My areas of interest are in acoustics and recording.
I am intrigued as to why small portable recording booths are non-existent in today’s society, It used to be where you’d sing in a box and it would then print out a record with your vocals on, so you can imagine… quality was most likely very poor, I’m intrigued as to why they weren’t kept up to date as we changed from records to tapes then to compact discs and now digital.
I am going to design and build a prototype for my very own portable recording booth, but tailor it to the quality and convenience of modern music.
The overall outcome for a ‘customer’ would be a good quality track (unlike they used to be), in a quick time.
My aim; to make a good quality song, ready as soon as the person steps out of the booth, and thus can be uploaded online. Probably Soundcloud, whether I upload it onto their account or make my own for the booth itself is still under discussion.
In order for it to be an instant production, I might start out with 2 or 3 songs for people to sing (with pre recorded backing tracks) so that I can pre-make all of the effects a person might use for the song and it’ll be a quick selection during the recording. For instance if someone requires autotune, I shall have it already set up in the correct key for the song (this is to be finalised at a later date). My portfolio of songs will expand over time.
I can conduct surveys to find out which songs are most desired by potential users.
The set up inside the booth will be a single microphone (type not decided) with an XLR connected to my laptop which will fit onto the front of The Booth, running through a small analog to digital audio converter which I own personally.
In such a compact space, sound proofing is unlikely… however sound dampening can be explored. I will research into a bunch of materials such as foam, towel and egg boxes, to determine which material is ideal for the scenario.
I will also dabble in designing a logo and setting up social media accounts for the booth.
The booth hopefully will be able to be to be taken apart for transportation and convenience.
I’m going to record the building progress through a series of photos and some short clips which will all be displayed on social media and wordpress.
I will research some books on soundproofing and find some about old fashioned recording booths and studios in general.
I will use WordPress to document all of my thoughts as the projects develop and potential issues we face.
RESEARCH INTO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BOX
I read a book on basic DIY, telling me about tools and how to use them, how to make a sturdy structure.
I own a fair amount of wood working tools already, here are the ones I will use for my project.
Hammer, Drill and a few other basic/essential pieces of equipment.
Based on the budget and tools that I have, I have decided to build my structure out of Wood. It wont weigh too much and will be easy to transport. It didn’t require too much of a discussion as it is the standard material for building anything like this. It’s also easy to paint and decorate once it has been built. I’ve decided to use plywood boards as my base material.
I have decided, after looking online, that I should get the wood from Champion timber near where I live… so that I can consult people and ask for their opinions on the matter.
My house is also within delivery distance which is convenient and ideal.
For a potential future model, with a wider budget and easier mobility, I would consider making a frame, for a sturdier structure. But this is impractacle for the current circumstances.
Dovetail Joints –
has to be very precise (would have to be done by a professional)
one of the strongest joints but requires incredible accuracy. More pricey.
Dowel Joint –
Easy to take apart and to fabricate, wares away over time. Moderately strong, only as strong as the strength of the dowels and wood. Requires precision, so would have to be done by a more experienced carpenter. Best for a prototype.
Tensor Latch –
More expensive, but easier to take apart and will not wear the material. Strong and weather appropriate. Would have to be on the side which makes it uglier.
I have decided to use Dowel Joints due to price and resources.
Step one to successful soundproofing is sturdy construction, if the walls are thin then the sound waves will cause it to vibrate.
Unfortunately as this is a prototype, it is too expensive to get thicker, stronger materials. But for future models is highly possible with the correct funds. This will compromise the performance but if I were to splash out on fancier materials there wouldn’t be room for improvement and any mistake would be more lethal for my project. So thinner wood is safer for a college project/prototype.
Then its about making sure that there is minimal gaps in the joints, for sound spillage. The more precise the holes drilled for the dowel joints, the less spillage there will be. However in the future when the final product doesn’t have to be deconstructed, I will use a more secure joint such as a Dovetail.
At that time I can look more into the Sound Transmission Class of the materials, enabling the best result. But with the time and money restraint, limited options are provided.
