Voice-over best practices for novices deals with an unusual aspect of our business. Client recordings, most often folks with no on-mic experience will be tasked with recording something for their firm. It may be the owner, the president, or anyone else in the organization who needs to enter our booth, and, admittedly, it can be daunting. To that end, take a deep breath, and relax, everything’s cool. We’re going to work together and make sure by the end of the session you’ve delivered not just an OK recording, but a great one!From time to time, we get a client in the studio to record. Usually, it’s for some or all of their Messages-On-Hold program or a President’s message on an IVR system. For some folks, it’s the first time they’ve been in a professional recording studio. And no matter how confident or charismatic a person is, it can be a little intimidating to be in a quiet booth with a microphone staring you down.
So here are a few best practices and bits of advice we offer to make that microphone less intimidating and to make the entire experience a whole lot more pleasant.
First, bring some water to the studio with you – you may not be thirsty when we start, but talking can make your mouth dry out. Herbal tea with honey is also good, as honey coats and soothes the throat. Warm or room-temperature liquids are best; liquids that are too cold can make the vocal cord muscles contract and become tense.
While we’re on the subject, on the day or recording, avoiding certain foods can improve your vocal performance. Caffeine has a tendency to cause dryness. So do citrus, sugary foods, and alcohol. Additionally, many voice artists and singers report that ingesting dairy can create unwanted mucus, which leads to excessive clearing of the throat (although scientifically, that’s been investigated). Fizzy water and soda can put too much air in one’s stomach, although we do giggle at the occasionally recorded burp. And if all these ingestible warnings make it sound like breakfast is ruined, or that skipping your morning coffee with cream, and orange juice are essential to a quality audio recording, the reality is that as long as your vocal session is two-to-three hours after breakfast, and with lots of water in between, you should be free of adverse effects.
Now that you’ve prepped your insides, here’s what we do with the outside of you once you enter the studio.
We’ll put the microphone about six inches away from and slightly off center from the mouth. Which is very close! Uncomfortably close for first-timers, so we suggest that you act like the mic is a close friend, a very close friend you’re leaning into to tell him something important.
Do stand up if you can for better extension of the throat. And it’s important to stay still. That’s a hard one for energetic talkers. For consistent volume levels, the mic must stay the same distance from the mouth for the entire session. If you weave around, the volume will be inconsistent.
The hardest one for some is not moving one’s hands! A lot of people gesticulate when they talk. And in a limited fashion, that’s a part of natural speech. So the point is if one must gesticulate, just don’t knock the microphone! Any and every noise in the booth is recorded, including the headphone cord knocking on the mic stand or an inadvertent bonk of the microphone, a pen flying out of the hand, etc.
And after all this, the need for caffeine, the unnatural standing still and talking into a microphone, and minimal gesticulating for fear of making inadvertent noise – all this constrained behavior you’re trying to concentrate on, what’s the last thing we’ll tell you? We’ll tell you to SMILE! It’s true that people can hear a smile in the voice – it’s what makes some of our upbeat voice talents so popular!
On the bright side, with all these things to think about, we’ll certainly try to put you at ease and remind you that we are not in a hurry. Take all the time you need. Want another take? Let’s do another take. One of the wonderful things about digital recording is that we’re not “wasting” physical tape. As long as there’s room on the hard drive – and there’s plenty – we can record until you’re happy.