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How to Record Better Narration and Voice-Over

Logan Baker

Recording voice-over and narration can be a daunting task. Before starting your next project, consider these methods and equipment.

Top image via The Washington Post

On my recent trip to Adobe Video World, I attended a session on how to properly record voice-overs and narration put on by Cheryl Ottenritter from Ott House Audio. Though some of the information was obvious, I found several hints and tips to be pretty interesting and clever. Whether you’re working on corporate video, a documentary, or your own feature, at some point you may need to step in front of the mic or direct somebody to do so. Recording voice over work and narration might seem like a dull or simple task, but there are intricate details to remember in order to efficiently get quality audio.

Choosing the Right Mic

How to Record Better Narration and Voice-Over
Image via Shutterstock

The first step in your journey is finding the right microphone for your recording. There are many different kinds of mics available, all with varying capabilities. Before you spend an unnecessary amount of cash on a mic you only end up using a handful of times, consider the bulk of work you’ll be doing. Is the majority of your work in a studio or out in the field? Answering this question should help you find the right mic.

For strictly studio-based recording, a lot of pros go with the Neumann TLM 103 with a Popper Stopper. An excellent option for studio and field-based recording is the Sennheiser MKH 416, essentially the industry standard. This hypercardioid microphone picks up great quality sound when pointed at your subject. With a $1000 price tag, this mic isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for. Though this is a boom mic, it still works great for voice-overs and can be used in the field as well. So, you know, win/win. This is also a great mic for inexperienced talent to work with. If you’re looking for a less expensive option, the Sennheiser MKE 600 is an excellent choice.

Script-wise, one helpful hint is to always use a tablet like an iPad or a Galaxy if you have access to one. Instead of reading the script from paper, turning pages, and general ruffling, the tablet is silent and will give you a better finished product. Whichever you decide to use, be it tablet or paper, make sure to place it on a rubber pad to avoid noise.

Time to Record

How to Record Better Narration and Voice-Over
Image via Shutterstock

It’s important, if possible, to do the recording in a small room with padding and soundproof blankets to absorb the sound. Remember to stand always — NEVER SIT. This opens up the diaphragm and allows the voice to reach its full potential. Ideally, position your body at a slight angle to the mic and don’t have the headphones too hot (in order to prevent the sound from bleeding into the mic.)

DO

  • Drink room temperature water prior to recording.
  • Eat apple slices or lemon wedges to help with the smoothness of your voice.
  • Record in .wav.
  • Record six inches away from the mic.
  • Have pencils handy if using paper scripts.
  • Drink hot tea anytime before recording to help with hoarseness.
  • Re-record the first two pages of dialogue (now that the voice is warmed up) before ending your session.

DON’T

  • Wear jewelry.
  • Wear a loud starched shirt.
  • Wear noisy nylon.
  • Record in 16-bit or mp3.
  • Drink milk before you record — this coats your vocal chords and creates a dull sound.
  • Be right on top of the mic.
  • Use an omnidirectional mic for voice-overs.

Have any of your own tips for recording stellar VO? Let us know in the comments below!