Monday, December 3rd, 2012 | by Randy Coppinger
If you are a singer, voice actor, producer or, recording engineer, here are ten items worth considering for an effective voice recording session.
- Tart Green Apple
This is a common remedy for sticky, clicky mouth noise. The tartness gets the mouth wet. You don’t have to eat the whole thing, just a little bite as needed during the session. There are many other remedies (that don’t go bad as quickly). So, bring a tart apple or find something else that tames the mouth noise.
- Comfortable Headphones
I really hate listening on headphones for long periods of time. I sympathize with performers who may be working in them for hours. Make sure the cans are comfy. Otherwise they will become a distraction, fatiguing wearers instead of helping the session run smoothly.
- Dress In Layers
Studios try so hard to get air comfortable and quiet. But even the best built system can be too warm or cold for someone. Worse, the temp may rise and fall uncomfortably. Wear a few thin layers — nothing starched, because it’s noisy — to get comfortable again quickly.
- Popper Stopper
These don’t stop plosives completely, but can keep them tame.
- Low Rolloff
It shocked me when I finally discovered that this is the secret to minimizing 90% of p-pops. Roll off the bottom at around 100Hz (18dB/octave slope) before the compressor, and have the aforementioned popper stopper. Then, only the most plosive blowhards will p-pop. Well, mic position matters a little too.
- Analog Compressor
I don’t believe analog tape sounds inherently better. But I do think that people who know how to record to it also condition their signal before they hit the tape. I think that if you present an AD [analog-to-digital] converter with a great signal, you give it a better chance of translating the audio. Almost all voice recording benefits from compression, so I like to put a touch on before the AD converter just like professionals did in ye olden times.
- Analog Fader
Most people drop their volume at the end of a phrase or sentence. It’s a natural thing to do before a pause, especially as air gets used up. It’s not difficult to anticipate the end of a sentence, providing the opportunity to raise the volume a little at those quieter moments. And if someone is performing more than one take in a row, patterns develop, providing additional opportunities to reach for the quiet moments and pull back on the loud stuff. Sure, you can do that after the AD, but I think you give the converter a better signal if you do some of that up front.
- Two Great Microphones
Most if not all of the voice recording will be the first mic, probably closer to the performer. But if you put a second mic a bit behind the first one and record it 12dB or lower than the first one, you just bought yourself some distortion insurance. Now don’t use them both at the same time, but back and forth as necessary. If things go well, you will never need the second mic. Like the fire department.
- Packing Blankets
If there are unwanted reflections in the mic, something is rattling, or it’s deathly cold, nothing is as handy as a packing blanket. They’re especially useful for location recording, acoustically untreated spaces and multi-use rooms.
- Fully Accessorized Music/Script Stand
I prefer to use two stand lights for better coverage. A piece of carpet covering the stand helps reduce reflections back into the mic, and reduce vibrations. Always have writing utensils (pencils erase!).
Many people tend to drop their head away from the mic as they read down the page. A large paper clamp at the top of the stand helps keep eyes looking up, which can raise the head overall and even be used to hold a folded piece of paper after you’re done with the top portion.
If you found this article useful, please “like,” tweet, and share it with your social circles. Together we can raise the quality of voice recordings web-wide!
Randy Coppinger is a microphone-slinging coffee loyalist who lives and listens in Southern California. Visit Randy online at randycoppinger.com.
He recently reviewed 7 unidirectional ribbon microphones for voice recording — from the vintage RCA 77DX to the $4700 AEA KU4 to a couple vintage Shure and Oktava models you can score on Ebay for less than $300.