Fun With Audio, Part 1

I’ve split the audio info into two parts because there are way too many words for one post. Today is recording. The 2nd part of Fun With Audio will likely go up tomorrow evening or possibly Friday if something keeps me from writing and posting it.

I would like to state before we dig into this thing that I am not pretending to be an expert. This is just what has worked for me. Getting this far has taken a year or two of on and off work and many hours of researching what worked for other people, and many, many hours of frustration. Moving on.

First, let’s talk recording space. I have a shower in my basement. From what I understand, showering down there is a somewhat frigid experience. Personally, I’ve never used the thing for that purpose. No one else who lives here uses it either, so it was pretty much fair game.

I tried several setups to dampen the sound in there. First, I tried sound foam squares. Those did mostly nothing. I sewed them to fabric. A little better but not great. After a lot of research and trial and error, I ended up with, basically, a blanket fort. I have a couple of moving blankets hanging from dowel rods that sit across the top of the shower. A couple more hang from command hooks.

God, I love command hooks. They stick to the wall and come off very easily. I’ve rearranged the hooks so many times that I had to buy more sticky things.

I also have a wall that I made from a curtain that I outfitted with a pocket to hold the tablet I read from.

I am darn classy sometimes.

For the floor, I used one those big, foam floor squares like this.

floor square

It keeps my feet from hurting when I stand on the shower floor for 30+ minutes at a time.

The last component of the booth to get a tweak was my microphone isolation situation.  Most commercial isolation shields are made to sit on a table or a desk. I needed a box that would fit and hang in my confined space. This was another thing that required much trial and error. The end result of that is a basically a small cardboard box, lined on the inside with the sound foam I initially used on the walls of the booth and a layer of terry cloth. Sewing and staples were involved. This sounds janky, but it works very well. It nearly killed the last of the reverb I was getting.

But did I trash the shower? I did not. No showers were harmed in the making of this sound booth. I can break the whole shebang down in ten minutes and set it back up in 10-15. Zero holes were drilled.

The only issues with this setup are that it’s 1. Extremely dark inside and 2. Hot. Like warm and stuffy. I’m considering adding some “fairy lights” to make the interior nicer. Right now, the only light I have is what comes from the tablet screen.

Next up, recording settings. I ignored these until very recently. I didn’t make any huge adjustments once I figured them out, but understanding what they did was another piece of the puzzle. The lower the microphone/recording volume, the less background noise you pick up. This is a really easy concept, of course, but I was so tangled up in the mastering process that I overlooked this end of the deal. I keep my recording volume at .5.

My mic is a yeti snowball. It was like $50 at best buy and was by far the most expensive part of my setup. The second most expensive was the moving blankets. I managed to find those for either $10 each or 15 at Menards. Almost everything else I had lying around the house. Oh, except the dowel rods.

Here’s a picture of the mic. I don’t use the stand.


I am very pleased with it.

The laptop I use to record sits on the bathroom counter outside the booth. I had to get a USB extender for the mic to reach. The computer itself sits on the sound dampening foam because when the fan would run, it would make a vibrating noise on the hard surface.

Finally, we get to the voice part. This has been a struggle for me. I get a lot of mouth noise and due to my imprisonment in an office, I am in low level allergy flare-up almost constantly. My throat and sinuses click sometimes. I’ve learned not to stress too much about it. I edit out as much as I can, but sometimes I just leave them in. I’ve heard “professional” audiobook productions from huge publishers that sound way, way worse than my occasional click.

I’ve been working in what’s called a “chest delivery”, which has minimized the raspy quality my voice sometimes has. That involves forcing the sound out from deeper in the chest as opposed to the throat.

Other things that have helped involved brushing my teeth right before I record, saline nasal spray, and room temperature lemon water.

In order to minimize editing, I’ve learned to listen as I read with a kind of hyper awareness that’s focused on my mouth, sinuses, throat, and the words that are coming out of my mouth. If that sounds exhausting, please let me assure you that it is. At the moment, I can only do about 30-40 minutes in the booth before I have to take a break.

I’m working on my endurance, though. I started wearing a watch in order to track how long I’m reading.

That’s all for now. Please tune in for part 2 of Fun with Audio. I’ll post that either tomorrow or Friday.

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