Breathing into a microphone causes loud distorted pops, that’s the air coming from your mouth and hitting a sensitive diaphragm within the microphone.
To avoid breathing noise when recording you should learn to control your breathing and the distance between you and the microphone. Furthermore, correctly placing the microphone will help to avoid most of the breathing noise by not allowing air to reach the sensitive diaphragm within the microphone. Finally, using a pop-filter will help to mitigate the little breathing noise that’s left after applying the previous techniques.
Correct microphone placement
Placing the microphone correctly alone can prevent the breathing noise and is the most important step in avoiding breaths reaching the microphone.
The microphone is placed correctly when your mouth is not facing it directly. Your mouth should be facing slightly off-axis to the microphone, meaning that the breaths should never hit the microphone, but rather go slightly to the side, below or above the microphone. The microphone, however, should be facing your mouth to capture the best sound quality.
When placing the microphone, make sure you know which is the sensitive part of the microphone that’s meant for recording. Otherwise, you might end up recording with the wrong part of the mic. Often microphones will have marks to tell you the correct side of the microphone. For example, Rode NT1 has a golden dot that indicates the correct side of the microphone.
Control your breathing
Besides placing the microphone correctly, you can also mitigate breathing noise by controlling your breaths and avoiding sharp exhales and inhales. The following methods will help to master your breathing technique and avoid breathing noise:
- Relax your upper body – A tense body requires more oxygen since the muscles are constantly contracted and working which requires oxygen. Try to relax and stretch your upper body before beginning recording to reduce the need for oxygen. As a result, you’ll take fewer breaths.
- Practice tongue twisters – Tongue twisters are very beneficial for voice over artists as they help with breathing techniques and articulation. Practice repeating various tongue twisters non-stop as fast as possible. This exercise will leave you out of breath and will help you to learn to control your breathing.
- Speak slowly – When recording, don’t rush your words. Speak slower so you have more time to inhale and exhale which will make you take softer breaths and will allow you to control them better.
- Breathe through the diaphragm – Normally we tend to breathe using the chest only which is shallower compared to belly breathing. Use the diaphragm to have access to more air. In return, you will take fewer sharp breaths.
- Maintain good posture – Bad posture causes tension in your upper body and restricts your lung capacity. Keep your back and shoulders straight to allow better airflow into your lungs and reduce tension.
- Exercise – Intense cardio exercises can increase your lung capacity as you’ll be forced to breathe heavily during the activity.
Pop-filter is a mesh usually made of nylon or metal. It allows the sound to pass through but diffuses the air puffs coming out of the mouth thus reducing the breathing noise and pops.
Pop-filters alone aren’t capable to prevent all of the breaths from reaching the microphone, so relying solely on a pop-filter isn’t recommended. However, it can significantly reduce breathing noise.
Some of the microphones have built-in pop filters, it’s very often the case with broadcast microphones. However, often you’ll have to buy a separate pop-filter. The best ones are transparent with light edges that don’t obstruct the vision. If you don’t own a pop-filter you can also place two fingers or a pencil in front of your mouth to diffuse the air and prevent breathing noise.
You can read more about pop-filters here.
Maintain the distance
Maintaining the distance will help to mitigate breathing noise by diminishing the velocity and amount of air hitting the microphone. The recommended distance from mouth to the microphone is about two fists.
The closer you’ll get to the microphone the more careful you’ll have to be about your breaths. To make sure you maintain the same distance from the microphone you can use the aforementioned pop-filters. They are great for maintaining the distance since they already put a gap between you and the microphone. This will also help you to maintain a consistent sound and avoid the proximity effect.
You can read how to remove breathing noise in this article.