Stimming’s Guide To Field Recording

An exhaustive guide to collecting found sound...

When Stimming approached his fourth album the producer knew he had to shake things up.

Re-locating to a remote Italian hut, he brought his equipment with him and waited for inspiration to strike.

Soaking up the sounds and atmosphere of the alps, the producer gradually shifted his perceptions of the way music could operate.

New album 'Alpe Lusia' is the result. Out this week (April 29th) it matches some gorgeous electronics against an array of found sounds, lending a unique intimacy to the project.

Clash invited Stimming to offer a few field recording tips – what we got back was an exhaustive guide to locating found sound.

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Stimming’s Guide To Field Recording

First, some very basic stuff about how to record in the field:

Use closed headphones or in­-ears to monitor your recording. Recording without monitoring is like taking photos without looking.
Use silent clothes and shoes. Polyester jackets are very noisy. Shoes with a tough sole are very loud.
You might use light leather gloves to avoid touch­-sounds on your recorder.
Microphone windshields (“dead cat”) are very important for recording outside. You always need one as soon as there’s a tiny little puff of wind.
The better the mics the more they record and this goes beyond what our ears hear. (Well, theoretically not but practically yes) a mic doesn’t focus but our brain does. But as soon as a recording comes out of a speaker our brain can’t focus as well, so if you don’t want to hear yourself: don’t breathe, don’t move, just be.

Stimming’s Guide To Field Recording

The exact scenery from the beginning of my album ­ the fountain on the right, cows from behind the house and bees and other flies swirling around the mics in early morning sunshine.

About mics: usually the built­in ones are pretty much shit. Don’t expect any of the portable recorders to record in a quality that has a certain readiness to it. You will always need to tweak those recordings afterwards and: (spoken in German accent) this is not good.
But here comes the good thing ­ you already get a big improvement by using electret mics that can be driven at most line­ins from those recorders. A 100$ stereo mic from audio technica for example immediately is in the range of being a good and suitable recording. ­
The best mics for recording in general are condenser ones ­ but they need 48V phantom power which means battery time is very low. I’m using a marantz pmd661 and once the phantom power is switched on the battery time is about 60­-80 minutes.
­ I’m using a pair of Neumann KM185 ­ the h​ypercardioid​ones. I had the cardioid ones before but they recorded literally everthing from all over the place. that’s why I choosed the narrow sound stage from the km185. I also use them in the studio a lot and most of my choirs on the album were recorded through them.

Stimming’s Guide To Field Recording

The setup from the track “parking lot” ­ – a pair of Neumanns, a portable recorder (capable of phantom power) and the op­1 connected to a portable speaker. This made me able to move the percussion groove in front of the mics and pointing the speaker to the ceiling or away from the mics with big effect!

if you want to record a certain sound or event, move your device or mics next to and with it.
­ if you want to catch a certain soundstage use a tripod. then you can also do stuff in front of your mics (thats the only exception where monitoring might not be possible).
­ never use two mics in parallel. you get a lot of phase issues by that. always point them to each other or away from each other by a 90° triangle. M/S recording might also be a good idea outside but I didn’t try it personally.

The trumpet on the track “for my better half” is my voice, recorded through the internal mics from the Marantz. The additional shaker at 'Trains Of Hope', coming in at around half of the track is the bench I was sitting on, also recorded with the built­in mics. Actually I was dancing while sitting on it, that's why it squeeked and a recording of this made it as a shaker in a track. What I’m trying to say: every rule has its exception. If you need a dirty or special sound then the internal mics just might be the right ones.

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'Alpe Luisa' will be released on April 29th.

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