Next there is sound damping, where by sound waves are converted to heat waves. A lot of websites recommend something called ‘Green Glue’, which is used to connect the materials. Unfortunately the only place I can use this glue is around the windows and possibly behind the sound proofing as the walls aren’t a permanent structure.
Then decoupling, where by you eliminate the contact points of two materials. Like creating a gap between them. (isolating the layers)
PURCHASING OF SUPPLIES
I confirmed all of my research with some experts at ‘Champion Timber’, and have stuck with plywood as my main building material.
I even managed to convince them to give me a 10% student discount, which they don’t normally offer.
They delivered next day.
I am using ‘efoam’ for my sound foam and supplies as they cut to size.
However since contacting them, they have not kept to their maximum 12 day delivery guarantee. This could jeopardise my entire project unless I act fast.
IDEAS ON HOW TO FORMAT MY RECORDINGS
My first idea is to produce the backing of a few well known, current or timeless classics that people can just record vocals on top of.
I thought about using the original backing but from research discovered that I would have limited rights over the song and it would complicate the promotion of my business idea.
Some song ideas, based on the current UK chart and all time classics:
Ed Sheeran – Castle On The Hill
Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay – Something Just Like This
Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
Panic! at the disco – Death of Bachelor
Paramore – That’s What You Get
James Arthur- Say You Won’t Let Go
My second idea was inspired by 4 Chord Song by The Axis of Awesome which demonstrates how you can sing many many songs over the same four chords.
So using this idea I can create a simple but effective four chord sequence that can be used for multiple songs.
This would save me a lot of time in the production process and also mean I wont have to rely on as many musicians.
Adele – Hello
Black Veil Brides – In The End
The Great Escape – Boys Like Girls
Walk The Moon – Shut Up and Dance With Me
Frozen – Let it Go
Linkin Park – Numb
Linkin Park – Given Up
Billy Joel – We Didn’t Start The Fire
Bring Me to Life – Evanescence
Face Down – The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Blank Space – Taylor Swift
I Knew You Were Trouble – Taylor Swift
Memories – Panic! At the Disco
John Legend – All of Me
I decided to go with my second idea, as my first idea is far too karaoke like, which steers away from the professional atmosphere I am aiming for. Also it gives the vocalist more options as to song, therefore more freedom.
After discussion with one of my teachers, I have decided to come up with three options (packages) for the vocalist to choose from
Option 1 – Fast-Track Recording
Using my simple backing only, emphasis on the vocals.
Option 2 – Enhanced Recording
A more in-depth recording, received in a week after more in depth mastering and backing.
Option 3 – Independent Recording
Vocalist brings in their own music etc, and does their own thing with assistance if needed.
I arranged a recording session with a friend of a friend (Sophia). Her availability was limited so it did set me back a bit in my time plan.
Here is a snippet from the recording.
Colour Scheme Ideas
- Midnight blue on the outside and a neon orange on the inside.
This draws attention to the inside which is where all the interesting stuff will be happening.
Am going to talk to art students about decorating the outside with quirky/intriguing designs. To in a way replicate a chaotic punk like wall. This will be on the two blank sides of the booth with no windows or doors, i do not want any near the window as it will draw the attention away from the musician inside, which is what i want people to notice.
If artists do not come forward and I have spare time I might do some designs myself.
I made some posters with my logo on to put up around college, in the hope to recruit art fanatics.
Unfortunately no one came forward, but thankfully being a former art student myself came up with something myself.
Simple so that it won’t take much time out of my plan, but eye catching at the same time.
Also researching into the budget colours offered at ‘Home Base’ I will have to work around it.
I drew a quick sketch on my phone while on the way to college.
Microphones that don’t require phantom power (because it needs to be adaptable for every location. Indoors or outdoors meaning I might not have access to any sockets)
The microphones a college that fit the requirements are:
Vocal Dynamic Mic
Wide Frequency Response
Mid range Emphasis
Vocal Dynamic Mic
Switchable For Vocals and Percussion
Vocal Dynamic Mic
50hz – 18Khz
Vocal Dynamic Mic
Live Vocal Microphone
I asked the college techs for their opinions as to which microphone they think will suit a small more confined space, and they confirmed my thoughts by telling me that the SM7b would be best for the job. It does require more gain than the others but overall wont be too powerful for such a small space. Its quite large and heavy in size, but shouldn’t be a problem due to the sturdy structure of my booth.
