APTIPS: It’s always about location, location, location.

This space does not present an ideal scenario for audiobook recording. There’s a rug covering most of the floor, but the exposed parts are polished granite tile, which is absolutely terrible for producing vocal recordings. There’s also nothing hanging on the walls, which leaves a lot of vertical real estate to reflect sound waves. There’s also a big, hollow window box right next to the futon, which adds another potential source of trouble. The ceiling is not very high, either.

It’s going to be a challenge, but this room will be okay, because it’s quiet most of the time (which is the most important thing) and because there are a few tricks I can use to kill my workspace until it’s dead enough to start a recording session.

This is no time to be squeamish. I’m going to show you how to mercilessly capture, trap, and smother sound waves, until they cease to exist. With a few strategically-placed common household items, it’s possible to give almost any quiet workspace a sufficient touch of acoustic treatment.

Does this sound crazy to you? Believe me, sound waves are your best friends, until they become your worst enemies. Sometimes they do crazy things. I think it would be nice if they simply stopped whenever they hit an object, but they don’t. They love to bounce off reflective surfaces (like bare walls, windows, and floors) and they tend to scatter all over the place. This process repeats until they are out of energy, which is more than enough to spoil your recording session.

When working with audio, there’s always a compromise. It’s known as the signal-to-noise ratio. Signal is good. Noise is bad. Remember the bathroom/elevator/stairwell phone call we talked about earlier? While you’re recording your audiobook, the biggest source of sound waves should be your mouth, which is what you want. Unfortunately, your voice will also fly past your intended target (the mic) and then bounce around you at sonic speed, literally! You don’t want that to happen, because your vocal track will exhibit reverberation, which is a fancy way of saying echo.

  • Your voice is the signal, but it can also be the source of noise.

Thanks to the Earth’s breathable atmosphere (gasp!) sound waves are virtually unlimited in their ability to infiltrate every nook and cranny within reach. Although these waves dissipate and degrade rapidly over distance, the average house isn’t nearly big enough for that to happen in a way that’s helpful to you. You’ll need to construct artificial barriers that will force those waves to lose their energy, before they get a chance to reach your mic, and interfere with your work.

This is an excerpt from Audiobook Production – A Few Tips for Independent Publishers. Drop by for a new tip every week!


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