Friday, 25 September 2015

Ten Audiobook Recording Mistakes to Avoid

I produced audio books myself and learned lessons the hard way, wasting hours of recording needlessly. But have picked up invaluable tips on audio recording that will bode well in the future. Here are ten invaluable tips on audiobook production.

1 Get the best audio microphone you can afford. I wasted money on a standard condenser mic that picked up plosives even with a pop filter and gave a tinny sound to my voice. I sent it back and opted for the Rode condenser mic that comes with a studio quality pop filter with XLR cable. It also gives a nice, warm clear sound. Ideal for book narration.

2 Get familiar with your audio kit. I used a Scarlett solo audio interface, Audacity, my PC and good quality headphones. Read the instructions, play with it, experiment and get to know it inside out. Audacity is easy to use, but has a lot of tools to get familiar with. Don’t start audiobook narration until you know how to get the best out of your audio kit.

3 Go easy on the noise removal! Noise removal is a handy little tool that removes unwanted background noise, which might be the general hush of distant traffic or the hum of a fridge. A room with a low noise floor is preferable in which to record (a quiet room). Too much noise removal will not only strip the background hush, but could also strip away that same noise frequency that happens to exist in your voice, making it sound weird or chirpy.

4 Beware of echoes from a room with harsh surfaces. Some audiobooks behold narrators that sound as though they have stuck the mic in a bathroom. Find a closet and line it with towels or duvets. You can buy acoustic foam, possessing textures that will break up the sound, minimizing echoes. On the other hand, don’t put cloth too close to the mic. The mic needs space to breathe. Place the mic roughly in the center of the room, not too close to surfaces.

5 Don’t record if your voice has had enough. I find my voice will get huskier if I have been recording for over an hour. Don’t push it, for the fatigue will show in the recording. Rest the voice between sessions. Avoid factors that will irritate those vocal chords: cold air, stress, smoking, alcohol, late nights and mucus-producing foods (like dairy). Allow your voice to recover before the following session.

6 Listen to the recording and you will find your voice will sound different to what you expect. I noticed an unwanted Brummy brogue would sneak in some of my narration when tired. Also when doing a male voice, the pitch of my voice would get higher without my realizing. Grow consciously aware of how your voice sounds during recording. Re-record until you get it right.

Get the Best Mic for Audio
7 Before mastering your recording, keep a copy of the original recording in case something goes wrong. I find extra presence can be added to the sound of the voice by ‘dipping’ the middle trebles a little in equalization and enhancing the base and top frequencies (but not too much). Experiment until satisfied. Audacity allows you to save and name any settings.

8 Be prepared to re-write sections of the script if something sounds wrong. When spoken aloud, some of my dialogue sounded a little unnatural. I re-wrote it until it sounded right. Practice reading the script before recording to ensure it sounds good when read aloud. I edited my books heavily as a result of reading aloud during audio book production.

9 Don’t do an accent you can’t ‘feel.’ It will sound wrong. When picking up a dialect, listen to it (YouTube clips are full of people speaking in different dialects.) Say the words aloud. If it doesn’t come easily, allow a couple of days for the accent to ‘sink in’ during practice. Don’t overdo the accent or it will sound parodied. Subtle is the key. Not all words spoken aloud will exhibit an accent.

10 Don’t edit the recording when tired or you will miss mistakes. Little things like clicks resulting from a dry mouth or a mispronounced word will slip by. Be vigilant when editing and mistakes are less likely to sneak into the final audio book.

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