Instructor Tip: Hacking Studio-Quality Audio

You’ve heard it in videos before: audio that sounds like it was recorded on the back of a pickup truck going through a tunnel:  full of echos, crackling “S”’s, background noise, and hollow voices.  But the solution doesn’t require thousands of dollars in expensive equipment or buying time at a studio.  In fact, you can get professional quality audio with just a hundred bucks and some creativity.  Here’s how:

It all starts with the microphone, that magical device designed to capture sounds, and are often too successful.  The trick is to find a mic that has a Cardioid or hypercardioid pattern.  Cardioid patterns only pick up the sounds from right in front of the mic, rather than the entire room, so it doesn’t sound like you’re in an open area, even if you are.

There are several USB mics that plug right into your computer and have a cardioid pattern for under $100 and are fantastic for recording voices.  I use the Yeti Microphone, though the Blue Snowball gets plenty of love too.  There must be a lot of arctic podcasts…

It may start with a quality microphone, but it sure doesn’t end there. Just as important is the environment in which you record.  I say this from experience: you can spend thousands of dollars on a microphone and still get crappy audio.

The trick to your recording room is 2 elements: small and soft.  The smaller the room, the less likely you are to get the hollow, echo sound in your recordings.  Anyone that has yelled “Hello!” in a big canyon can attest to the echo of large, far away surfaces.  Soft simply means padding of some kind to cover hard surfaces and mute sound waves bouncing off walls and tables back into your mic.   Soft doesn’t mean you have to cover your house in foam.  Pillows work just as well.  One of our most successful instructors records in his closet.  Another records under a blanket.  Small and soft is all it takes.