Recording a Novel

I’m three episodes into this podcast, four if you count the trailer – production wise – and I can tell you that it isn’t easy, even with my recording set up being pretty close to pro.

What I don’t have is a perfectly sound proofed room. For making music, this has worked fine because everything going into the mics is loud. I have the opportunity to turn the hotness of the inputs down and capture everything beautifully, and quite honestly, the echoing off my concrete basement walls has never really been much of an issue, but as I approach making something so quiet and so intimate, I encounter four primary issues

  • HVAC coming on and off – I honestly would be okay with it being on, but coming on and off is an issue, and with the heat lately, turning it off isn’t realistic.
  • Chair clicking, mouse and keyboard sounds.
  • Dryness of the mouth, needing to clear my throat, or becoming thirsty. 20 to 30 minutes of continuous speaking, keeping up intonation, pronunciation, a level effort can be a challenge by itself, but I am pretty sure the last couple years I have spoken a lot less. Getting used to this has been interesting.
  • Dog barking. I have a Jack Russell and he is near unstoppable when he sees a squirrel or UPS delivery person.

I can say that I have made some strides toward dealing with each of these items.

  • I have gone back to my old style of holding a unidirectional microphone in my hand and speaking very close to it. This allows me to turn the input down like I would if I were singing, eliminating the extraneous noises such as the chair clicking or keyboard when I arrow down the page to read. Between this technique and the use of noise limiting plugins, I have found a good balance, I believe.
  • I am no longer trying to fix things as I go. I really prefer to do one take for things. With a five minute song, this is practical, but with a 25 minute episode of spoken word, it isn’t. The reason I don’t like to do multiple takes is that I want a level / consistent performance. But it isn’t practical. So unless my dog begins barking, I keep going and simply re-read the paragraph. doing an edit in the post to remove mistakes and empty noise. I can take time to clear my throat and drink some water.
  • Finally, I have built sound proofing panels with a lot of optimism, but I have to be honest. If the dog is barking, the take is unusable. He has a high pitched register to his yap that bleeds through everything. I was even contemplating building a sound proof room in my basement for this project and because it would help with other recording projects as well, but I really think his barking would wind up in the recording regardless.

I think to be fair to myself that the introduction and the first two episodes, reading short stories, sound good enough, and I need to give myself a break, but I do think that this first chapter of the novel sounds a step better, and I am starting to feel like this is a turning out great. I really do appreciate feedback, so let me know what you think.

-Frank

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