A simple technique for wide & enveloping sea recordings

Somehow I find myself with a microphone at the beach a lot. I don’t particularly tend to relax much on beaches at all, but still end up visiting them often. And it might be the biggest cliche in nature sound recording, but don’t we all love that sound of waves lapsing onto a shore? Besides, the sea never sounds the same. Weather conditions of course have a great impact, and so do the time of day, ebb and flow and naturally whether it’s a sandy, rocky or pebbled beach.

So, one can never stop recording those beaches. The sea always delivers! But how to go about recording the thing? That being a highly subjective question, I can only talk about my personal preferences. I want a wide sound, very wide, not just left and right but almost as if it is all around me, and I want to hear detail. The further away you stand from the sea, the more it turns into nondescript noise – you could be fooled thinking it’s wind, or even a distant highway. I’m not interested in that, so I want to bring out the details of the water splashing, sloshing, rolling, retracting, all that good stuff.

The technique I use to achieve that goal is really very simple, but quite effective. Rather than planting my mics in front of the shoreline, which would be a logical and perhaps intuitive thing to do, I simply walk into the sea, point the mics forward, angle them downwards and record. That’s it.

To be sure, there is way more to consider when “properly” recording the sea, and if you head over to the excellent blog of Gordon Hempton you can read what a true master has to say about this subject. Highly recommended read. In fact you can see from the first picture on his blog post where I might have originally gotten the idea to walk into the sea with my mics …

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