3 Ways To Improve Your Sound Without Upgrading Your Mic

Hello, hello, episode 512. We’re going to talk about sound quality today, and I’m going to work really hard in not being nerdy. Wish me luck. I want to talk about this because so, so, so often I can on calls with clients or I get questions in my DMs or in my inbox around sound quality and microphone, meaning my quality needs to improve, what mic should I buy?

And the reality is just about any mic you see listed on any of the countless best mics for podcasting blog posts that there are in the world, and there are millions of them, will work just fine. However, even the best quality mic can leave a little bit to be desired if we’re not taking some extra steps. And I think that oftentimes what impacts our sound quality the most has very little to do with the actual microphone. That’s what I want to talk about, specifically three ways you can improve your sound quality with the microphone you have right now.

And none of these, absolutely none of these, are editing techniques. All of these are things you will do in the recording process. And the reason for that is because bad quality in is bad quality out. There’s only so much you can do in editing to improve quality. You have to, have to, have to, have to, have to be making sure that the best quality sound that you can manage is up front. Now, for the asterisk, for the caveat, for the but, the exception that makes the rule.

I also don’t want you to live in a world where the quality of your sound stops you from recording at all. Meaning if there is a dog in the background snoring, it’s not always a bad thing. Not always the be all end. Well, I can’t record today. The dog is sleeping in the office. If there is a dog that starts barking in the middle of your recording session next door, I’ve actually had this happen in my house, and you have no control over that dog, frequently what I’ll do is pause, resay what I was saying in there, and then move on.

Don’t stop. Don’t not record. I listen to the podcast as I’m recording it to hear for those things, to listen for those things. I encourage you to be really mindful of what is an area that you can improve and what is something you are using as an excuse not to do the thing. All right? All right. Last note before we get started, and I’m laughing because there were like three preamble things to these three things.

The kind of mic you have and how your mic works is really important.

For example, something like a Samson Meteor mic or a Snowball mic, they’re really built to pick up all of the sound in the room. They’re not directional in any way. You’re going to have that the hardest time fighting things like reverb and sound bouncing off the walls, ambient room noise, the noise on your desk. That was pretty faint when I tap on my table here, but that’s because I have a RØDE Podcaster mic and it is built to be very directional. It’s built so that the sound it is picking up is the sound coming out of my mouth, just the front of it.

It’s not quite as bad. It doesn’t make one better than the other. The RØDE Podcaster to the Samson Meteor mic is certainly a price difference of about a couple hundred dollars. I prefer the RØDE Podcaster mic. However, I used a Samsung Meteor mic for the first 300 episodes of the show, and I just learned that there were things I didn’t do. I didn’t touch the table when I was recording ever at all, because it was a really loud in the Samson Meteor mic. Also partially because I had a mic stand that sat on the table.

Every time the table moved, that mic stand vibrated, which the microphone picked up, because that’s actually what your microphone is picking up. It’s vibration and actual sound, but vibration and the vibration… The sound that is coming out of your mouth makes. I don’t want to get down the rabbit hole of microphones and speakers and all that. But anyways, be really cognizant of that. If you’re having just room noise sounds, which we’re not really going to hit on today, but if you are having that, look at things like boxes, sound-proof boxes.

You can make them. You can buy them. A cardboard box with eggshell sort of soundproofing glued into the inside of it and then the microphone inside of there will go a really long way to helping ambient room noise. Just start with those kinds of things, but that can be really, really helpful. Things like putting a rug down in a room if you have hardwood floor or tile floor. A rug is going to be critical. I have some clients and friends who over the course of their podcasting have done things like put blankets over their computer.

I did this for a really long time. I moved my computer when I had my Samson Meteor mic. I moved my computer away because what would happen is my mic was set up right in front of my computer. So when I was talking, my voice would bounce off my 27-inch iMac screen and back into the microphone. And so it caused a lot of echo. And so I moved. I just tilted my computer screen during then, and I didn’t record right in front of there. Being cognizant of where things can bounce and making those small tweaks can go a long way to helping that first and foremost. Now, with that said, I want to talk about three ways you can improve the sound quality. And by that, I just sort of mean how you sound.

So first and foremost, physically, where are you in relation to your microphone?

