Invest in a good USB microphone – Whether you rather have a headset or an actual microphone is a personal preference. We recommend trying both. With headsets, you always have a consistent distance from your mouth to the mic since it will move along with your minimal head movements. Some might prefer a traditional mic with an attached shield that would sit on a surface or hang from a wall/ceiling with an extending arm bracket.
Shields (or pop filters) – Shields are one of the greatest investments you can make. They create just a pure quality effect that is hard to get with other mic tools.
Find a good size room to record in – Something no bigger than 12 feet by 12 feet should be used to record in. Some like to use smaller spaces because it will create a better recording.
Use sound softening pads – You can search online for “sound softening pads” to use in your recording space. Don’t worry about lining the entire room with pads, all you need is strips of padding on the walls, say 18 inches wide and 5 feet tall. Then on the ceiling you can either pad the entire thing or follow the strip patterns from the wall.
Stand up while you are recording – You’ll feel more energized and be able to breathe better to allow greater emphasis when needed. Make sure your laptop, computer, tablet, or paper which you are reading off of is around eye level. This will have your body stretched from top to bottom and your chin pointing outward, leaving your vocal chords exposed and not tucked under that chin of yours.
We don’t recommend sitting, but, if you do sit, don’t slouch. Sit up straight and keep your chin out. Don’t let it drop to your chest.
Use your hands if you can – If you speak to any narrator, they will tell you that their best work comes from when they are truly playing the part and really feeling it out. This means using your hands to bring emphasis to certain areas. It helps you shift your voice in a natural manner when speaking and delivering emphasis.
Keep your vocal chords hydrated – Clear liquids like water or a mild tea are highly recommended. Someone once told me to keep it at room temperature rather than cold. Avoid coffee, carbonated beverages, and milk products.
Morning, afternoon, or night? – When you’re first starting out see what time of day your voice sounds better. Be sure to warm up with a song of some sort too to stretch those vocal chords out!
Record and observe a demo first – Record a quick demo to make sure that everything is working as it should. Also, we recommend shutting down other applications that are not necessary at that moment. As you are working with multimedia like this you put a strain on your computer’s resources which can impact your recording session, and even crash the recording software leaving you with no way of recovering your recording.
Record 10 seconds of silence – By recording some silence, you have a way to sample just the ambient noise and use a noise removal process to filter it out later. If you happen to have ambient noise (like an air conditioner) you’ll be able to filter some of that out. It’s also good practice to use the ambient noise as a way to fill in gaps of silence so that the audio edits are a bit more seamless.
Listen to the demo with headphones – Headphones help isolate the audio and you’ll be able to hear any problems with the narration better than if you listen with speakers. This is especially true if you’re using a laptop because their speakers tend to be subpar and leave out certain sound effects.
Take notes about your narration – When listening to yourself take notes about what you like and don’t like about your narration. It also helps to have others you know listen and point things out that you might not catch. As you continue on with your narration career you can work on these small things that make a huge difference.
Stick to the script and don’t ad-lib – Chances are that you’ll have to do multiple takes. If you ad-lib, you’ll rarely have the same break points for editing. Sticking with the script lets you follow along with the audio and find a common edit point on re-takes.
Relax and go slow – It’s important to always think about doing narration slowly (unless noted otherwise). Constantly remind yourself to slow down even if you think you’re going slowly. If you mess up, leave a noticeable pause and keep on going. It’s easy enough to cut the error out of the audio.
Mark your retakes – If you do multiple takes or start and stop, leave some sort of marker. A good simple way to do this is to leave about 5 seconds of silence (so that it’s easy to find when you look at the wave form) and then indicate what it is, like “slide four, take two…”.
Get rid of the plosives – Plosives are consonant sounds that create the famous “popping p’s.” You can buy shields that sit in front of your mic to block out the offending sound.
Turn off cell phones and computer sound – Be sure to turn your phone either off or on silent so nothing is picked up during narration. Also, make sure email and computer alerts are turned off or the speakers on your computer are always turned down or off. It’s distracting seeing notifications from your devices pop up while you’re trying to record.
Know what you’re trying to achieve – It’s key to find out and understand the level of quality you need to achieve. Talk to the client or scriptwriter beforehand to understand their vision for the narration.
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