Recording equipment: what you'll need to create your recording

Excerpts from the ebook "How to Create Professional Hypnosis & Meditation Recordings" by Christopher Lloyd Clarke.

 

Let’s get to know what equipment you will need in order to record your own voiceover, mix it with music and then create a finalized audio file for CD or digital download. There’s a good chance that you already possess some of the equipment you need!

1. Computer

No big surprise here. You probably already have one or more of these. Both Macs and PCs will allow you to create a professional quality audio production. Desktop computers and laptop computers will all suffice.
The good news is that you do not need a particularly powerful or expensive computer to create your own recording. Virtually any computer that was built from 2005 onwards will have the processing power necessary for you to create a recording and mix it with music. Even the cheapest, most modestly specified modern computer will probably have 50 times more power than you actually need. So you can probably tick “computer” off your list right away.

 

2. Microphone

A good quality microphone is the next most important part of your recording setup. The right microphone will mean the difference between a clear, full sounding voice recording and a nasal, harsh sounding one. Don’t even think about using built-in computer microphones or a podcasting headset. You will need to invest in a microphone that was designed for use in voiceover recordings. Fortunately, these are now cheaper and easier to use than ever. In just a moment we will spend some time exploring exactly what microphone is right for you.

 

3. Microphone stand

A microphone stand is an inexpensive accessory for recording that serves two essential functions:
a.    It will keep the microphone still, which helps to ensure that your recording has a consistent quality of sound. If you hand-hold your microphone, it’s easy to accidentally let it drift left or right of your mouth. This can lead to noticeable changes in the tonality and volume of your voice recording.

b.    It will prevent you from accidentally bumping or fumbling with the microphone in your hand. The slightest movements can cause loud thumps in your recording. Microphones are very sensitive and they need to be held safely in a stand that eliminates vibrations.

Some microphones come bundled with their own stand, but if yours isn’t then you can probably pick one up for as little as $20. Microphone stands come in various shapes and sizes – from short desk mounted stands, which are a perfect option if you’ll be sitting while you record, to taller stands that will hold your microphone at head height if you are standing up.

 

4. Microphone Windscreen

Equally as important as your microphone stand is a microphone windscreen, otherwise known as a “pop filter”.  Windscreens eliminate “plosives” – small bursts of air that come from between your lips when you pronounce words with P’s and T’s in them. Words like “prism” and “stutter” are two examples. These lead to low frequency popping/thudding sounds in the microphone that can ruin your recording.

Tip: Plosives are covered in the video tutorial that I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.
Some microphones come with a soft foam windshield that covers the head of the microphone. These do provide some protection from plosives, but they are often insufficient, especially when you’re up close to your microphone while recording a relatively quiet vocal performance. You will need a mesh windscreen like the one shown below.
 
This type of microphone windscreen is usually constructed of a sheath of nylon material that is stretched over a circular frame. The windscreen provides a buffer between you and the microphone and will eliminate most plosives entirely.
Like microphone stands, microphone windscreens are an inexpensive item. I’ve seen them on eBay in new condition for less than $15.

D.I.Y Tip:  It is possible to create your own makeshift windscreen by stretching a nylon stocking over a coat hanger. Open the coat hanger out so that it offers you a large surface area and then tape the windshield to your microphone stand so that the nylon shield sits a few inches proud of the microphone itself. It might not be pretty, but it will be quite effective as windshield.

 

5. Software for recording & editing sound

You will need a program that is dedicated to the task of recording and editing audio. There are dozens of programs to choose from and fortunately, there are some very capable recording programs available for free.
Most Apple computers come with a free program called Garageband  - a very well featured audio program indeed.

Most Windows PCs include a recording program called "Sound Recorder", but this program is far too basic, even for your modest needs. It will allow you to record sounds, but will not allow you to edit them or mix them with music. The free program I recommend for Windows users is called “Audacity”. It’s an extremely popular program and as a result there are loads of online tutorials and user forums that you can turn to for instruction and support.

Both Audacity and Garageband will allow you to record to your computer, perform all necessary editing tasks and produce a finished audio file without spending a single dollar.
https://www.apple.com/au/mac/garageband/
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

We will get to know a little more about recording software and how to use it in a later chapter.
Quick tip: There are plenty of differences between sound recording programs in terms of (a) how they look, (b) what they cost, (c) how they function and (d) how many features they include, but there is very little difference (if any) between them in terms of sound quality. So don’t ever be swayed by the opinions of people who claim that one program sounds better than another. The recording hardware you choose will have some bearing on the quality of your sound, but your recording software will not.


6. Microphone Cable

You may need a cable to connect your microphone to your computer. The type of cable you require will vary depending on the type of microphone you choose and the way in which you connect your microphone to your computer. More information on microphone cables will be forthcoming momentarily when we explore microphone selection in greater detail.

 

7. Listening equipment

In order to review and evaluate the quality of your recordings, you’re going to need some speakers or some headphones, or both.

Don’t even think about using the tiny little speakers in your laptop for listening purposes. The resolution of most in-built computer speakers is appallingly bad. In order to properly assess the sound quality of your recordings you will need quality speakers and/or headphones.

There’s that word again: “Quality”. How on earth do we define quality when it comes to listening devices?

That’s a tough question to answer. If we resort to the old adage, “You get what you pay for” then I’d say that you will need to invest in some speakers worth more than $100 and/or headphones worth more than $50.
That might sound like a lot of money to some people, but let’s put things into perspective for a moment. Speakers are one of those commodities that vary so greatly in quality that they can cost as little as $5 or as much as $100,000 (or more). Most professional recording studios wouldn’t dare use speakers worth less than $1,500. Suddenly $100 doesn’t seem quite so bad does it?

The benefits of headphones

For D.I.Y recording enthusiasts I often recommend headphones over speakers. Headphones can often be purchased for much less than the price of a qualitatively equivalent set of speakers, and they also have one additional benefit: they help to block out extraneous environmental noise. This can be a real blessing if you, like most people, do not have a perfectly quiet studio space in which to review your recording.

The way headphones present sound directly to your ears can also make it easier for you to pick out errors in your recording. With headphones on, there will be nothing in between you and the sound you are reviewing, and you’ll find that errors will jump out at you in a more obvious way than if you review your recording while sitting back at a distance from your speakers.

If you absolutely, positively cannot stretch your budget to incorporate a new set of speakers or headphones, and if you can’t borrow a pair temporarily, then yes, you certainly can use the headphones or earbuds that came with your phone or iPod. They might not be “studio quality” but they will certainly get the job done.

Tip: One way to save on speakers and headphones is to use whatever cheap speakers or headphones you have available during the recording process. Then once you have completed your recording, burn yourself a review CD. Take that CD and play it in the best stereo system you have in the house (or your friend’s house). This will give you the opportunity to double check your recording and recognize any qualitative problems before you start distributing your work.