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C.C. Hogan

Audiobook Recording Tips - Recording your book

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This deals with the more technical side of recording: How to sit, where to place the microphone, what to do about pops and so on.

How far should I be from the mic?

This a bit depends on your mic and the acoustics of your room, and also what you are voicing. I have my mic in front of me and slightly above me (the bottom is level with my eyes) so I am speaking almost under it. My tablet is just below my natural eye line. The mic distance is around 10 inches. But I will move closer and away depending whether I want a more intimate sound or I am shouting.  It is a little prone to pops (mic blasts), but I am careful.

Should you sit or stand?

In an ideal world, you should stand, or at least be upright on a stool. I sit on a chair (back issues), but I do sit very straight, which helps the voice enormously. Also, Dirt is quite an intimate story, so it works well. If I am recording a punchier narration, I would probably sit on a stool. I stand for poetry and singing.

Do I have to sit very still?

This will depend a little on the acoustics of your room. If they are good, you will be able to move backwards and forwards, left and right, without changing the quality or tone of the sound too much, though obviously, the level will change. 

Being able to move a little will help with your performance, allowing you to act more freely.

Can I shout or will it distort?

This is where your acoustics will come into play.

There are two techniques here. One is learning to create the sound of shouting without actually raising your voice too much, and the other is moving back from the mic or to one side to stop distortion. However, if your room acoustics are not good, then this might sound very "roomy" which you won't like.

It is important that your recording area allows you the flexibility to act!

What can I do about mouth clicks?

Mouth noises of any sort are always a challenge, especially as you get older and may have fewer teeth!

Some can be sorted out at the edit, but it is best to try and reduce them. Here are a few tricks.

  • Take small drinks of water (not fizzy or ice cold)
  • If you have excess saliva, don't try and swallow it, spit it out into a tissue
  • Make sure you open your mouth fully when speaking - like a proper actor!
  • Leave pauses so you can take proper breaths - you can tighten them up later.
  • Don't drink lots of fizzy drinks or milk! 

Should I wind back when I make a mistake or just pick up?

Opinion is split on this. In the old days, the BBC used to hate punching in (rock n rolling we used to call it with tape machines) and insisted on multiple takes and editing later. There is some justification here as the last take may not prove to be the best one, so having a choice was good.

On the other hand, you can end up with a lot of sorting out - fine when you have an engineer taking notes, but not great when it is just you. Also, without reference to the recording before the mistake, the pick up might be the wrong tone and volume.

Professional DAWs (like Cubase and ProTools) give you the best of both worlds. You can wind back, punch in, but still retain your various attempts and can clean them up later.

Should I learn to breathe quietly?

No.

This is a recording so you have the luxury of editing later; take as much breath as you need. However, learning the best places to breathe and marking them up, will naturally reduce how big a breath you need to take. 

How much EQ should I put on my mic?

During the record, probably not very much. In the studio, I used to mess with the mic sound a lot, but I had the luxury of not being the voice, but just the sound engineer/producer. When you are recording yourself, just roll off the very low and very high ends to reduce boom, and leave the rest for the mix. See notes in the Editing FAQ for more details.

How do I keep my recordings consistent day to day?

This is not difficult, at least from the technical point of view. Once you get a sound you are happy with, make notes about everything to do with your setup - your mic position, the settings on your audio interface, and post processing on your DAW and so on.

However, making your voice sound consistent is more of a problem. You will never get it perfect, especially on a long project, but you should endeavour to keep as consistent as possible. Record a reference at the start of the project, and refer to it before you start each new recording section.

How do I match my voice when punching in?

Obviously, you must make sure that your mic position and all settings are identical or it will be a fight.

When it comes to matching the read itself, then read along to the playback and just keep going when you punch into record. This will take a bit of practice, learning to get the timing right, but it is not that hard.

Don't forget, that if you are working on a decent DAW, then you are not erasing anything, so you should be able to tidy up your drop in point. However, if you have the inflexion wrong or your mic position does not match, you will never correct that satisfactorily.

When replacing dialogue in films, we have sometimes replaced a huge section just to correct a couple of words simply to give us the best chance of matching and finding the perfect cutting point.

I need to burp, cough, sneeze...

Remember that this is a recording, not a live broadcast. If you are short of breath, need to burp, or anything else, either stop and wind back, or just pause, burp and carry on. You will be editing lots anyway.

However, don't try and read through it, especially if you are running out of breath. You will only end up re-recording that sentence anyway.

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