Watermill recording session

I’d been meaning to record some more mechanical sounds of large/small wooden and metal cogs for a while and set out to find places to do such. Fortunately, if there is one thing the UK still has, it is a healthy supply of watermill and windmills. On this occasion I found a fully functional watermill and set about my task. As well as proving useful in providing the mechanical cog related sounds I was after, split across 3 internal levels, each containing a different set of mechanisms, the outside gave another set of interesting recording opportunities. If you’ve ever wondered how to create the sound of those big powerful waterwheel propelled paddle steam ships of the 18th/19thC and don’t have access to a real one, this will get you most of the way there!

Watermill Recording Session

Internally the cogs were surprisingly somewhat quieter than I had expected but given I was going to have to record in close proximity anyway in order to minimise room sound this was not a problem. The mechanical system were all recoded using dual Fostex FR-2′s with both a Sennheiser MKH40 and Rode NTG-3 shotgun mic approx. 1.5 ft away from the sound sources, and with a stereo Rode NT-4 mic approx. 1-1.5 meters back from the source getting a more ‘overall’ sound and less focused on specific cogs or noise making items.

Externally the mill produced quite a loud sound, which at distance became quite homogeneous, but when up-close there were many layers of detail worth recording, from the deep resonant area inside the wheel, the splash area at the base, the water inlet area and behind the back of the wheel. Having recorded these kind of things before I’ve often found that, depending on the condition of the wheel, they can often be creaky and getting in close to those sound producing areas can give another layer of colour to the recordings.

Fortunately on the day of the session, as is typical with the UK, the weather was pretty rubbish – cold and damp but that was actually a blessing, since had the weather been good then the likely hood would have been that rampant bird song would have compromised the external recordings.


Sound design
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