Improve Your Recording
Below you will find some advice about how to improve your recording. The page is separated into two sections: Technical, which deals with recording set-ups, common problems, and editing solutions; and Style, which discusses reading techniques to help you improve your reading style. Please feel free to add any hints & suggestions to this page.
This section covers specific problems and solutions for technical issues in your recording.
Plosives: popping P's
A common problem with audio recordings is the "exploding p," called a plosive, sounds which create a pop in the microphone. Usually plosives are created by the letter "p," but "t," and "s" and other letters can be problematic as well. Here are some solutions:
- Use a foam shield (which you can buy at electronics stores)
- Make your own shield out of a hanger & a nylon stocking (!)
- Read into the microphone at an angle, or "past" the mic, instead of into it. (i.e. instead of positioning your mouth so that when you breath out the air rushes straight at the microphone, position you mouth so that you are at an angle from the microphone and your breath blows across the top or to the side of the mic, and NOT directly at it.).
- If you're using a headset mic, put the mike down below your chin, or above your nose.
Sibilants: harsh Ssss
Some readers find that they have problems with very harsh and loud S sounds. This problem does not respond well to shields or microphone angles, but there are a couple of things you can do:
- Move a desktop microphone further away The S sounds are only loud quite close to your mouth. If you record between 4" and 8" away from the mouth the S sounds should be reduced. Note that this can introduce unwanted room echo. See below.
- Use a De-Esser This is a special audio compression program that targets this problem. There are Plug-Ins that you can download for Audacity that do this.
- Use an Equaliser An Equaliser is like a fancy tone control, and is built into Audacity already. You can only use an Equaliser if the problem is a fault in your microphone that makes it is too sensitive to the S sounds. Electret microphones often need an equaliser to help them produce a good sound.
All voice recordings are going to contain a small amount of room echo, and most people agree that recordings are best when this is kept to a minimum. Choose the room you record in carefully. The more soft furnishings, carpets, and curtains the room contains the better. The size of the room also has an effect, as very small rooms can sound "boxy".
One good way of checking the strength of the echo is to stand in your room and clap your hands together once as hard as you can. Listen to the ringing sound after the clap. Move around the room and do it again. Compare different rooms. You will find that the ringing sound is different in different rooms and in different places within a room. Choose somewhere to record that has the shortest ring after your clap.
If you cannot find anywhere with a really short ring try closing curtains, and opening doors and windows (if that doesn't introduce more noise!). If that doesn't work you will have to try hanging up blankets and duvets on the walls or over drying racks to try and reduce the echo.
- Get the right equipment. The best choice for a mic is something that plugs into your USB port. This means that the audio goes straight through to your computer. The alternative is to have a mic that plugs into the microphone input, which relies on your sound card. If you have a medium or poor quality soundcard, you probably won't get the best audio quality with a non-USB microphone.
- Set the volume first. Make sure that the final recording isn't so quiet that you need to increase the volume after you've recorded. Increasing the volume after you recorded will make any background fuzz you have much more noticeable. Try this on your own set up. Turn the input volume down for your microphone (either in your software, or through the computer's settings) and record something short. Then change the volume back to the normal volume and record the same thing. Adjust the first recording so that it is at the same volume as the second recording. Hear the difference in background noise?
- Some consistent background noise can be effectively removed. |Audacity software versions 1.2.6 and lower do not do a very good job of noise removel. They tend to sound tinny. Version 1.3 and higher provide more satisfactory results. While there are programs and techniques which can make "noisy" recordings sound better, it is always much better to work at ways to cut down on noise before you read. If you need after recording help, visit the Advice forums for ideas, or create a post there for noise removal. There is also a Noise Cleaning page which explains the use of various software programs.
The key to developing a good reading style is to become comfortable with your reading. Let your body relax as you're reading, and don't get frustrated over mistakes. If you are tense you're more likely to read too quickly, or forget to enunciate words. Don't worry about reading too slowly, because listeners will prefer a slightly slower reader. This allows them to digest what they are hearing and enjoy it more. You will usually make fewer mistakes if you are reading more slowly too.
If you find that you are making a lot of mistakes (and if this bothers you - you can edit them out later) try reading the text aloud just before you record. Rehearsing the text like this allows you to relax and not worry so much about any stumbles you do make. It is important that you do read aloud when rehearsing - it forces you to read every word and only then will you discover the unfamiliar combinations of words that can cause stumbles.
Some use nasal sprays, mint-drops, brushing their teeth and chamomile tea, to clear the throat, to be able to breath well and also to get rid of "mouth-noise", these little clicking noises the tongue may produce. A wide and clear nasal passage and throat gives your voice more timbre.
To speak without gasping for breath every few words you need to be able to breathe freely. Wind instrument players and actors stand or sit with a straight back to allow as much air into their lungs as possible. You may also find sitting right at the front of your chair helps breathing.
If you want to record the most brilliant, deep, resonating voice you can do, (unless you are reading a shady, muffled speaking character *wink*) try looking slightly upwards while you are reading. Just like singers do it in the recording studio. Just like radio moderators have their mic slightly above them. Of course it's not easy to hold your script very long there but if you like the effect, hopefully you will find a way to keep it there.
Using different voices in dialog is certainly not necessary in your recordings. It may even be better to avoid them in certain circumstances. However, some people will want to create different voices for different characters in a story. The following is a thread in which several volunteers have discussed ways to develop and improve upon this skill. Voice Characterizations and for more, see the Voice Character Performance page.
There is also the excellent Storyteller's Recording Guide.