Generally speaking, and this can vary a little bit between mics, but generally speaking, you kind of want there to be room for your fist between your microphone and your mouth. So if you can take your microphone and put your mouth in front of it and then fit your hand between the microphone and your mouth, that’s generally speaking a good rule of thumb.

If you’re still having some peak issues, meaning you’re maxing out your microphone, well, then I want you to do is I want you to do sort of the hang loose with your hands. You’re extending your pinky and your thumb and go that distance from your microphone to your mouth. It’s about like two fists, fist and a half, but that kind of extend that space. That’ll help soften some of those peaks. Generally speaking, if you’re maxing out and sort of distorting, your mouth is too close. Warning. I’m going to make this sound bad now.

Pay attention. What’s going to happen is I’m going to go right up on my microphone, because right now I am about a fist space away. Shocker. I record correctly. However, if I get really, really… I’m lowering my voice because this is going to be really loud and aggressive. If I get really close, you can now hear that I’m really close. And if I look at my sound wave, I can see that I am peaking. I am hitting the maximum level that I should, which means if I got any louder than the whisper I’m currently talking at, I would distort.

Now I’m back where I was and I’m sort of speaking in my normal tone. I’m sure you can hear the difference. That’s really, really important. The other thing is my mouth and my microphone are not dead on each other. My microphone is actually a little bit to the left of my mouth and at an angle, meaning the microphone is picking up the sound that is coming out of my mouth, but I’m not talking directly at it. Now I’m talking directly at it. So again, you kind of hear that almost distort at the top.

And that’s because, again, although I’m still about a fist width away from my microphone, I am dead on. It is getting absolutely everything coming out of my mouth. So here we are back to normal and you can tell it sounds a little better, sounds a little more like I should be sounding.

That first and foremost is just you and your mic’s positioning.

You heard sort of the span there. Now let’s go one other example and that’s being too far away. What I’m going to do now is I’m going to move my microphone kind of away from my mouth. I might get really quiet because I’m going to continue talking at the volume and the intensity I am now. So here is my microphone too far away, basically like, I don’t know, three fists. So what’s that like? I don’t know. Probably like a foot away. All right. There. You can hear now. I sound kind of far away. I sound kind of in the distance. I’m still talking to the same range. If I go dead on, so I’m perfectly looking at the mic, there’s no angle, it’s a little better, but it’s not much better. And again, I probably sound really quiet.

But again, when we come back to where we need to be, it goes back to sounding the way we want it to sound. This is also why I encourage people not to be moving their microphones around a ton. I’ve absolutely listened to those podcast where over the course of their talking, they’re moving their mic quite a bit. You can kind of hear that sometimes they’ll bring it up here and then they’ll kind of like move it away, because then it feels like it’s in their face. And they’re like, “Oh, well, maybe that’s too far away.”

And you end up with a really overall inconsistent sound quality, volume. That’s one of those ones where you kind of have to chase the person talking with the volume button. I hate that. This is especially common when you have a two person podcast or like a speaker and a guest, and one of them is just way quieter than the other. And it wasn’t properly edited or mixed, and so they haven’t brought the volumes to the same level. That can be a real, real pain, a real, real pain in the butt. Now I’m back to where I’m supposed to be.

We’ll leave it there, but that’s the very first thing you can do is be aware of just your microphone’s positioning. And you could tell in the course of those examples, any one of those could have been like, “Oh, well, I need a new mic. It’s too quiet. Oh, I need a new mic. It’s too loud,” when in reality it was the same very nice microphone that it always is. It sounds great right now. It was just positioned poorly and my mouth was positioned poorly. Okay? So that’s number one.

Number two also has to do with positioning. Stand up.

If you are finding that it’s really quiet or it just sounds a little low, oftentimes it’s more about your energetic output than it is the microphone or the sound or anything that was done in post-production. Oftentimes, it is… I love you and I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s a you thing. If you’re finding you’re having a hard time really sounding energized and excited, stand up. I love recording standing up. When I got my standup desk, oh goodness, like two years ago now, it was one of the best things because it made it so, so, so easy for me to stand and record.

