I’ve been offering this advice for a long time, and people continue to tell me how their recordings have improved since they adopted these steps. So if you missed them the first few times around, here again are Five Tips for Better Recordings.
When the time comes to step up to the mic and press the RECORD button, there’s no substitute for practice. But even first-timers can get a jump on success with the following:
1. Count to five, twice. After you start the recorder, count to five before you start speaking. And again when you finish, count to five before you stop recording. There is a slight delay between the time you press or click RECORD and the time your system actually starts recording sound. If you’re a little excited or nervous in front of the microphone, it’s easy to jump the gun and start talking ahead of that delay. If you do that, the system may not record the first part of what you’re saying. When you’re done, believe it or not, it is also very easy to stop the recorder before you have finished speaking. So you can chop off part of a word or part of a sentence, or the sound of the natural reverberation in the room dying away. So your recording may sound odd, or worse. And a mistake like this is very hard to fix. On the other hand, if you count to five, you’ll leave plenty of room on both ends to capture all of your speech, and you can easily trim the excess later, in the editing process.
2. Test for ten seconds. When you begin a session, record ten seconds of your work and then LISTEN to it, to make sure the mic is on and everything sounds the way it should. It is very disappointing to discover that the perfect reading you just finished wasn’t recorded at all. This may sound silly; you may be thinking “I would never do that!” Well, I wouldn’t either. But I have.
3. Save the first take. Save the first recording you make. Even if you think you can do better, because maybe you won’t do better. The first take often turns out to be the best, because it’s fresh – though you might not think so at the time. Record it again if you want to, but save the first one and listen to it later, when you are likely to be more objective.
4. Do it all at once. If I can, I will record an entire section – or the whole program, if it’s not too long – in one session. It is nearly impossible to duplicate all the qualities of a recording over multiple sessions, especially if days or weeks go by in-between. If you do it all at once, though, it will sound like it all belongs together. I’m not talking about reading for hours non-stop; by all means take breaks. I’m saying that if you come back in a day or two to finish a project, your voice and the room ambience will sound different. If you can’t finish in one day, be sure to document everything about your recording setup so that you can get as close as possible to the original sound when you resume.
5. Hands off! Finally, while you’re recording, don’t touch the microphone. Sit or stand still and also don’t touch papers, your clothes, your pencil, the keyboard, or your mouse, because your microphone will pick up the noise made by all of these (and anything else).
Remember that drinking water helps keep your voice parts happy; drinking coffee doesn’t. And your smile can be heard through the microphone! Have a good time, and be somebody you’d like to listen to yourself.
Robert Hershenow is a technical writer, voiceover artist, musician, and audio engineer in Northern California.
© Copyright 2016, Robert Hershenow