Amplifying a falling stone - your comments

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

Always a creative bunch, Audio Masterclass visitors provide solutions to the problem of amplifying a small stone, dropped by a dancer in a theatrical performance.

No-one offered a suggestion for actually doing it for real, but there were a few suggestions of how a suitable sound could be made for playback during the show...

"This is a suggestion about the sound of a stone falling from 2 meters...

Just drop the mic, with a light windscreen on it with the diaphragm facing away from the wind, straight down and record the audio up until the mic hits the ground, then mix that sound with the sound of the stone hitting the floor, and process it through the Small Stone phaser that was seen on the page.

Also you could just record the stone falling with an omnidirectional mic with a good windscreen and try to follow it down as it falls,or you could just blow into the mic (slow to fast}then amplify it at the show. I wonder if he was stoned asking that?"

RP comment - don't try dropping a microphone onto a hard surface, unless it is a Shure SM57 (which you can also use to hammer in nails), a Shure SM58 (Have you ever seen one without a dent in the grille?), or a Beyerdynamic M140 (Did it myself. Mic survived).

* * *

"Just a thought, but i would guess most of your audiences referance points to such a climatic moment would be from film......and in film these events often take place from multiple angles and in slow motion, think of the all important last shot being taken in any sports film, the ring being thrown away by the jilted lover in a romance etc.......slloooowww... i would probably see if there was some way i could attach fishing line or thin thread to the stone to allow it to drop in slow motion, coupled with slow movements from the performers to enhance the mood and then for the sound experiment with a deep filter sweep over a more genertic flange (Reverse if needed to obay the doppler effect (think of tom and jerry running down stairs rather then up if you have no idea what im on about ) )Then finally slow the whole kit and caboodle down some." - Phill Wilson

* * *

Re the sound of a small stone: I think I would take a leaf from the book of the old cartoon sound effects guys. If you watch some vintage cartoons, you will see that accurate is NOT the name of the game - they would use someting like a swanee whistle (substitute your favourite synth here!) followed by a load crash. These sounds are of course totally unrealistic, but instantly recognisable by the audience. Henry Nurdin - Mid Wales

* * *

I work in sound design, and the way to solve the problem is to look at it from a different angle.

You need the sound of a stone falling, - stones make no noise falling - but - we can use another sound to suggest the stone falling in a listener's mind.

I would look in my database of sounds for inspiration and call some up and play around with adjustments and mixing of sounds till I came up with one that sounded 'right' rather than one that was accurate.

I always use the example of the wild life programs showing a frog eating a large insect. We made a sound by crunching a barley sugar and adjusting it to suit. No one notices this is wrong until I tell them. (Of course there is no sound when an insect is eaten that the human ear would pick out).

I cannot emphasise enough - be subtle - quiet sounds are picked up keener by the ear and suggest more. (everyone notices and stops to listen to a whisper). Real sounds often sound wrong too.

Instead of recording a stone - think of how a stone should be represented by sound - and don't go for any cartoon whistle bomb fall effect unless it is a comedy production. Or call me and I will make you a sound.

Hope this is helpful.

Steve Hills.

RP comment - Excellent! But we can never watch nature programs in the same way again...

* * *

"Hi. Place two good mics in front of your stretched arms, 1.5 meters apart, pointing at you. Take a caveman's plastic club (the carnival ones, very light and empty, a few cents) and start swooshing it left to right, right to left, downwards and upwards several times, with different strength and velocity. Cheers"

RP comment - Hey, that one's not bad. Would anyone like to send in some audio files...?

Happy swooshing!

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