Recently, a client contracted me to audition kids of voice actors with home studios. To my pleasure, all of the kids seem to have inherited their parents’ ability to act. So I guess it is genetic. Unfortunately, I had to cull some of the auditions based on the audio quality of the submissions, and in some cases, an older voice actor’s studio.
What were some of the problems? They were mostly acoustics. Room reverberation is a no-no. You have to have a room that is not only quiet and isolated from outside noise, but also non-audio reflective.
What do I mean? You can’t sound like you’re in an empty room with no furniture. What concerns me is that the majority of auditions I had received, suffered from very minor to hyper-acoustical reflectivity (a distinct echo). I think there are a couple of reasons for this.
Clearly, if you’re a beginner to a home studio environment, you may not even be aware of that requirement. It’s not just plugging in a mic and talking. You have to be aware of more than just the immediate sound of your voice. You have to know what to listen for as well. It is essential to recognize the difference between a lively reflective room and a lively “dead” room. While that might sound like an oxymoron, it is true. The reason I think most do not recognize it is because they don’t monitor their playback in a proper fashion. Your laptop and desktop computer speakers will play back what you say, but they won’t reveal the subtle additions to your audio that will ruin it – and your chances of landing a gig.
The answer to this usually starts an argument. I recommend “close field” studio monitors. They aren’t loudspeakers like you had in your dorm room. They are…what they are…“Close Field.” That means they are powerful, but don’t project far. They’re meant to be less than a few feet from you. What makes them the proper tool is that they reproduce what you recorded with far more accuracy. They’re not cheap either. But, if you’re producing quality audio, they are a necessary investment. Add to that, the room you use to listen to the monitors (logically next to your workstation computer monitor) also has to be properly tuned and not reflective.
Good headphones are ok too, but they have to be VERY good. The output wattage studio monitors produce a much cleaner clarity to your audio. That power reveals the imperfections needing correction that your cheap speakers just cannot. Headphones, with their lower power, in my opinion, tend to distort the true nature of your audio. But, if you have to be considerate of neighbors and housemates, that’s what you have to use.
Now that you hear the echo (the room reflection), how do you stop it?
First, understand what factors and material are causing it, like drywall, high ceilings, and uncovered tile, or wood floors. You may also be over-projecting your voice and not providing an intimate tone level with your microphone. I’ve found that just changing your technique a little can make a huge difference. Once you know the source, the next thing you need to do is properly dampen its reflectivity. We’ll touch on that and give some simple suggestions how to, next week.
Any questions or comments for Dan Lenard? Please ask away!