Clack Clack Clack

Back in September I wrote about recording typewriters, and the generosity of Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter. It only took me six months to finish the material, but there is now a completed SFX Library:

I recorded seven machines from 4 perspectives:

  1. Close
  2. Distant
  3. Under Keyboard, Close
  4. Under Type Bars, Close

With a ton of actions per machine:[1]

  • single keys
  • punctuation
  • jammed keys
  • spacebar
  • spacebar, repeated
  • tabulator
  • fast tabulator
  • shift
  • shift + key
  • backspace
  • backspace
  • carriage return
  • typing, slow
  • typing, medium
  • typing, fast

One of my favorite machines from the collection is the Remington Standard. If you are thinking that the name Remington means “heft” then you would be correct.

The strength of this collection is not just the diversity of the material, but the variety of mechanical sounds that can be generated with simple pitch shifting. Check out the recordings at 1/2 speed.

I am very happy to have this collection in the world, but I can’t say that I was loving life cutting typewriters all of the time. There was a long period where I thought one more key depression my crush my soul. There are over 400 files, with multiple takes in each file, so you can imagine how oppressive the clicking and clacking of typewriters can be. All of the complaining aside, I’m very proud of the diversity of sound in this collection and I owe a big thanks to Tom Furrier at Cambridge Typewriter[2] for access to his collection and his unwavering, magical typing hands. I also owe a big thank you to Mitch Hanley and Kelly Pieklo for their ears and feedback.

I’m looking forward to finding something rather quiet to edit, but sadly it is isn’t on the horizon.[3]

  1. There are slight variations with each machine depending on the age of the machine and its hardware.  ↩
  2. I highly recommend you check out Tom’s blog as well. It is a joy to read.  ↩
  3. It is too bad that I have a ton of rockets to cut next.  ↩

Cambridge Typewriter

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of recording a series of antique typewriters. One of my closest pals is moving to the UK and while he is waiting on his visa, he is still stuck in Boston area. When I was planning my last visit before my pal’s departure, I started exploring recording opportunities. It was around that time when I discovered Tom Furrier’s work a Cambridge Typewriter.

Tom has been working in the Typewriter business for over 30 years and was willing to have us drop by the shop and record several machines. I was immediately taken with the 1939 Corona that he pulled out of his personal collection – as soon as it was removed from the leather case I knew we had to record it. Tom’s restoration of this Corona was so phenomenally clean it looked as if it had just walked itself off the showroom floor.

We mounted a Schoeps MS pair right above the typewriter:

A DPA 4060 under the keyboard:

A DPA 4060 under the middle of the typewriter and typebars:

Each perspective offered a unique take on this beautiful machine.

By the time the day was done we had spent over 6 hours in Cambridge Typewriter and we recorded eight typewriters. We managed to record a Royal 10, Woodstock Standard, Olivetti Lettera 22, Corona Sterling, Smith Corona Classic 12, Royal Companion, and an IBM Selectric. It was a ridiculously humid and after that day Tom officially has earned the status of mensch. Tom dutifully typed a variety sequences for us and imparted tons of useful information about each machine.

Tom’s spirit and passion for his craft is absolutely infectious. If you are ever in the Boston area, I highly recommend you visit Tom at Cambridge Typewriter. If you can’t travel to north east you can also keep track of Tom over at his blog.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/192 with a Cooper CS–104 as a front end.