I actually fell in love with it mostly when I was standing to… I was doing virtual workshops. We were doing Backstage Live, which is a workshop. We used to run a full day workshop we used to run publicly. And now I only do inside of other people’s memberships and trainings and mastermind programs. But if I have to sit through that, it’s rough, and the same is true especially if you’re batching.

So kind of going back to last week’s episode and talking about avoiding pod feed and things like that, a great way for me to fo my excitement is to stand instead of sit. I will stand and it just helps me get through a little better. It helps me batch because I am more excited. Really be paying attention to your body’s positioning. Even if you’re sitting, are you sitting up straight? How’s your posture? I have terrible posture in 97% of the time. Recording is the place where I’m never like hunched over forwards.

I’m sitting right now. I’m telling you should stand. I am sitting. I’m going to move my microphone so that I can sort of slouch forward, and now you can kind of hear the change in my voice a little bit, especially if you really listen for it. I just sound a little more blah. I sound a little more closed off. It’s also harder for me to stay in the position I need to be from the microphone. The microphone is now a little bit more to my left. Because when I’m slouching, there’s only so much real estate to get where I need to be, or I end up too close to the microphone.

Hi, there. When I sit up straight and I move my mic where it needs to be, everything is clear for projection. I think that we don’t spend enough time talking about the physical machinery of our body and our vocals. If you’ve ever done any kind of vocal training or performance training, you know how important the mechanics of our body and position of our body are to the quality of the sound coming out.

This is why when you’re speaking, it’s really important to have a really good posture when you’re presenting and you’re speaking on stage because it’s critical to projection. Being really cognizant of how is your body setup, standing, if you need to, it will make a huge difference to the quality of the sound and to the listening experience for your listeners.

The third thing is another physical sort of performance training, voice training thing, and that’s breathing.

I know. You’re like, “I’m a human. I’ve been reading for a lot of years now.” I get it. I’ve been breathing 35 years myself. It’s a skill I’m well-acquainted with. However, what I mean by breathing is most often slow the heck down especially when I’m excited, especially when I’m talking about something that’s really fun. I speak rather quickly anyways. It’s real easy for me to get into a place where I just talk like this and I just tell you what I’m thinking about. And I just tell you, this is what you’re going to do, and you’re going to do that. And this will be really fun.

It’s going to really great. I forget to breathe. I pretty intentionally try and talk at like half speed, and I make my breaths as important as my words. Because if I’m talking like this and I’m trying to get you to understand something, and I’m trying to get you to buy into a concept, it’s really, really difficult for you to understand. But more importantly, it’s difficult to connect. Whereas when I talk like this and I am feeling more comfortable and approachable, it’s much, much easier for the listener to connect.

It’s easier to edit for your post-production team, because all of your words are not crammed together in one sentence. And also, there’s more room for connection and processing for your audience. It’s also going to slow down how the words come out of your mouth, which are going to make it significantly easier for you to enunciate. If you’re feeling like the mic positioning is good, you already stand up, you already have great posture, focus on just slowing down and breathing and putting a little space between your words and your thoughts.

I just realized that this episode is going to sound crazy, but that’s okay. All right? That’s it. That’s what I wanted to share with you today. Sort of recapping, mic position, physical position, standing, sitting, posture being good, shoulders back, chest open, all of those things, and breathing. We’re breathing. We’re slowing down. We’re making it really, really simple for someone to hop in and connect. These are the kinds of things that we are always listening for and paying attention to. Do the same. Be cognizant of the quality going in.

When I was in school, so I have a degree in audio engineering. I don’t know if… I think I’ve shared that on the show a bazillion times. But when I was in school, one of my teachers had a saying, “Shit in. Shit out.” It doesn’t matter how good of an editor you are, how quality your post-production staff is, shitty audio in is coming out the other side the same way. Be really cognizant of checking these things when you go to record. All right?

If you are looking for some support with post-production, we do have some openings open now for post-production on our team over at Uncommonly More. Come on over to uncommonlymore.com and check out the services page. There you can find out about our launch services, our production services. And if you’re interested in one hour call with me, if you’re just looking to get some strategic support on your show or more tips like this specific to your show, that can be a great way to take advantage of that. And with that, we will wrap up this episode. I will talk to you again next week.

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