Below are some best practices for recording, once you’ve got a handle on them head over to our audition page and try out!
A rule of thumb is that a microphone cannot improve the quality of a voice, only the quality of a recording—in other words, it will simply make a bad voice easier to listen to. That being said, a decent microphone can make a good voice sound fantastic.
Getting Set Up
If you’re using your computer’s built-in mic, you’ll want to check to make sure your mic is working. On a Mac, this can be done by going to System Preferences > Sound (in the “Hardware” row), clicking on the tab labeled “Input” and changing your device to “Internal microphone.” Check the input level at the bottom to make sure it’s actually responding to your voice.
If you’re using your a Windows-based PC, you can find input controls in the Control Panel in the Start Menu. Under “Hardware and Sound,” go to Sound, clik the “Recording” tab and make sure that your internal microphone is registering sound (it should be listed as “Microphone”). Then click “Apply.”
A USB microphone is an external mic that allows for a more control than a built-in mic. The benefit to a USB mic, in addition to higher quality, is that you can place it closer to your mouth without having to move the computer as well.
Once you’ve plugged in your USB microphone to your computer’s USB port, checking the connection of your USB microphone is a nearly identical process to checking your internal microphone.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Sound (in the “Hardware” row), click on the tab labeled “Input” and change your device to USB (the name of the microphone should also be listed). Check the input level at the bottom to make sure it’s actually responding to your voice.
(This example is using a Blue Snowball microphone.)
On a Windows-based PC, go to the Control Panel in the Start Menu. Under “Hardware and Sound,” go to Sound > Recording and select USB Audio Device. Make sure the microphone is registering sound, then click “Apply.”
Make sure you select the USB device, as your computer may not be able to automatically retrieve a microphone’s name.
Microphone via Audio Interface
If you’re using an audio interface for your microphone, set-up is slightly more complicated and will depend on your specific interface device, although many are plug-and-play. Check the packaging or user manual on your devices for more information.
Quick Recording Guide
Once you have all of your equipment set up (and everything works) you’re ready to start recording.
Choose the article you’d like to read. It’s a mistake to think you can hit record and start narrating without having read over the article first. Give yourself some time to look up words or names you don’t recognize. Practice tricky sentences and figure out phrases are going to give you a hard time. Make sure that when you’re ready to record, you know exactly what is coming.
When you are ready, do some checks first.
- Is your microphone on? It seems obvious, but it never hurts to be sure.
- Is your environment quiet? You don’t want cars, kids, or alarms making noises in the middle of a take. This means it might be a good idea to silence your phone.
- Do you have a noise gate on? If so, turn it OFF. Noise gates will add uncomfortable silences in between your words. Normally, they work well for certain applications in voice recording, but we have our own audio processing system in place to make your recordings sound better.
- Do you have water nearby? Taking a sip between takes will help you keep your mouth nimble and hydrated, preventing lip smacks. (Even better: Apple juice.)
How to Record Properly
When it comes to recording, the best place to record is far from any wall. Walls reflect sound, causing unwanted echoes and reverberation. We know you don’t have your own studio space, so if you have to be close to a wall, make sure the microphone is pointed away from the wall. Give your mic room to breathe – it will give you room to breathe when you’re recording. Perhaps most importantly, make sure your microphone is not pointed toward any windows. The last thing you want is to hear the sounds of your neighbor mowing his lawn while you read.
If you have a free-standing microphone, place it on a flat surface and angle it properly. If you’re using a handheld mic, you’re going to need a stand to keep it in position. Desktop microphone stands are fairly inexpensive (full-stands a little bit pricier), but without them you’ll have to come up with a creative DIY way to keep a microphone positioned in place properly (try angling it against a small cushion).
If you’re using an iPhone, try stacking some large hardcover books on top of each other and hold the top-most cover at an angle by sticking some smaller books in between the cover and the pages. Then put the iPhone on top, facing you so it slopes downward. The microphone should be slightly lower than your mouth. There is no “right” way to record into an iPhone, but this is what we’ve found works the best.
Next, give yourself some distance from the mic. Different microphones yield different distances, so play around with how far away you should be. Try using Audacity to record yourself at different distances from the microphone. How close is too close? You don’t want to overload the mic with too much noise, but you don’t want to be too far away either. Once you’ve found the “sweet spot,” try practicing from that distance to get the space memorized.
Maintaining Proper Volume
During the recording, project your voice at constant, audible volume level. Don’t speak like you’re talking to a friend; speak you’re giving a lecture. (In a way, you are!) Imagine that your head is tethered to the microphone and restricts your movement. This will ensure that the mic picks up all of your words evenly and clearly, and will lead to a stellar recording. Moving around isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you move too much it will sound like you’re moving around.
And of course, always remember to relax and be confident! Recording can be surprisingly fun if you have a good time with it.