How to create the sounds of the season that evoke visions of Santa and his sleigh.
Remember when you were a kid waiting for the soft clip of reindeer hoofs on your roof? If you were like most kids, you probably fell asleep long before Santa began unloading his sleigh, and those sounds were lost in your subconscious dreams. Now, you want to reinvent those long-lost sounds for your own kids' school play (or maybe convince them that there really IS a Santa Claus). Here are some sound design tips to help you recreate those magical memories.
You'll need a sheet of plywood, a lightweight towel, and a couple of walnut shells. Prop the plywood sheet up at an angle, cover it with the towel, and place a dynamic mic (like a Shure SM57) beneath the plywood. Tapping the board with the hollow of the walnut shells, record a few tracks of what landing reindeer might sound like—arrive at a gallop, and quickly slow to a stop. For the final mix, adjust the high frequency roll-off and lower mids to enhance the sense of hearing the hoof-steps from inside the house.
For this sound, support the four corners of the plywood sheet with a stack of paperback books, about six to eight inches high. Cover the top with the towel, and leave the dynamic mic underneath the plywood "roof." Position a large diaphragm condenser mic, such as a Neumann TLM-103 or a Shure KSM-32, about a foot away and facing the board. Put a generous amount of sand, sugar, or other granular substance on the towel, and with a couple forks (for the runners), "land" that sleigh at a speed and deceleration that matches the reindeer landing. Mix the scratchy sounds from the condenser mic with the woody sounds of the dynamic mic to achieve the desired effect.
While you're at it
Use the condenser mic to record sleigh bells. Its transient response and frequency range are much better than a dynamic mic for this purpose. The condenser mic is good for other incidental sounds, such as falling chimney soot (cornflakes and sugar) and the sound of Santa walking inside (leather shoes on wood). You can use the dynamic mic for adding Santa's "on the roof" footsteps (finger-walking on the plywood board/sand combination), and muffled chimney scuffles (scratch a pillow with your fingernails).
And to all...
Using either the condenser or the dynamic mic, before you are done be sure to record a resounding "Ho, ho, ho!" No holiday season would be complete without it!
To learn more about miking techniques and shopping for the right mic, check out our Microphone Buying Guide.
And when you’re ready to spring for new microphone, nobody beats Musician’s Friend for selection or price on dynamic and condenser microphones.