I first constructed a 3 dimensional paper model, as an example of what I wanted.
My personal deadline for the booth prototype is the 3rd June (a bit after the project deadline) when the exhibition I shall be presenting it at college is.
I started this project fully aware that it’d be unlikely to produce the product in the short deadline.
When the wood arrived I could tell
something was wrong, there had been a mix up in measurements and the length of the booth was very small, I originally wanted the average sized person to be able to stand comfortably inside but me (being a very small person) would only just fit inside. On the plus side this does mean that the larger pieces of wood will be lighter and easier to carry.
Due to bad weather we had to take construction inside, which of course meant we had to be a lot more careful with the tools.
I measured and drilled the holes for the dowel joints and test slotted them together, it was a bit of a tight fit so we drilled the holes a little deeper. This will make assembling the booth a lot easier.
I measured the door and windows then Jig-sawed them out with some assistance.
I painted the blank panels, with two white base coats and two coats of each colour.
Unfortunately the pre cut ‘efoam’ did not arrive, so i researched into last minute apolstery foam or a quick alternative that could work and might perhaps be more alternative.
‘Dunelm’ the popular furniture shop fortunately sold foam designed for making cushions etc, but they uad a wide variety. I wrapped myself in the foam and sang some words, and it produced quite a nice basey tone which i hoped would be replicated in my final product.
I borrowed a staple gun from a friend, and purchased some material to cover it with and make the interior look alot nicer.
So i attatched the foam and cotton to the pannels of the booth, and assembled it at college. Then we drilled a small hole in the side of the booth for the mic stand to fit through.
At ‘dunelm’ i had also bought some battery powered fairy lights, for the interior lightong and because i thought they drew attention to the interior.
Presentation and Feedback
At college my booth had an overwhelmingly postive reacfion with the public, not many people being confident enough to test it as such but intruiged enough to ask and discuss about it with me. I feel asthough it also shed a good light on the ‘music performance and production’ course itself as many parents told me they thought the course was quite limitted but were unaware of the recording and technical aspects of it. They were also not sure where a coure like this could take you, and after telling them of my future plans they seemed hopeful for their own childrens endevours.
“I didnt even know this was possible to do for a college project” said a fellow student, unaware that there was another side to music tech other than self-producing albums.
“Its a really neat idea, can see one being poped up in the town center” to which i told them potential future plans for the booth (listed below). Then i gave them the facebook page info, so they can stay up to date.
“Can I get one daddy?” said a young child to her father, then proceeded to recording. Me and her dad exchanged emails so I can send the recording to him. To the girls request i have added backing music, she however was not facing the microphone and was dancing frantically so mastering has been a little tricky. But a learning curve.
Final Product and The Future of ‘The Booth’
I see my booth being a quirky event at a festival or fair. Hired out for birthday parties and weddings. I have high expectations for the booth, and once it has built up in popularity, then I can one day consider hiring it out for events.
Overall I have achieved way more than I thought I could on a low budget, with no mode of transport and within a short deadline.
I have learnt a lot about acoustics and producing such a complex project and I can say that it is something I wish to continue in the future.
A few things went wrong such as the wood measurements and the acoustic foam not having been delivered. But I overcame those obstacles in an efficient manner.
Also the college internet was constantly going down so it held me back a little, and because of this it kept deleting previously added sections from my WordPress.
For a prototype I think it is successful. Would it function as a usable product in the long term? probably not. In the future I will construct a sturdy frame and have to build it with health and safety regulations in mind.
Some problems I faced were transport, constructing the booth in London while attending college in Sussex. Relying on other people more than I should have, which set me back a few weeks depending on peoples availability.
To conclude, project has been a success and I have developed the skills I desired to develop, and have a product that I am proud of to show for it.