Assignment 1

Assignment 1: Recording

In this assignment, you’ll learn how to make high-quality recordings of sounds that you can use in the next two assignments.

You will record several sounds that are not explicitly musical, focusing on making clear recordings with no distortion and low noise.

Because of our COVID-19 crisis, some of you cannot use our studio. Instead of our studio equipment, you may use a portable recorder or your own studio equipment to capture the sounds. Even if you can use our studio, you may wish to check out one of our portable recorders to use in other environments.


  • Use a portable recorder or a condenser microphone and computer to gather sounds.
  • [Optional] Understand the studio’s 16-channel 4-bus analog mixer and how sound signals may be routed through the mixer to the computer.
  • Optimize gain: control volume along the signal path.
  • Learn how to record into the ocenaudio program.
  • Record several types of sound for use in your music.

Choosing Sounds

Find some things that make sounds you would like to record. Since we’re recording sounds that are not explicitly musical, avoid making sounds on musical instruments or electronic devices that play music (or are used when making music).

The idea is to record individual sounds — sound objects — rather than a musical performance having prolonged rhythmic and/or melodic features.

Make the following four types of sound with whatever you bring to the studio:

  1. a percussive attack, with or without ringoff;
  2. a sustained noisy sound (can be bumpy and irregular, but should be fairly continuous), with no discernable pitch;
  3. a sustained sound having some pitch, such as you might hear rubbing a wine glass or a prayer bowl; and
  4. a passage of you reading (or whispering) the newspaper (or similar) in any language (can be an excerpt from a poem or novel, as long as it’s in the public domain or you otherwise have permission to use it in your own music).


You can choose one or more of these ways to do this assignment:

  1. record using a condenser mic in CECM Studio B (MC 304);
  2. record using a portable recorder, which you can check out from us; or
  3. record using your own setup.

If using a computer to record, we recommend ocenaudio, a simple, cross-platform, free program that has a good set of editing capabilities. Other possibilities include Audacity (cross-platform, free) and Adobe Audition (Mac/Win, not free, but IU site license covers you while you’re here).

NOTE: When you record source material, get in the habit of making a series of versions — performances, if you will — that vary subtly, with each version separated from the next by a second or two of silence.

Each recording should be 15-30 seconds long, containing several versions of one sound source.

CAUTION: Please don’t bring fire into the CECM studio (e.g., matches, lighters), even if cool sounds might’ve emerged. Be very careful with water and other stuff that could make a big mess. Use common sense.


  • Select your best recording of each of the four types of sound mentioned above (in the Choosing Sounds section), making sure that they are in this format:

    Mono (single-channel)
    48 kHz sampling rate
    24-bit resolution

    Each recording should be no more than about 30 seconds long.

  • Follow the assignment submission instructions to submit your recordings using Canvas.

Grading Criteria

This assignment will receive a letter grade based on the following criteria. The highest grade is A. There will be a one grade-increment deduction (e.g., from A to A-) for each of the following problems, except for the first, which counts two increments.

  • missing recording (should be four) [2 increments]
  • a sound that doesn’t reasonably fit the four types mentioned above
  • clipping, where the meter goes into the red, and the waveform is flattened off at its top and/or bottom
  • really low-amplitude waveform, unless the sound is inherently very soft (e.g., whispering, pin drop, etc.)

Any other problems are forgiven. But please leave silence between performances of your sound-making object.