, etc. of the source.

As a side note, you can leave small gaps between all this recording information and the recording. For example, you will put a glass of water on a wooden table. You can explain first with "Gently placing a medium-sized half-full glass of water on the wooden table with 5 different variations".

Proximity effect

I think one of the most common pitfalls and the main enemy is the proximity effect!

Proximity effect is a frequency that we mostly encounter in cardioid microphones. When cardioid microphones get too close to the sound source, there is an increase at frequencies below 200 Hz. With omni-directional microphones, this is not the case. This effect is sometimes used as a boost in vocal and instrumental recordings, but it makes the organic sound effects sound as ear-scratching, muddy and lacking organic feel.

So how can we avoid this?

If you set a distance between the sound source and the microphone between 5 cm and 10 cm, you can get rid of the proximity effect. If you need to record your sound from a close perspective and you get proximity effect, you can use roll-off if there is one on the microphone or apply a cut-off of around 150-՟200 Hertz on the recorder.

When starting to record a sound effect, it will help if you pay attention to all these points at the very beginning. If you get into the habit of doing these, you can get some impressive sound effects.

There are of course other items to be considered that I did not include in this list. I’ll cover them in future articles. The whole point is actually to listen very carefully. As your listening improves, your enjoyment of this process will be even greater. I hope these were helpful.