Recording a good quality voice-over might be tricky, but definitely not impossible. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to improve your voice-over quality that I have researched and tried out myself.
You can use these X tips as some sort of a checkbox when recording and editing your audio if you manage to follow them I am sure you will see a noticeable difference in your voice-over quality.
1. Microphone placement
Microphone placement is one of the most critical aspects when recording good quality audio and, at the same time, one of the easiest to adjust. Slightly adjusting microphone placement might make all the difference. So, let’s take a look at how to place your microphone correctly.
The microphone should be about two fists away from your mouth, directly facing it. However, your mouth shouldn’t be directly facing the microphone as that will create plosives that are generated by breaths hitting the microphone. Speak slightly to the left or right of the microphone to avoid plosives.
Also, place your microphone furthest away from significant noise sources. Usually, that is computer fans and keyboard. Most of the microphones record in a cardioid polar pattern, which means they are the least sensitive to the noise coming from behind it.
Finally, make sure you are speaking into the correct side of a microphone. You need to know whether the microphone you are using is end addressed like most broadcast type microphone, or side addressed like most condenser type microphone.
If it is a side addressed microphone, make sure you are speaking into the right side of it. Some microphones will mark a front or back of the microphone, so look for that. If there are no marks, then just record and listen, when speaking into the back of the microphone audio will sound hollow and shallow.
2. Reducing echo
You might need to consider moving your microphone to a new space in your apartment to reduce echo, but it is well worth it and will help to attain better voice-over quality.
The most important aspect of choosing a space for voice-over recording is how well it will absorb sound, which otherwise would be bouncing back into the microphone and create an unwanted echo, essentially ruining your audio quality.
If you have a choice, look for a room with the most soft furniture and soft carpeting. Thick curtains might also be helpful and absorb a lot of echo bouncing of the windows.
You can also try using acoustic foam attachments such as Alctron PF8 or Kaotica Eyeball. I have made a review of these two, but there are some other options such as acoustic shields or just creating a PVC and blanket booth. I own PF8 myself and suggest getting it since it is probably one of the cheapest purchases which will noticeably improve your audio quality.
If you have a small room, you could turn it into a recording space by attaching acoustic foam to the walls. For example, walking closets work well because they already have clothes that are great at absorbing reverb. You can then attach some acoustic foam for even better echo reduction and voice-over quality.
3. Choosing the right microphone
This tip only applies if you don’t currently have a microphone or if you want to upgrade.
In general, if you are recording at home environment, streaming, and or deal with background noise, then I suggest getting a dynamic microphone.
Dynamic microphones are much better at neglecting background noise compared to condenser microphones and will give you better voice-over quality in not so perfect recording conditions.
If you record in a studio or studio-like environment, such as a very well isolated and acoustically treated room, then I would get a condenser microphone. Condenser microphones generally represent more accurate sound but are more sensitive towards the noise.
If you already own a microphone and don’t want to buy a new one then don’t stress, just stick with the one you have. Replacing your microphone is not essential.
I had a condenser microphone and then decided to get a dynamic microphone because they are better at neglecting background noise. You can hear the difference, but it is nothing to break your bank for when you are just starting out.
For more tips regarding how to choose a microphone you can read the following articles:
4. Warming up
Warming up is another way to immediately improve your voice-over audio quality.
10-20 minutes warm-up may help you to achieve a warmer and more pleasant voice.
Before pressing the record button, try yawning for a couple of minutes. It should relax your throat and facial muscles, which should help to achieve a deeper, mellower voice.
Humming and lip-rolls are other great exercises to improve your voice before recording and will work in a similar effect to yawning.
5. Using EQ to improve vocals
EQ is a bit tricky and can be used to improve voice-over quality, but it might very well ruin it. Therefore, use EQ with caution.
Our voices and microphones are each different. Therefore the same EQ setting won’t always work for everyone. Nevertheless, let’s look at how we can utilize EQ to improve our voice-over quality.
Here are some general guidelines on how to improve voice-over with EQ:
- Adding or cutting more than 6dB in any specific frequency range is probably unwise.
- Cutting is generally better than boosting.
- Don’t cut or boost any more than you have to. There are no magical frequencies that suddenly make your audio better. It is all about balance.
- Reduce or remove frequencies that are below 60Hz; it is probably just a rumble.
- To add warmth, try increasing 100-300Hz frequencies and gently cut 2-6kHz frequencies.
