91: Good Sound Part 3: Mic Technique and Setting Input Gain Levels

30 Jan 2021 • 11 min • EN
11 min
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Last week I talked about how to connect your microphone and headphones and make sure you're ready to start recording. This week I'm going to walk you through the basics of microphone technique and how to set the input gain levels (or recording levels) so you can sound good anytime you want to record some audio. Just a heads up: If you're listening to this episode in a podcast app, I'd recommend switching over to the YouTube video, as I believe it's easier to understand mic technique and input gain levels if you can see what I'm doing and talking about. Watch the video version of this episode here: https://youtu.be/hn09tFzJ0PQ 1. Mic Technique Gotta be close to the mic (but not too close). Make sure the right side of the mic is pointed at you. You don't have to speak directly at or into the mic. Try putting off to the side a bit (still keep it pointed at your mouth). For most mics, the closer you are, the more bass the mic will record. (This is called the proximity effect, if you want to do some research on it.) So if you have a naturally loud, low, bassy voice, you might want to keep the mic a little further away. In most cases, keeping your mouth 3-6 inches away from the mic should probably work great for you. This is also something you'll want to play around with. Make some practice recordings to hear how you sound at different distances from the mic. 2. Setting Input Gain Levels Most USB microphones and audio interfaces have input gain knobs or sliders that allow you to control the strength of the signal your microphone is picking up. The goal is to get a recording that is loud enough but not too loud. The best way to do this is to position the mic close to you and start talking like you'll be talking on your podcast. Then watch the input gain meters in your recording software and adjust the gain knob or slider on your mic or interface until the peaks of the signal are getting up to about 75% of the way to the top of your meter (or the red zone in most software gain meters). (If the gain meter in your software is vertical, that's the top, if it's horizontal, like in GarageBand, that's the right side.) Here's another way to think about it: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being way too quiet, and 10 being too loud, you want your signal to average around 6 or 8. So not always hitting that top limit of 10, but probably somewhere about 5. If you find your recording is a little too quiet after you're done recording, you do have the option to add more gain to increase the level of your audio track later. Important Things to Remember You don't have to speak directly into the mic. You can talk past it. As long as it's close enough to your mouth, you'll still sound good. Make test recordings to see how you sound! Try recording just to play around with mic technique and input gain levels. This will help you get comfortable with how your gear works, and how your voice sounds at different distances from the mic and at different gain levels. Recommend Reading: Gain Staging Like a Pro from Sweetwater Podcasts and Capital from Justin Jackson Thanks for watching or listening to this weeks episode. If you have questions, please leave a comment on my YouTube channel or send me an email, aaron@thepodcastdude.com If you like this episode, please give it a thumbs-up on YouTube or leave me a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, and be sure to subscribe to get future episodes for free and as soon as they come out. You can find more episodes and other cool stuff at podcastingwithaaron.com or aarondowd.com. Next week I'll be talking about how the room you're recording in can affect how you sound, and I'll share a few tips about how to fix a few common issues related to that. Till then, have a great week, and happy podcasting. Aaron

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