Soundscaping

The gentle art of soundscaping is not for the faint hearted!

Subtly is the key.

This is not a skill most of us are born with. It takes time to learn that less is so much more than more. The point is that an outside recording, as discussed in the last post, can be ruined with too much background sound.

This tells you all you need to know, really.

Go and make a recording in coffee shop. Sit as close as you can to espresso machine and hit record. Speak into the mic, using a written script, about 3 mins or so. Take the audio file to your dedicated recording space, re-read the script and now you have two versions. One with lots of background noise and one clean version.

To achieve the same, coffee shop effect in the clean version will require much less sound, much lower volume levels. This gives you some idea of both the suggestive power of sound and the need to use a light in touch.

This is a great exercise to understand how our hearing works and the way we can work with that knowledge.

Fade ins and fade outs, intros and outros are all affected by this knowledge.

It can also, as it has in my case, lead to an obsessive collection of soundscapes. A “This might be useful one day.” sort of mentality. Or to be a little more unkind, soundscape hoarding. I’ve not used this collection overly much but it is there and waiting. In the podcasts I produce there is little need for soundscaping. I think this is probably the case with most of the shows I listen to as well.

Soundscaping does have a place in the documentary style show. It can enhance the feeling of a place we are only experiencing aurally. Done with a sledgehammer effect it will destroy the story. None of us would do that now we have, at least as a thought experiment, conducted the two recordings test mentioned above, would we?

Music is an even trickier thing to deal with. I am as unmusical as it is possible to me. Therefore I keep away from using music. This avoids errors in mood changes through the wrong melody and avoids any possibility of being sued for copyright breach.

Copyright is the subject of an upcoming post so I’ll not go too deeply into it here. Suffice to say until you are successful, no one will care too deeply about you using their music. If, on the other hand, you manage to create a podcast bringing in a six figure sum, you can be sure it will be checked to see if you’re using things you shouldn’t. Removing a piece of music and re-publishing a single episode is a pain, doing it for a couple of hundred episodes is a nightmare. On the upside, if you are bringing in a six figure sum, you can probably pay someone else to to the leg work. On the whole, generally, don’t use any music you have composed, played and recorded yourself without written permission.

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