How To Make Your Productions Unique By Using Field Recordings
The history of using field recordings, or `found sounds` in music is one that goes back 100 years. It is a practice that is constantly finding new life however, with influential electronic musicians such as Burial and Jon Hopkins often leaning heavily on field recordings in their work.
So what exactly is a field recording? Essentially it is any recording made outside of a recording studio. It could be a recording of a forest that you captured on an expensive portable recording device, or it could be the sound of a train pulling into a station that you recorded on your iPhone. The wonderful thing about field recordings is that they are totally unique – nobody else will have them in their sample library – so they can add some real individuality to a piece of music. Below we discuss three things to remember if you want to use field recordings in your work.
1. Always Be Ready To Record
The beauty of this process is that there really are no rules. If you like the sound of something, then record it – and of course because you never know when you are going to hear a sound you like, you might have to capture it on your phone. Sure, you can always go on field recording trips with higher quality recording equipment, but you should be ready to grab cool sounds on your phone when you need to as well.
2. Your Recorded Sounds Are Just The Starting Point
In some cases you might include your field recordings in your mixes with relatively little processing, but remember that you can use various production processes to manipulate your recordings too. Take a listen to Jon Hopkins `Abandon Window` below. The found sound you can hear in the background is the sound of the fireworks from the Olympic Ceremony that Hopkins recorded from his roof in London:
The sound has been heavily processed and pitched down, and is incredibly atmospheric. Field recordings can often prove to be sonically rich starting points, ripe for processing and turning into something new and unique.
3. Create Instruments Out Of Your Sounds
If you`re ready to dive a bit deeper into the world of working with field recordings, you can try loading the sounds that you capture into a sampler instrument. Most DAWs come with a sampler instrument included that you can use for this purpose; for example Logic has the EXS24 and Ableton has its Sampler. Native Instruments` Kontakt is an excellent example of third party software that allows you to use sampled field recordings in a variety of interesting ways.
In the video below, composer Nathan Johnson shows how he worked with electronic artist Son Lux to create the score for the movie Looper. They decided to create an entire `orchestra` using found sounds, these sounds being put together as instruments in Kontakt.
If it is possible to create a Hollywood score from field recordings then the sky really is the limit! Get out there and see what sounds you can find.