Sep 27

Basic Recording Tips

When recording someone, or yourself, there are a few tips that will make your experience go that much smoother. (NOTE: Check the ACADEMY to see if there are any audio workshops underway. You can jump in anytime.)

Renting. If you have a smartphone, you can easily record with that. And there are plenty of free apps for that. But if you want to have a slightly higher quality recording, many people opt to use an actual audio recorder. You can often borrow or rent audio equipment at your local library, at your school, or through community programs such as public access TV or, even, music shops. There are also some good, inexpensive digital recorders to purchase; if you are doing a lot of sound work, it's probably worth the investment if you can.

Questions. There are a few questions you should find the answers to before committing to a recording device. How much many minutes does your device record? Do you need to charge it? How do you get your files off the machine, and in what format are they? When was it lasted tested for functionality? Is it compatible with x device? Etc. 

Test. Before recording, you should test your device. Test to see if it works, and to see what your audio quality is like. Take along some earbuds.

Practice. Get familiar with your device. Learn where all of the buttons and functions are. Practice recording. How loudly does what you are recording need to speak? How close do you physically need to be? 

Placement. You need to think about the placement of your device. You will generally get a better quality recording if your device is placed on a flat, unmoving surface. Wood or glass is better than fabric. HOWEVER, make sure the person speaking is not on the same surface, ie a table; all of the times they emphasize their point by tapping on the table will come through on the recording. (YWP often takes a piece of foam rubber -- packing from a box -- and rests the recorder on that. Make sure the device is close to the person who is speaking, but not so close that they are breathing into it (a sound that decreases the quality of your audio). Generally, a good "baseline placement" is at a 45 degree angle from the mouth and slightly below the mouth so the "Ts" and "Ps" of speech don't create pops on the recording.. Plus, make sure nothing, like a finger, is obstructing the microphone. 

Surroundings. You don't want the audio to decrease in quality because of the sound of a fan, or cars in the background. Before you record, survey your surroundings. Will this spot make for a clean recording? HINT: If you are stuck with some ambient sound you can't get rid of, start your recording early, when it's fairly quiet, so as to define that ambient sound; you can then remove just that sound in the editing process. (A free program called Audacity is GREAT for this.)

Ticks. If you are conducting a lengthy interview, it's a long process to go through your audio recording to find those golden bits of information. A way to help you find the information you want when you are sorting through your file is to make ticks. A tick is a sharp sound you make when you are recording, like a snap or a tap. This sudden audio pip will become an identifiable spike in your track when you look at the file, so you will know to look at that spot in the recording. Make sure the sound you make isn't distracting to the person you are interviewing and make sure you've chosen a lull. 

[Creative Commons Lisence: Mathias Miranda, non-commercial,]