Field Recording – Rubber band

Following up on the HISSandaROAR Field Recording Competition I asked the winners in each category to explain a little about their sound, what were they thinking??

OK what would you expect from a rubber band? Twangs and? Have a listen:



ANDREAS USENBENZ – Rubber Band Bowed Between Fingers And Teeth Contact Miced


Andreas: “I bowed the rubberband mounted between my fingers and my mouth. Like shown on the photo. I bowed it with a cello bow and recorded the sound with two schertler basik contact microphones. I moved my hands slightly between mouth and hands to produce these kind of pitch fx.



ANDREW ING – Rubber Band snap on metal sheet


Andrew: “The rubber band was actually one of the harder sounds for me to figure out. I decided to have one “classic” type of sound, and that it would be a rubber band snap. I knew that it would have to be a good one to make it work. I tried to find the biggest, thickest rubber band I could to achieve this. I tried snapping the rubber band on different surfaces to find the right sound. I tried wood tables, walls, doors, a plastic tub, etc. I finally decided on a metal sheet. I miked it up using a Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic, and ran it through a Toft atb console, into Pro Tools. The mic was probably about 5-6 feet away from the point of impact on the metal sheet, and I just let her rip and got a real big “snap” kind of sound.”



HENRIQUE BRION – Rubber Band releasing after being rolled


How did you discover this particular sound?
Henrique: “Sincerely it was a random discovery, I stay on floor for hours and hours with three sizes of rubber band trying to make different and original sounds, so it is possible to choose later. This particular sound it was one of last ideas that appeared. Basically the phrase “Rubber Band releasing after being rolled” says it all. I put a rubber band on the middle of another that was one of edges triangle made with rubber band as you can see on picture, and rolled the rubber band till it couldn’t roll more, and then drop it. The sound it’s the natural unroll.”

How many takes did you do to find it?
“Practically it was one of the first takes of this idea. I have to confirm which exactly, to be precise. I know I recorded three or four takes and spent lots more time on other ideas.”

What gear did you record it with? recorder? mic/s?

“I recorded with sound devices 702T and mic CMITu5.”



JUSTIN DOYLE – Rubber Band Twang Over Guitar Pickup Paperclip Taped To It

Justin: “The thing I liked the most about the rubber band as a prop was it’s potential energy and movement. Plucking it sounded great and by either increasing and relaxing the tension you could get some nice pitch bends, as I’m sure most of us experimented with. I thought a lot of people might go for this type of sound, treating the rubber band like an instrument string, maybe getting a note from it or stretching it across a resonating chamber, so I wanted to do find a way of recording it differently.

I thought if I taped a paper clip to it and plucked it, I could record it with a guitar pickup mic, as the small piece of metal would swing past the pickup, much like a electric guitar string. This way I could trace the movement of the rubber band and to capture it’s energetic motion in an abstract fashion without so much of it’s audible sound.

I taped one end of the rubber band to the desk and stretched it over the guitar pickup with the paper clip right in the middle. I might have recorded about 5 minutes of plucks, trying to get the band as close to the pickup as possible, but not too close or it would stick to it as the pickup becomes an electro magnet when plugged in.

I was monitoring with headphones and knew I had a couple of sounds l really liked in the first few takes. I kept trying to get something more unusual and interesting but I think it was about the third one that was the sound I sent in. On that particular take I’d plucked the band then dropped off a lot of the tension, and it got really close to the pickup so it had a nice low end and warbly kind of saturation to it.

The guitar pickup mic I’d made myself after reading a post on Jean Eduard Miclot’s blog. I ordered a Kent Armstrong stacked humbucker from ebay and wired it to an xlr plug. I’ve been using it for about a year to record electro magnetic hums but I’ve found it also works pretty well on most vibrating or fast moving metal objects. I recorded it on a Sound Devices 722 set to low gain range, limiters on, with a 40hz roll off. The signal would get pretty loud and their was alot of subharmonic being generated.

It was the first idea I had for the rubber band prop as it just felt like an instrument string when I was messing around with it. If that didn’t work I was thinking about different ways I could set it on fire and record those.”



KAI PAQUIN – Rubber Band recorded with solar cell and laser

How did you discover this particular sound?
Kai: “Back in high school I had to write a thesis paper of my choice in order to graduate, so I did mine on experimental recording techniques. My friend Random and I spent something close to 5 months messing around with junk we had laying around our houses building microphones, and transducers. One of the transducers we built was a laser mic based off spying equipment. We used a laser pointer reflecting on a window and a photo resistor cell as the pickup. After messing around a while, we figured out the sound is caused when the laser flickers off the cell and back on, so my friend twanged a rubber band in front of the laser, and that’s how the sound came to be.

