Field recordings in compositions


This is a gathering of very talented musicians, and I’d love to talk with you about field recordings, and how to incorporate them in compositions.

I’ve made a bunch of field recordings, and so far my approach has been twofold:

  1. Slice cracks, pops and interesting wooshes for use as one shot samples
  2. Let a long field recording play in the background of a piece.

What do you like to do with your field recordings? Are there specific sounds you look for when out and about with a recorders? What are your best tips for making music with field recordings?

Hoping to hear your thoughts! :slight_smile:

(Damn, is that headline even remotely grammatical?)


I am interested in the answers to this as well. I’d like to use more of the 301’s sampler capabilities than I do since that’s an obvious strength.

One idea I’ve played around with that you did not mention is to use a very short (milliseconds) loop of a field recording as the basis for a synth voice. So that becomes your oscillator, and you can apply an amp envelope filter, add effects etc.

I guess there are potentially millions of complex oscillator voices in a lengthy field recording eh?


It’s not a field recording, but I made an “oscillator” out of a waveform from a recording I made of a cymbal roll. I don’t see why you couldn’t do it with just about anything.

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Oh yeah, single cycle waveforms out of field recordings is definitely something I’ve done, as well. Can be a really nice way to find new timbres.

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One idea I always have with field recordings is rather than use them directly in the mix send them on a pre fader send to reverb and/or delay - this way you get some additional space & texture without making it the focus of a track


To compliment my last statement I was also told last year, by a very famous electronic musician, that they invariably always add a recording of the outside ambience of their studio to a mix - which I’ve yet to actually try but can see it would add a “je ne sais quoi” to a track


Here’s a track inspired by and featuring a field recording of a bamboo grove on a windy evening. It also contains a mic recording of a Japan-wide weather report.


I like using granular synthesis + resonators and vocoders.


I actually make compositions entirely with field recordings and am only just beginiing to swim in the waters of “electronic music composition”. My primary intent with my ER-301 purchase was to provide more “organic” and hands on mechanisms for the manipulation of field recordings and sound design…as you can imagine it was a mistake to think I could stop there! In that context, for example with “radio art” I will manipulate the field recordings to convey, in a less linguistic manner, the content of the story being shared…to provide emotional cues, or mood changing ambiences to take audiences away from their literal minds and allow the story to carry them emotively somewhere else…but made from the sounds of the story itself if that makes sense.


For those who are recording their own - what gear are you using? I currently have an H6, and am looking to pick up a not-insanely-priced shotgun pretty soon.

Insanely priced mics (MKH8040, MKH60), as well as inexpensive ones (luhd omnis, sony pcm-m10, oktava mk12, LEM 21), and some inbetween (MD21, EV 468, RE20, PL6 … ).

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I use regularly a Rode NTG3, a pair of Rode NT6, a pair of Michael Joly small condensers (MJE-384), an Oktava Mk012 modded by the same fellow. I use a Tascam DR 100mkii with a SD mix pre in front of it when I want a smaller kit, or a Zoom F8 normally, along with a hydrophone (which doubles as a contact mic) and wireless mics.

I’ve used other sound devices gear and mics when borrowing them from radio stations, but have never been able to justify costs for the amount of return.

edit: one thing that i rarely see mentioned about the NTG 3 (given you’re looking for a shotgun) is it is remarkably resistant to radio interference eg. mobile telephones. The Oktava (not that it’s a shotgun) on the other hand is almost as sesitive to incoming text messages as a sensor designed for the purpose!

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Thanks so much for the input! I’m defaulting on a shotgun to pair with the m/s attachment on the h6. The NTG-3 looks like it could do what I need it to in that price point. Was also thinking of upgrading the H6 to an F4 sometime soon (F8 is too much for me at present).

You’re welcome. I think the F4 has superior preamps to the H6…and is ergonomically a better proposition from what I can see. I dont like the tascam “double press to record” setup as I’ve missed recordings before with it, and in a bag with a preamp it’s difficult to locate so the front screen and controls are accessible. I probably only need 4 inputs regularly, but the F4 wasn’t available at the time, and the SD 702 was 2.5k more in price with only 2 inputs albeit better sound. (I’d borrowed one from a radio station I was doing freelance work for and the ergonomics/sound quality difference between cheaper consumer stuff noticeable/significant)

Another thing to mention about Rode, as there’s plenty of critique of them amongst professionals, is their exemplary warranty service. I had a failed part on a new lav mic last year that I’d purchased in Australia but only discovered the fault in Lima. They had a service agent (it turned out only 6 blocks from my hotel) to whom they said “replace it” when I contacted Rode Australia, and I had a new part the next morning before I left for parts much more remote.

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The iPhone has a decent condenser on it. Like they say about the best camera being the one you have on you… :wink:


That’s also very true.

Here’s an example of farming, rather than audio recording, but with a field recorder’s ear :slightly_smiling_face:

Rounding sheep out in the paddock and I heard this with only an iphone to hand. It’s a wheel which rotates with water flow to measure cost for irrigation of rice. I thought the musicality of it was amazing for a repetetive/chaotic event.

hmm: seems that mp3 uploads are not working.


They do work but there is a size limit…2MB I think.

Edit: Actually the limit is 3MB.

Ah, ok, thanks. I’ll trim it and try again.

Awesome. That’s a fine specimen! :slight_smile: