How to Prevent and Remove Breaths from Audio Recordings?

Not all breaths are bad and hearing some of the breaths is natural. It’s louder breaths that may be distracting but there’s a way to prevent them.

Unwanted loud breaths in audio recordings are caused by sharp inhales and exhales. To avoid sharp breaths you’ll need to practice controlling your breaths. Correct microphone placement and some audio editing via software will help to remove the remaining breaths.

It’s important to avoid breaths rather than relying on removing them during the audio editing phase. It doesn’t require much effort to prevent most of the breaths and that’ll save you a lot of editing time.

Correct microphone placement to prevent breaths

One of the most important aspects of preventing breaths is correct microphone placement. Rather than facing your microphone directly, you want to speak into it off-axis. The microphone should be facing your mouth but your mouth shouldn’t be facing the microphone.

By not speaking directly into the mic, breaths out of your mouth won’t reach a sensitive diaphragm within the microphone. This will avoid loud distorted noise made by air physically reaching the microphone.

When placing the microphone make sure you know which side of the microphone is meant for recording. Some microphones are side-addressed, some end-addressed and some may be bidirectional or omnidirectional. Usually, a microphone will have a marking such as a dot or written note regarding which side is meant for recording.

Keep distance from the microphone

Another reason why your breaths might be very audible is you being too close to the microphone.

When recording stay at least two fists (20cm / 8inch) away from your microphone to avoid harsh breaths reaching the microphone. Longer distance will weaken the breath making it less noticeable in your audio recording.

Use a pop-filter to dissipate breaths

You can try using a pop-filter to reduce breathing noise. They work by dissipating breaths with a metal/nylon mesh but allowing sound to pass through unaffected.

Also, they are helpful at keeping a certain distance from you and the microphone as they intervene and don’t allow you to get very close to the mic. It will help you or the talent to maintain a consistent distance from the microphone.

Another option is a windshield pop-filter that covers the microphone. They are comfortable to use because they don’t block the vision when reading a script, however, they will not help to maintain the distance and often will color the sound but could be the only alternative available when recording on the go.

You can read more about pop-filters and their effectiveness in this article.

Learn to control your breaths

You need to learn to control your breaths so that they are soft. You should never be so out of breath that the next breath you take is super sharp. To learn to control your breathing better you can practice tongue twisters.

Pick a tongue twister you like and keep repeating it as fast and as articulate as possible. The idea is to learn to control your breathing while speaking fast in complex sentences. Make sure to switch to a new tongue twister once in a while to make it a little bit more challenging for yourself.

While doing tongue twisters you’ll learn to insert quick breaths in short pauses between the words which will then help to control your breathing better while reading a script.

Another great way to practice breathing is by reading out loud. It’ll mimic script reading sessions and will give you more experience at controlling breaths.

Maintain a good posture to ease up breathing

Maintaining a good posture will relieve a lot of the stress from your muscles and respiratory system. When performing keep your back straight, shoulders down and relaxed.

It’s important to not slouch as it’ll limit your lung capacity and aggravate breathing. To alleviate breathing you could try doing some core and back exercises to help to achieve a good muscle tone and posture.

Slouching could also be an issue originating due to bad desk and chair height. A lot of the time we slouch because monitors are too low and it forces us to look downwards. You can solve the issue with the adjustable desk, by adding some books under the monitor or by recording standing.

Stretching and relaxing before performing

Stretching and relaxing can help to alleviate some build-up stress in the body and ease up breathing. It’s a good idea to stretch regularly to reduce your body tension.

On top of that, try doing relaxing exercises before recording. It’ll give immediate relief to your body and will make your breathing less abrupt.

A good exercise for relieving some stress before recording is to stand up and swing your arms back and forth. Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed while doing it. A few minutes of this exercise should help to get more relaxed.

Slow down when recording

Rushing while recording often makes us forget to breathe and by then it’s too late because you’re taking a heavy breath to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Slow down when reading a script, it’ll give you longer pauses between words to take a soft breath.

A lot of the time we start reading fast unknowingly. Practice consciously checking your pace and listen to your recordings to see if you’re rushing.

Removing breaths with audio editing software

Once you have a recording there are still ways to remove any breaths using audio editing software. If you don’t own any editing software I recommend getting Audacity which in my opinion is the best free audio editor.

You can remove breaths by applying a noise gate effect which removes any audio noise that’s below a certain threshold. You can read about removing breaths in Audacity in this article and if you fancy Adobe Audition you can read this article.

Here’s a brief instruction on how to remove breaths using a noise gate:

  • Play the part where the breath is audible and check where it peaks in playback level meter
  • Open noise gate
  • Set threshold about 5dB above breathing noise level
  • Set attack at 2ms, level reduction at -20dB, release at 200ms, Hold at 50ms
  • Click ok

Otherwise, you can remove breaths manually by selecting each of them and applying amplify effect with about -20dB amplification. This way is the cleanest, however, takes more time.

Personally, I like to apply the noise gate effect first and then remove any remaining breaths manually.

Another way to go about it is by applying a noise reduction effect to your whole recording. It should mitigate breaths but that may also reduce the quality of your whole audio recording.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to fully remove all of the breaths. Having some breaths will make your audio recording sound natural. Instead of completely removing them you need to decrease their volume a bit. That’s why I recommend applying a level reduction of ~-20dB instead of completely removing breaths.

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