- 200-500Hz frequencies often are responsible for muddiness, try gently cutting these out to add clarity. If you can distinguish more specific frequencies in this range that are causing muddiness, then reduce that specific range only.
- Boosting 2-6kHz frequencies might add clarity at the cost of warmth.
- To brighten vocals, boost 6kHz and higher frequencies.
- Trust your ears more than EQ graphic.
- Try listening while laying on the bed, or just turn your chair around and close your eyes if you want a fresh listening.
6. Pre-reading and over-articulation
Obviously this tip only applies if your voice-over involves reading. Otherwise, you can skip it.
This is another trick that will help you to improve your voice-overs immediately. Pre-reading a text before starting recording the voice-over will help you better understand the emotions behind the characters.
Also, pre-reading should reduce stumbling with words when reading. Therefore less time spent recording and editing.
In addition, if you suffer from bad articulation when pre-reading, try to over-articulate. Generally, it means you will be exaggerating your mouth movements and it will sound a bit ridiculous at first, but that doesn’t matter since you are just pre-reading.
You will notice that when you finally begin recording the audio after the exercise, you will articulate words better than usual.
7. If possible avoid noise reduction effects
I see a lot of people overusing noise reduction effects. Treat noise reduction effects similar to antibiotics. It is good and helpful stuff, but overusing them will cause some trouble and if possible you don’t want to use them at all.
Some noise reduction tools are better than others, but generally, they work by reducing certain frequencies that are often responsible for the noise.
Nevertheless, these frequencies are also a part of our vocals, hence using noise reduction tools might reduce the audio quality.
To get the best of noise reduction, weigh the pros and cons. If your audio is riddled with background noise, then sure, applying noise reduction will remove a lot of the unwanted noise at a cost of slight audio quality loss and in overall you will improve your voice-over recording.
On the other hand, if your audio has just slight background noise, then using noise reduction might cause more harm than good. You can always try using noise gate instead of a noise reduction tool at first. Noise gate doesn’t reduce your audio quality and usually is a good alternative.
You can read more about cleaning up audio in this article: How to clean up audio
8. Maintain optimal audio levels
Recording at correct audio levels is important when it comes to dealing with background noise.
Usually recording in -12dB to -6dB range is a sweet spot.
You certainly don’t want to record any higher than 0dB, as that would cause audio clipping. However, recording at low levels will require you to amplify the audio, which will raise your background noise.
Therefore, make sure you are recording at optimal audio levels to get the best voice-over audio quality.
If you struggle to maintain good audio levels, the problem might be with your pre-amps not providing enough gain.
9. Work on your posture
Good posture could immediately improve your voice-over audio quality.
If you are hunching your back, it physically obstructs your lungs and prevents them from using full volume.
When recording, try to keep your shoulders and back straight as it will allow more air to come into your lungs and reduce stress in the upper body.
10. Relax your upper body
Before you start recording, try relaxing your upper body and facial muscles.
You can try stretching and massaging the upper body. You can even massage your face. It should help to relieve some tension, which often causes our voice to sound thin and less pleasant.
When relaxed, we tend to feel more confident, and it transfers to our speech. In the end, it will help you to improve your voice-over quality and it will have an immediate effect.
11. Breathing from the diaphragm
You may have heard this million times, but that’s because it is such an essential skill to learn to improve your voice-over.
Breathing from the diaphragm allows more air to come in and your voice will sound more powerful when you learn it. You should be able to project much better once you master the technique.
You can practice breathing through the diaphragm by lying on your bed with a heavy book on your belly. When breathing through the diaphragm, your chest and shoulders won’t rise as much as when breathing using only your chest.
You should feel as if your belly is filling in with the air, although actually that’s a feeling caused by diaphragm muscles moving downwards and increasing the capacity of your lungs.
The book on the belly exercise will strengthen diaphragm muscles and help with breathing through diaphragm unconsciously — all for the sake of improving your voice-over quality.
12. Keep yourself hydrated
Keeping yourself hydrated is important for a few reasons.
First of all, staying hydrated will keep your vocal cords lubricated and thick. Thicker vocal cords will provide a warmer and deeper voice, while thinner vocal cords will make your voice sound thin.
In addition, staying hydrated will reduce annoying mouth clicks, which occur when your thick saliva snaps after the tongue hits the roof of your mouth.
You should be drinking water regularly throughout the day. Drinking right before recording is great, but if you have been dehydrated the whole day before, it will take some time for body to fully absorb that water.