A cool offspring project from that was transmitting music through light and back.

How many takes did you do to find it?
It only took one take since we knew what we were looking for, but since I had it out, I ended up recording 20-30 minutes, and messed around a bunch. It was hard picking just one sample because I got a variety of other interesting sounds out of the recordings. I ended up making a small sound effects library out of the session for fun.

What gear did you record it with? recorder? mic/s?

I used a laser pointer, a solar panel, and a Sony PCM-M10 recorder. With some experimentation, Random determined that the solar panel had a better bass response than the photo resistor we had used before.”



RICHARD SAVERY – Rubber Band music

Richard: “Before I started recording the sounds I knew the rubber band could be used to make different notes, but then I wanted to look for a way to make the sound resonate and have different pitches while only using one rubber band. I had a pretty good idea of the sound I was going for and then it was just a matter of creating it.
I had an old large plastic jar lying around which I stretched the rubber band over, then used skewers to hold it in place (I figured I’d use common items), the skewers meant with the one rubber band I could have different lengths of it across the jar for the different pitches.
Aiming to get the most resonance I could I put it on my glass table and used small amounts of blu tac to hold it in place. Then I tested pulling it in certain ways; how tightly stretched the rubber band was changed the pitch far more than the length from side to side.
I placed the mic right inside the jar and used the omni to catch the sound bouncing around inside the jar. I also tried with a cardioid capsule but sound was much, much smaller and less interesting. From inside the omni had a pretty big sound, from outside the jar it was really a fairly unimpressive sound. I think mic placement was everything for this sound!
Once I had the rubber band set up in a cool way there were about 10 different takes. I had many other sounds/takes that I’d been recording and trying out through the process although most of them weren’t particularly interesting till the end.
Gearwise, was nothing special. I used my home setup of a Rode NT55 (Omni Capsule) going into Mackie Onyx preamp, straight to PC.”



ROBIN FENCOTT – Rubber Band large rubber band scraped with finger

Robin: “I told my housemate about the competition, and she came home from work the next day with a whole selection of rubber bands, of different thicknesses and lengths.

The process was very playful and exploratory. I didn’t have any particular sounds in mind when I started recording. In total for all five props I recorded several hours of material, and spent at least that much time again going through to find the best bits.

Initially I was excited by the very thick rubber bands, however the sound I eventually chose came from a long, yet fairly thin band. (perhaps 7mm in thickness). To achieve that effect, I cut the band so it became a long string. Next I tied it off on a spare mic stand, and close mic’d the base of the band near where it was knotted. I then pulled the other end tense and half strummed, half scraped it with my finger. I selected that sound in particular because it contains an interesting balance of fricative noise and pitched content.

Everything was recording through an Apogee Duet, and I tried a few different condenser microphones, although I’m afraid I can’t remember which microphone I used for that particular sound.

I normally work entirely inside the computer, so it was a refreshing change to set up microphones and record some real noises. Being very playful with all the props was great fun, but I think next time I’d try and be a bit more organised during the recording phase, so as to not spend as much time afterwards sifting through failed experiments and general setup noise. I also had the computer in a different room to reduce the noise, so some sort of remote control to start/stop recording would have been really useful, as would some way to add markers on the timeline during recording to make auditioning a bit less tedious. I’m sure there must be hardware controllers (or iPhone apps?) which do this sort of thing.



SAMUEL RICHARDS – Rubber Band Bath Twang


“We were trying to think of the different ways the definition of a “rubber band” could be interpreted, we tried a few different ideas. Starting with connecting a hundred or so “regular” size stationary type bands together, then a Pilates band I found. We also made a large ball out of small rubbers bands and rolled it around the bath, which was nice, but it didn’t have the resonance we were looking for. The Pilates band worked really well stretched over the front of a front loading washing machine drum. Finally I remembered that I was given a “3 man” water balloon launcher, with very long and very strong bands to launch the balloons.
We used the bathroom to lessen traffic noise and the bath to create a chamber to amplify the sound, this also provided a convenient means to stretch it and adjust the tension and length easily.
I guess we tried 15-20 takes before we managed to get a reasonable tone without too much vibration or extraneous noise coming through.
I used a Sennheiser 416P and an H4n, moving the mic over and around in the bath before settling on a position where the resonance of the bath was at a maximum.”



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