A Recipe for Success: Recording Clear Audio for Your E-Learning Courses

The ability to record and edit audio is becoming easier and easier due to user-friendly technology.  Most computers are sold with software preloaded that makes audio recording a snap.  Here is the recipe we use for our in-house audio recording.

Audio Ingredients:

  • 1 narrator with a good, clear speaking voice
  • 1 headset with a noise-canceling microphone
  • 1 software application for audio recording (such as WavePad, Audacity, or GarageBand)
  • 1 clean audio script (See below)

Script Ingredients:

  • Conversational narration (see my last blog post for this recipe)
  • Acronyms and difficult-to-pronounce words identified as to how you want the narrator to read them
  • Any special instructions identified for the narrator, such as the desired tone or where special emphasis is needed

As with many cooking recipes (especially soufflé), this recipe can be a success–or flop–depending on how it is executed.  Here are some things NOT to do (A.K.A. lessons learned the hard way).

  • Don’t read a long script without testing the recording quality on a single sentence.  Just because everything was set up perfectly last time doesn’t mean it’s recording properly this time. It’s worth the time to listen to the quality.  The slightest movement of the microphone can make a huge difference in the sound quality.
  • Don’t forget to adjust your microphone.  A microphone too close to your mouth will make every breath too loud and will “pop” every P.  A microphone too far away will make it sound like you are in a tunnel.
  • Don’t slump when you record.  Stand up when possible. You get better breath support (and therefore a better audio sound) when you are standing.
  • Don’t record when it is raining!  Seriously!!!  You want to be in a quiet room.  Even a noise-canceling headset doesn’t cancel out the rain every time.
  • Don’t record in a tiled room with lots of windows.  If you do, the microphone might pick up an echo.  The best place to record is a room with carpet, drapes, and upholstery.  If you have a walk-in closet with lots of clothes hanging up and the door covered with robes, even better!
  • Don’t fidget when you record.  For example, if you move or touch the cord on the headset for any reason, you risk creating a problem in the audio that can force you to re-record something.
  • Don’t record audio when you have a cold—even if you think you sound great.  Instead, ask your closest friend how you sound—and ask them to be brutally honest).  If there is a need for an audio revision later, it is hard to recreate the exact same vocal qualities as from when you were sick.
  • Don’t forget to edit your outtakes.  When I make a mistake, I clap as a visual reminder in the audio file. (It shows up as a spike in the file.) During editing, I can spot the parts that need editing very quickly.
  • Don’t miss out on the editing tools in your software. For example, if I’m working in WavePad and have a little bit of background noise, I can use “Spectral Subtraction” to select a little bit of the noise, and then have WavePad remove that same type of noise from the whole file.
  • Don’t let your file type ruin a good recording.  If you start with high-quality audio but then save it in a low quality format, you’ve wasted all your hard work. Test your compression settings on the first file before you record and save a number of files. Better yet, put the test file in your authoring tool and publish it, just to make sure that the authoring tool’s compression logic doesn’t compound the problem.

By the way, even my 7-year old can create good audio. He recently had his debut as an audio character in an e-learning course! He wore his gaming headset and sounded like a pro—and can’t wait to see what his character looks like in the course.

Desiree Pinder
Artisan E-Learning

4 Responses to “A Recipe for Success: Recording Clear Audio for Your E-Learning Courses

  • Sue Raffensperger
    9 years ago

    Great blog post, Desiree! I especially liked the tip of the clap to denote where you need to edit audio. What a GREAT idea!! ;o)

    • Desiree Pinder
      9 years ago

      Hello, Sue, Thanks for your comment. I use that tip all of the time (which really means I get tongue-tied frequently when recording)!

  • Krishna Kalva
    9 years ago

    Great post, especially I liked the the tip to clap to identify an edit section.

  • One thing I like to do as well is to make sure to get 15-30 seconds of complete silence in the room. This “room tone” will help you cover any edits that you might make (especially if you lower the gain on the vocal track, but leave the room tone at it’s original level).

    If there is a hum in the room or some other undesirable audio artifact, you can use your editing software to subtract out the room tone.

    Also, if you are tracking a long passage and make a mistake, it’s much more effective to simply pause (clap to mark if you wish) and then begin the line from the beginning. This preserves your tone more than you could if you stopped and started a new recording.

    Great article Desiree. Great blog content too. I’m a follower now.

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