Thursday, February 13, 2014

Noises in the Studio

Admit it. You've dealt with these.

After several years of makeshift home recording solutions, I finally spent a summer, about 4 years ago, creating my current recording space. I found a place in the lower level sometimes called a basement. Our home has as much living space in the basement level as there is above ground. So, there's a family room, a workshop for my “home improvement” tools, a storage room, office, full bath and a 6 x 8 space that I converted into a home voiceover studio. I bought the half inch thick sheet rock, and layered them with Green Glue (r) in between. I treated the room acoustically and added the necessary lighting. Since the space faces a foundation wall I don't get any outside noise, except for the weekly trash hauler truck with the faulty muffler whose vibration resonates through the earth. The draw-back to this space is that it is near the main heating/air conditioning plant and the water heater which have to be dealt with come recording time. The room has a nice tone for recording. I'm happy with the results.
Like most people doing their voiceover work from home, I also need to come up with solutions to common problems. So here are my problems and how I deal with them:

1. HVAC – I have a forced air system that supplies heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. It happens to be on the other side of the wall of my voiceover booth. It was unavoidable. The layered sheet rock blocks out most of its noise but if the HVAC is running my noise floor rises to about -45 db, not acceptable in my book. So I either warm up the house to a higher higher temperature than normal or cool it to a lower than normal temp before I start a recording session. Then I simply shut the system down (on/off switch) for the next hour to hour and a half. I record for that period then turn the system back on and use the next hour to edit my work. The house stays relatively warm or cool during that period until I re-energize the system. It works pretty well.

2. Water Heater – It's located in the same space as the HVAC. The water heater runs on natural gas. So, when it's heating water it sounds like the exhaust of a rocket ship. This is not good. The water heater has a thermostat dial on the front. If I am impatient and don't want to wait for the cycle to finish, I simply adjust the dial to a lower temp to shut it down. I have to remember to turn it back up after the session so no one gets a cold shower later.

3. Washer & Dryer - Both of these appliances are on the upper level and at the far end of the house, as is the refrigerator. The only appliance noise from upstairs that I have to deal with is a faint low frequency groan of the dryer that vibrates through the floor above when it's running. The simple solution - we do laundry when I'm not recording.

The Wiener Dogs - Jake and Penny
4.The Wiener Dogs – My partner is away during the day. That leaves me with two miniature dachshunds and a cat. As most people know, the cat sleeps most of the day so he can prowl at night and crinkle plastic bags with his claws. He knows this annoys us and will wake us from a sound sleep. Any person that has dachshunds in their family will tell you that they bark at anything the moves. This can be a problem. Our two hot dogs do sleep a great deal and love to cover up under a comforter or blanket. So, during recording sessions, I make sure the drapes are pulled and doors closed so they can't see out. This cuts down on barking noises and is reasonably successful most of the time, except when someone else is walking their dog in the neighborhood. They know. I don't know how but they know. This too shall pass in time.

5. Noisy Clothing – I learned very early on that nylon wind pants are a no-no in a voiceover studio. As a matter of fact anything nylon seems to make a noise that is simply unacceptable. So I keep the the clothing to functional soft cotton fabrics. Fleece, cotton t-shirts and well broken-in blue jeans work best for me. I suppose cotton pajamas will work too. Hmmmmm.....I don't have any of those (ha ha).


  1. Good to hear it's not just me! Recording in the heart of London, I'm often timing my recordings with the rumbling of trains, planes overhead, heavy traffic noise, my musician housemate (I book in 'silence' with her...!) and also, as we are a basement flat, a constant hum from the ventilation system. I'm moving in a month or so to a quieter part of London so hope to have much more success but am already planning my sound treatment in advance so I can get it in place asap.
    Northern Irish voice

  2. Yes you are right that nylon make much noise...i also avoid wearing nylon and prefer to wear soft cotton fabrics. I have cotton pajamas haha :)
    I also don't want any noise and interruption when a Professional Voiceover Session is going on.


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