How to Make a Recording
This area of the classroom provides helpful tips and practical considerations to help you decide what tools to use and how to use them when making speech recordings.
In making recordings, the goal is always to get a clear,
undistorted speech signal with as little noise as possible.
To get a clear, undistorted speech signal you need:
- A good microphone and connection to a tape recorder
- Good volume from the speaker (neither too soft nor too loud)
- A speaker who maintains a consistent volume level and distance from the microphone
- A good sampling rate and bit depth in the tape recorder and computer sound card
- No loss of signal quality during transfer to a computer
Noise that will detract from or ruin signal quality for acoustic analysis can include:
- Any kind of environmental noise
- Speaker movement, especially if movement impacts the microphone or an object close to the microphone
- Voice overlap between speakers
- Noise from the computer system during transfer to computer
The best way to minimize environmental noise is to record in a sound-proofed or sound-treated room. To reduce the effects of noise in an ordinary room:
- Choose a quiet location
- Cover large reverberant surfaces with blankets or cloths
- Unplug electrical appliances
- Close doors and windows
- Turn off lights and fans or air conditioning
- Remove anything that ticks, buzzes, bangs, rattles, squeaks, hisses, or otherwise makes itself heard
When recording citation from texts (e.g. word lists or sentences) it is usually possible to satisfy all, or most of the above conditions. However, to record speech in "natural" situations, speakers often must be allowed to move around and interact with other people, with objects, or with their surroundings. This makes it substantially more difficult to get optimal recording quality.
In natural speaking situations, speakers are much less likely to maintain a consistent distance from the microphone or consistent loudness levels. They may bump equipment and make noise while interacting with their surroundings, or their surroundings may generate noise. If the objective is to conduct different types of acoustic analysis, a portion of speech recorded in natural situations may not be useable. However, with digital equipment it is nevertheless possible to get very good overall recording quality in natural situations - i.e. speech that is not just clearly intelligible, but that can be analyzed for its acoustic properties.
To get the best possible recording quality, you need to match your equipment (especially the microphone) to the recording situation.
Equipment on a Budget
How to Record
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E-MELD School of Best Practice: How to Make a Recording
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