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Channelling your inner Richard Burton

Now that we’ve setup our mic and found a quiet place to record, let’s do a test recording.

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For anyone born before 1980, Richard Burton was a famous actor. One of the things I associate him with is reading the narration to a musical adaptation of The War of the Worlds. In this lesson, you'll be reading his iconic opening lines.

Yes, that really is what you sound like

It’s not uncommon to be a little uncomfortable when hearing yourself back. You’ll get used to it after a while, but often our discomfort comes from the fact that our voice sounds different in our ears from what others hear, and from what a mic picks up. Our voices usually sound deeper to us than when recorded, because our voice bounces around in our skull, giving it more resonance. If you’ve ever played music from a smartphone without a Bluetooth speaker, you might find – if you’re the curious sort – that if you put the phone in a cup, the sound becomes fuller. That’s because the sound waves bounce around inside the cup, creating resonance.

Don’t worry if you don’t like the sound of your own voice. Most people feel the same way, and it’s something you’ll get used to, the more you record.

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I'm used to hearing my own voice back, and it doesn't bother me at all... unless there'a another person in the room. After decades of recording and editing my own voice for music, videos, podcasts and audiobooks, I can't be in the same room as someone who's listening to my voice.

Recording on a Mac or PC

Audacity is a free audio editing app that works on Windows PCs and on Macs. It will record from your USB mic, and let you easily trim your recording, tweak the sound a little and export out to MP3.

Recording on an iPad

Ferrite Recording Studio is an iPad app that provides much the same functionality as Audacity for Windows and Mac. It has a free tier, but you’ll need to pay to unlock features [like what?]

Test script

Before we go into recording any of your own words, let’s start with a short script so we can get familiar with starting and stopping a recording, trimming it, and getting the final volume right.

This bit of text is adapted from the opening of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds. (Actually it’s the opening from the 1970s Jeff Wayne version.)

No-one would’ve believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes. And slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.

Editing with Audacity

Editing with Ferrite Recording Studio

Editing with Descript

Descript is a revolutionary new way of editing audio without all that tedious mucking about with waveforms. With Descript, your words are transcribed and you edit the text of your recording, rather than the waveform. This can be useful to you now if you just want to trim bits off and remove mistakes, but as you start to get bitten by the podcasting bug, you might find working with Descript to be much easier when you come to edit words you haven’t written in advance.

Our Descript editing course is available to members of our Podcode+ programme.

Homework

Just for fun

Complete this lesson