A couple of years ago, I bought a Tascam DR-05 recorder. It’s nothing fancy, really—just a handheld recorder that records in stereo.
I immediately became intensely interested in recording everything around me. I also learned about “touch noise” which is noise that you get from touching the recorder. Tripods and booms get you around that.
I shoved the thing in a jacket pocket and recorded a short trip to Aldi:
That was in October of 2016. There’s some distortion up front (I’ve no idea why—this thing was still terribly new to me) but the rest of it sounds good. (I did clean up some of the noise in Audacity.) You can hear me being friendly when a little after four minutes in. Then I walk to my car (more distortion, again I’ve no idea why), and then I start up my car and drive away. The tolling of the bell tells me that I needed an oil change.
Then 2017 happened. Next slide, please.
I dusted this recorder off when I moved and feared that the batteries would have become corroded. They had not, fortunately. I immediately set about recording my dishwasher:
I had no particular reason for recording my dishwasher other than I like the sound it makes. It’s tremendously helpful background noise when I’m writing, and I suspect that it would help me sleep, but this apartment complex has very strict rules about when you can run your dishwasher (when I’m at work and for eight hours on the weekend, basically), so falling asleep to the lulling sound of dishes getting clean (or with this hard water, dishes getting less dirty) is simply not a possibility—until now.
Actually, one of the things I find most pleasing about my dishwasher is when two glass items (usually a drinking glass and a bowl) rub together during the wash cycle, making a very pleasing sound. Alas, I loaded this particular load properly, and that mellifluous sound is missing from this recording.
The next day, to make things weird, I recorded myself taking a shower:
This isn’t actually that weird. I had recently spent a few days in Cleveland on a business trip (my first time there; it’s a lovely city, by the way, and I hope to spend some more time there this summer) and while I’m not a morning person while I’m at home, I am always a morning person when traveling. I don’t need an alarm; I’m just awake and perky as a rat in liverwurst by 6:00 am. So I do as I usually do in those circumstances and wander around, exploring and seeing what there is to be seen—we were in a very old hotel, so there was a lot to be seen, and also heard. It struck me how many showers I could hear while walking down my hallway, and then I realized that me taking a shower in a hotel is a very different experience to me taking a shower at home.
First, a shower at home is a chance for me to get woken up, so it’s usually a long, drawn out affair. A shower on the road is just a chance to get wet, get refreshed, and get my day started. On the weekends, when I have a chance to have a bit of a lie-in, I normally take a very long shower and sing or at the very least talk to myself. (I talk to myself a lot.) Second, with this recording, I just wanted to focus on the sound the water made, so I had to make a very real effort to keep my mouth shut, which was a bit of a challenge on a sunny Sunday morning. When you try not to make noise during a normal routine, you suddenly become aware of how much noise you actually make during that normal routine.
Anyway, on to traffic.
My apartment complex is on a very busy road, but set back from it an eighth of a mile in a very wooded area. So while the traffic outside is zooming by at 55-60 miles per hour (the speed limit is 40), I’m in the woods with wild turkeys outside my window, deer browsing the shrubs, and it’s fairly quiet. So I went out to that road and set up my recorder to record some traffic. The sidewalk is less than a meter from the edge of the road, so it wouldn’t have taken much for a distracted driver to jump the curb and do me and my recorder in. Anyway, on this track, I had the recorder a bit back from the road, and perpendicular to it:
Not bad, but I decided to face into the traffic and try again:
If you notice a difference between the sound of those two files, it’s because I edited them differently in Audacity. In the first one, I applied Noise Reduction (which does just that, assuming you can find a bit of pure noise on the track), and then Amplify, which brings the sound levels up a bit.
On the second file, I applied a Compressor filter (which doesn’t exactly compress the sound—you can read more about what it actually does here) and that was all. I used to be better with Audacity, back when I was doing podcasts on a regular basis, and I had an actual workflow for cleaning up sound files. I think it went Noise Reduction » Compressor » Amplify, but I also remember applying some Equalization in there somewhere, so i should try to find those notes again. They’re here somewhere.
I have some other sound files to add, but that will be on another day.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.Permalink for this article: