Many think that recording audio is a simple task. You sit down, turn on the software and start talking, right? HA! If only it were just that simple. On the contrary, this process isn’t as easy as you may think. There are little things people don’t think about that can absolutely ruin an audio recording.
I was recently asked to coach someone on recording audio because they wanted to do it themselves, despite having never done it. Let me be very clear here, this person had never stepped foot in a studio. This request made me a bit apprehensive, but with the right tips and direction, I found that anything can be accomplished.
Read the Script OUT LOUD Beforehand
I don’t know how to stress this enough. If the recording session is the first time that you’ve read the script aloud, plan on being in that studio for quite sometime. Often times seeing something on paper it can make perfect sense, but then when you actually speak it you have no idea what you just said. Be sure that you read it, make edits (if necessary), read it again, and again, and again one last time (for good measure). Knowing what you are reading will make a world of difference when you sit down to record.
Stress Vocal Emphasis
Pay attention to what you want the listener to remember, or what is the most important piece of information within the sentence. For example, read this sentence aloud: Here at Northern Arizona University we want you to flourish, thrive, and succeed. Now go back and read that sentence with different emphasis on different parts of the sentence. Did you notice how the focus and meaning of the sentence changed? If you put the emphasis on “Northern Arizona University” it appears as though that is the most important part of the sentence. If you put the emphasis on “you” you are putting the importance on the student themselves. But, if you put the emphasis on “flourish, thrive, and succeed” you are putting the focus on what you are hoping and wanting for the student. Using vocal emphasis will bring attention to the important piece of each sentence. Don’t make the learner guess what is the most important piece of information. Instead, help the learner retain what you want them to.
I’ve touched on this topic before in my posts on presentations, but it is just as important in audio recordings. Much like vocal emphasis, inflection can change the way your information comes across. Inflection is also important in avoiding being monotone. Frequently we make 10-20 minute videos and it is crucial to keep inflection up. Sound excited and interested, as this all translates to your learner and will help keep them excited, interested and engaged as well. If you find that you are a monotone person and just can’t change that, let go of the reins a little bit and grab someone else to do your audio for you. It will make a significant difference in the final product and your listeners will be thankful.
You can hear a smile even when you can’t see the person speaking. I’ve edited audio before that I didn’t record and I’ve wanted to ask the person why they were so upset because they just sound so angry! There are plenty of reasons to smile. 1: it’ll enhance your audio 2: you’ll probably leave the studio in a good mood. It’s a win-win, really.
Face the Microphone
It can be hard to face the microphone when you need to read a piece of paper on the table or held in your hands. Furthermore, holding it in your hands can cause unwanted noise in your recording. The best suggestion to this is to tape your script somewhere up so you are facing the microphone or place it so it stands up. I use a very simple method, I place my script between the keys on the computer keyboard and lean it against the computer screen, works like a charm and gets the job done!
Learn where to breathe. My coworkers are well educated in this department because it is one of my biggest pet peeves when editing audio. Most of the time you will be recording audio to go over a screen capture so you will be editing that audio anyways (or at least I hope you are…). It is okay to take a minute, breathe, then start speaking again. The absolute worst thing you can do is breathe into a word. It makes editing a little more difficult, a lot more time consuming and sometimes there just isn’t anything that can be done to make you sound normal. When audio is over a screen capture you should NEVER hear someone breathing, there is no point when you can take a little bit of time to remove that. So, pay attention to where you breathe, and if you are the one doing the editing you will notice a significant change in the editing phase and the final product.
Avoiding Excess Noise
Along with not holding your script in your hand to avoid hearing the paper in the recording there are other things you may not realize your microphone can pick up. If you swivel in your chair, tap your ring on the table, someone walks in and shuts the door (even in the next room!), redo that audio. It is better to have too many options of a sentence or paragraph to work with when editing than not enough.
These are a few simple yet important steps you can, and should, take to help you produce workable audio leading to a great finished product. Just remember, if you think you messed up, heard a noise, breathed into a word, looked away from the microphone, if you have ANY hesitation about anything, redo that part of the script while you are in the studio. It is always better to have more takes to work with rather than not enough. You sound slightly different from day to day, so try to get everything you need all in one take and work with it in post production to create the perfect final product.
If you have any steps you take in the studio when recording audio let us know in the comments below!