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Hey everyone,

I have a really simple question: With an SM57 how would you go about recording bangs, and slams, and rubble falling.

I ALWAYS peak. Is it a case of simple doing tests. . .setting the level so that it goes as close to the peak as possible. . And then recording it? If you do a test recording of a series of sounds do you always turn up the gain as high as possible so that it goes way close to the peak? Or do you always make sure it stays green in the levels then adjust volume in post? I never know whether recordings should have a majority of their sound in the green mid, or the high orange?

It never seems to be loud enough for my liking!

Any tips?

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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It would help to know what kinds of bangs you are recording. Are these intended to be big metal clangs? Low-frequency impacts? Car crashes? What recording device are you using? Are you hearing the clipping or just seeing it on the meters?

In most cases, the key ingredients to a powerful and believable impact recording are multiple perspectives (layers), spatialization, and proper use of compression/limiting. This is all very possible to do with a single SM57, it will just take a little editing in a DAW afterward. Try recording each sound from a few different perspectives, such as: extreme closeup, a couple feet away, underneath, from above, from across the room, from around the corner, and from the next room over.

Much like recording gunshots, if you only use the closeup recording then you will only get the sharp crack of the impact —— and by the time you bring the gain up enough to catch the decay of the sound, you'd be well into clipping-land. By layering the crack of the close perspectives with the body and decay of the distant ones, you get a well-rounded impact sound with perceived size. Adding a little limiting to the whole mix can add in some punch and bring the average level up, as well.

And a word on clipping: it isn't always the worst thing in the world. With a sound like a metallic bang, it's very likely that the initial transient will clip the input, but it's often so quick that you do not perceive the distortion when you listen back. Only when the sound audibly clips for more than a few milliseconds does it become a real issue. In the end, use your ears and don't worry about red warning lights.

Good luck!

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To offer an alternative viewpoint on what @Matt Glenn has said, I challenge you to use EQ, spatialization and compression/limiting INCORRECTLY in post processing - many times you need to push the envelope (or completely destroy it) in order to achieve the sound you are hearing in your head. Liberal use of distortion plugs, overlimiting and other red LED-inducing tools could be your friend.

Regarding your levels during recording, I also feel that staying away from too many peaks is a good and safe practice, but with certain types of material (gunshots, metal impacts, chains, etc) it's almost inevitable that you will encounter transient peaks.

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Thanks guys! Even when I put an sm57 next to a drawer and slam it it'll always peak unless I turn the gain right down.

Then in post If I increase the volume - ill get a lot of noise :(

Do you turn your gain down a lot for loud impulses - much lower than you would for ....say.....some cloth rustling for example.

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