I usually track "basics" with all the players, instruments, and amps in the same room. I find that musicians perform better this way. Unfortunately, the situation can get pretty "washy" with all the sounds bouncing around inside a single room, and the bleed between instruments can sometimes be a liability. Recall my statement earlier about designing my live room so it utilizes moveable acoustic treatments for variable acoustics. Now imagine the excitement I felt when I discovered a wall that I can roll out when needed, vary in shape to divide up my live room into efficient acoustic zones, and roll up for storage when no longer required.

The Versipanel roll-out wall is a flexible, free-standing divider made of life-preserver foam and covered in fabric. Vertical ridges allow the wall to curve, making it easy to form semi-enclosed spaces within a room or to follow the contours of existing walls or furniture in a room. Versipanels are made to order, and can be a maximum of 8 ft tall and 35 ft long. Compared to other foam products, the Verispanel has excellent absorptive properties, most likely due to the extreme density of its foam. And it's incredibly durable, more so than any other acoustic product I've seen. (Visit the manufacturer's website for acoustic ratings and a summary of flammability characteristics.)

During a recent two weeks of tracking, I had the opportunity to use two Versipanels to control the acoustics in my live room. While tracking basics, I rolled out a 6-ft tall wall behind the drum kit to tame the reflections coming off the rear wall. I rolled out a 4-ft tall wall in front of the kit to reduce the amount of direct bleed between the drums, amps, and non-corresponding mics. The two Veripanels effectively created a "drum room" within the live room with significant attenuation of first reflections and bleed, allowing me to place my main drum mics a few feet from the kit. I left the sloped ceiling and the upper parts of the two-story tall walls uncovered, so there was still be a good deal of splashy room reverb making its way into the room mics. Of course, the effect on the drum sound was far less pronounced than what would have been accomplished if the drum kit had been in its own tracking room altogether, but that kind of extreme isolation was not what I was looking for. When it came time to do overdubs, the Versipanels were handy for "focusing" the sound of the guitar amp. By varying the "wrap" of the wall around the guitar amp, it was easy to adjust the "tightness" of the amp's sound to suit the character of the guitar part. While recording backing vocals, the Versipanel walls were used to define areas of the room that were dry and areas that were reverby. And I'm now looking forward to utilizing the roll-out walls for an upcoming session with a string section.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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