Got the kit, let’s record!
You’re ready to go now right? Got recording kit, got microphone, got headphones… Oh no, Grasshopper, you are still not ready….
Record some silence (at the same levels you would use if you were recording yourself) in your recording space and play it back. This is your “noise floor” and is the background level while you’re recording your voice. Look at your levels. How much noise does your room “silence” make? Assuming you haven’t done any work on this space yet, chances are you’ve got a LOT of noise. Is there humming, rumbling, hissing, a clock ticking, cars, tweety birds?
It should be at least -50dB, or ideally, lower. A medium sized, quiet living room will have a noise floor of about -30db. That doesn’t make it a suitable recording space however. This is where the difference between soundproof and acoustically treated comes in.
A soundproof room does not let any outside noise in, or any inside noise out, whether that’s birds or traffic outside, or a teenager with a drumkit on the inside.
My own current space is not soundproof. It IS acoustically treated however, and the smaller the space, the easier it is to treat.
So, now you need to work on treating that space and reducing any background noise. Ideally, purchasing or building a soundbooth is the best option, but not cheap.
Treating the space
A few spare duvets can work very well and acoustic tiles can be bought individually from eBay. Don’t forget this is a massive learning curve. I’m still on it myself. Fiddle, adjust and rearrange as much as possible. You’ll probably never be 100% happy, but constantly tinkering with your setup is one of the joys of this job. Echo is your worst enemy, but kill the “space” completely and the recording will sound dead. No two pro studios will sound alike, but they will ALL have low noise floors and little or no echo.
Let’s now assume you’ve driven yourself to distraction deadening and reducing noise in your recording space. I’ve spent literally HOURS doing this, mainly on my hands and knees following wires and vibrations around the house in order to pinpoint a persistent hum.) Now you can start recording yourself. Each person’s approach and style varies, so this is best done one to one and I won’t go into it here.
- Microphone technique: This something that comes with practice and knowing your mic, so difficult to cover here, however, some basics:
- Your mouth should be a least a handspan from the mic. Do not talk directly into it; you should be offset about 45 degrees.
- If you are getting “popping”, hold a pencil an inch or two in front of your lips. This breaks the flow of air and minimises the pop.
- Stand still! Drifting side to side or back to front will result in inconsistent levels.
- Pay attention to your breaths. They should be clean, and allow a small pause before you start to speak. This makes editing much easier, whether you self-edit or an engineer does the work.
Share your recordings for feedback wherever you can get it. Listen to them on different devices. If you think your recordings and your performance are up to scratch then maybe it’s time to take a look at some of the online listings directories. There are thousands of people on these sites and unless, just for starters, your sound is as pro as you can get it, you’ll get lost in the dross (and there’s a LOT of dross.) For that reason a newbie sticks out a mile regardless of how good their voice is, especially if their audio quality isn’t great. Sign up for a free profile to get started. Make sure your sound is as top-notch as you can get it before you start forking out for their expensive subscription packages. Use the free listing to practice writing up the best possible profile you can at this point. Bodalgo is a good place to start. Voices.com used to be popular but has fallen out of favour with voice professionals after making a change to their business practices. Voiceovers.com is a new platform and currently invitation only.