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5 Tips For Perfect Microphone Technique


By Al Black | 18th June 2019

Microphone technique is critically important for all voice-over work.

You don't want the audio editor to hate you, do you? Of course not!

This article was motivated by our audio editor Alex recently having to spend twice as long editing a voice-over recording as it should have taken him, mainly due to incorrect - downright nasty - microphone technique. It gives him the chills just thinking about it (collective shudder). 

What's most frustrating is that, for the most part, having a good mic technique is easy. A bit of forethought is all that's required to get your recording perfect. And crucially, this will affect how producers like Alex feel working with a voice actor again. If a producer has to spend twice as long as standard editing out issues, it DOES affect the decision to work with an otherwise brilliant voice talent again. 

So, here are five tips for the perfect microphone technique for voice-over. They will make the life of the audio editor 1000x easier and, in turn, make you more bookable for repeat work! 

 

1. DISTANCE

Stand further away from the microphone than you think.

Too many people stand with their mouths touching the pop shield. You’re not a rapper. You’re not beatboxing. STOP IT. 

All this does is increase the amount of tongue, mouth and breath/air noise that needs editing out. The microphones are sensitive. You don’t ever need to be that close for standard voice-over narration. 

If you are recording in an acoustically treated room (it doesn’t have to be too much!), then you can get between 1-2 metres away, and it will sound fine. 

If you watch any behind the scenes footage of a Pixar film, you will see where they position the microphone in relation to the actor, who is often moving around constantly to act out the parts. 

 

perfect mic technique.

Look at how far away Woody & Buzz are here! The microphone is angled down towards their mouths from above, and they wave their arms around constantly.

 

Do it like that! Whilst also taking note of the following points.  

 

2. CONSISTENCY

Project your voice at a consistent loudness.  

This ties in with the previous point. If the microphone is a bit further away, you need to ensure the words you are saying reach the microphone clearly and loudly enough. 

Abdominal breathing is one such technique that helps project your voice. However, it takes practice to ensure that your voice is not TOO loud. Remember: the microphone is very sensitive. You don’t need to shout. Just project clearly from your abdomen and try to keep it consistent. 

If you vary in volume constantly, it requires considerably more editing to balance out the levels.

 

Consistent loudness mic technique

Croatian voice talent David demonstrates speaking at a consistent loudness. Probably.

 

3. BREATHING

Breathe quietly, please.

You may be thinking this sounds like someone saying, “stop blinking so loudly”, but it is vital for a quality voice-over recording that needs hardly any editing. 

If you are breathing correctly from your abdomen, you should breathe VERY quietly anyway. It takes practice to train the muscles in your core (the main one being called the diaphragm) to breathe quietly AND deeply, but this skill is what sets professional voice-over talents apart from the amateurs. You should never take great sucking breaths between sentences or paragraphs or hold your breath. 

And when you do breathe, it should be softly.

 

Good microphone technique breathing quietly

British voice artist Katie has excellent microphone technique and breathes quietly.

 

If you are standing further away from the microphone (see tip 1!), then you will barely hear the breath on the recording at all! Great stuff!  

 

4. HYDRATION

Drink plenty of water before and during the recording session. 

I only mention before and during the session because you can do whatever you finish the recording session. Go to the pub if you want! I'm not your mum. 

Anyway, I digress. The point is ensuring you are well hydrated reduces the number of times you will feel compelled to lick your lips. Drinking plenty of water will significantly reduce the amount of tongue and lip-smacking noise generated by trying to keep your busy mouth nice and m o i s t and keep the saliva flowing. It will also boost your stamina and your ability to project at a consistent level for more extended periods. 

It might seem condescending or obvious to have a "drink water" tip, but you need to be well hydrated to record effectively. 

It's so important. You could make a bespoke drinks stand like @MartinWhiskin 

 

5. CLOTHING

Wear rustle-free clothes. 

There’s not a dress code, of course. Just make sure you’re not wearing your favourite but noisy silk pyjamas or a full leather bodysuit. 

Jangly jewellery is also a no-go. And whilst not something you wear, pay attention to your seating and desk for random noise generation.

If it creaks, squeaks, rustles or wobbles, then it’s best avoided for VO recording!

 

perfect mic technique no noisy clothes

Brazilian voice talent Ciana demonstrates some no-nonsense studio-wear.

 

In summary

And that’s it! Those are the final five tips to keep the audio editor happy. In short, always:

  1. Stand further away from the microphone than you think.

  2. Project your voice at a consistent loudness.

  3. Breathe quietly.

  4. Drink a lot of water before and during the session.

  5. Wear fairly rustle-free clothes.

If you follow all these steps (particularly the first two) then you will be every audio engineer's favourite voice actor or narrator in no time!

 

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Al Black

Al Black

Al has over twenty years of experience in audiovisual translations. A Voquent co-founder, he has produced tens of thousands of voice-overs and translations for education, advertising and entertainment projects.

About Author

Al Black

Al Black

Al has over twenty years of experience in audiovisual translations. A Voquent co-founder, he has produced tens of thousands of voice-overs and translations for education, advertising and entertainment projects.






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