Struggling to Get Quality Audio from Your Home Studio? Here are 5 Ways to Step Up Your Recording Game
Narrating your own audiobook is challenging enough – recording yourself can present an even greater challenge. While microphones, computers, and digital audio workstations are becoming more affordable and user-friendly, achieving a professional-grade recording requires proper preparation and technique.
Nailing your DIY audiobook recording is more than just a matter of showcasing your work in the best possible light, too. Audiobooks must adhere to certain quality standards (i.e., ACX guidelines) to land on the biggest audiobook platforms like Audible, Scribd, and Blinkist. These standards dictate that files be recorded with a consistent sound, feature minimal unwanted artifacts (e.g., mouth sounds, background hiss, etc.), and much more.
All of these rules and technical details are enough to make some self-narrating authors dish out for professional recording sessions. While renting professional studio space is sometimes worth it, just about anyone can achieve high-quality audiobook recordings on their own. Let’s go over five ways to step up your self-recording game.
1. Upgrade Your Equipment
A great-sounding recording starts with high-quality gear. Speaking into your computer’s or phone’s built-in mic simply won’t do for these purposes. For starters, invest in at least one good microphone such as the Shure SM7B or MV7 – dynamic mics are generally better for these purposes than condenser mics, as the former are more forgiving of less-than-optimal recording environments.
Once you’ve got a solid mic at your disposal, complete your setup with a pop filter (these block off plosive “P” sounds), flexible stand, studio headphones, audio interface/preamp (if you aren’t using a USB mic), and professional DAW (digital audio workstation). Also, make sure your computer is powerful enough to run said DAW and compatible with your audio interface.
2. Mind Your Surroundings
Investing in high-fidelity equipment is more than half the battle in creating a great-sounding audiobook. Now it’s time to consider your recording environment. Different rooms yield different acoustic properties based on their size, shape, and furnishing (think about how voices sound in a gymnasium vs. an office space). If you plan on cultivating a home studio, give plenty of thought to where you set it up. The best home recording spaces are relatively small with soft furniture and carpeting – these soft materials absorb rather than reflect sound waves.
3. Treat Your Recording Space
While the type of space described above is better than a large, echo-filled environment, more can be done to make your recording room even more suitable for high-quality recordings. This process is known as acoustic room treatment, and it’s done in every professional studio. Acoustic panels built from foam or mineral wool offer superior sound absorption and can be strategically placed on walls and ceilings.
If you lack the resources to build, buy, or install these panels, you can also treat your home studio with some simple tricks and household items. For starters, close any thick curtains inside your room (if applicable) and record with your back to them. You can also place a blanket underneath your microphone to block any reflections bouncing up from your floor or desk. Some people even create a makeshift vocal booth by recording inside a closet. Simply put, if a material absorbs sound it can be used to treat your room and improve your audiobook recordings.
4. Reduce Background Noise via Other Means
If you live in a populous, active area, even the best sound treatment isn’t always enough to block out external sounds. Vehicles, birds, rain, and people make plenty of noise. You can’t control all of this activity, but you can pay attention to relevant patterns to schedule your recording sessions when outside sound levels are at their lowest. Try recording late at night when neighbors are sleeping and few cars remain on the road. Make sure windows are closed and fans are off when recording, too. Various audio editing programs can also target background noise during and after recording and eliminate it without affecting the quality or tone of your voice.
5. Practice Proper Microphone Placement
The last piece of the puzzle has to do with microphone etiquette, namely placement and technique. Every mic is different, but as a general rule you want to keep your mouth about 6-12 inches from the mic (try holding out two connected fists between your mouth and mic) and speak just above the mic rather than directly into it. Also, practice proper enunciation and stay hydrated to keep mouth sounds to a minimum.
If you plan on both narrating and recording your own audiobooks, you need to employ the right gear, space, strategy, and technique. Get in touch if you need help with any of the tips listed here, or with your audiobook overall.
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