Welcome to the author2audio guide to recording.
We’ve put together the following step by step instructions to help you choose a location for recording, set up our recording kit, use the Audacity free recording app, and understand microphone and narration techniques.
You can complete your audio book recording in less than a day.
Your recording environment
By now you’ve found a nice quiet place to record.
Ideally, the room includes a desk or table, a fixed leg comfortable chair (no wheelie chairs – they’re too creaky and squeaky). The room will be carpeted, have soft furnishings and heavy fabric curtains.
If you have an air conditioner or heater in the room, turn it off while recording. If you live in a noisy vibrant home, your office or a motel room can be an excellent alternative and cheaper than a recording studio.
And of course, don’t forget to set your smart phone and computer to silent.
If you don’t have a laptop, you will need to move your desktop computer and set it up under your desk.
The courier has been and delivered a large parcel from author2audio in Melbourne. You’re itching to know…
What’s in the box?
The author2audio recording kit is simple to use and can be delivered anywhere in your world.
We’ve researched far and wide and tested heaps of equipment to distill our top quality kit, just for you.
- Microphone stand with desk top clamp
- Shure X2u microphone interface with USB cable
- 3 metre XLR cable
- Shure SM 58 vocal microphone
Putting it together
- Position your laptop on the table and get your chair into a comfortable reading position
- Attach the desk top clamp to the edge of the table on your left hand side (giving yourself enough elbow room, or you can go on the right if it feels more natural)
- Open up the microphone stand and slot it into the desk top clamp
- Slide the microphone securely into the mount at the end of the microphone stand
- Plug the female end (3 slots) of the XLR cable into the microphone (3 pins)
- Take the male end of the XLR cable and plug it into the Shure X2u female end
- Take the female (squarish) end of the USB cable and plug it into the Shure X2u male end
- Take the male end of the USB cable and plug it into a USB slot on your laptop
- You’ll notice a green USB light and orange light above. Both should be illuminated
- The Shure X2u has three dials, but you need to set the one labelled ‘MIC GAIN’ to maximum (but, if you want to hear your voice during recording, plug in your earpieces to the Shure X2u and change the ‘VOLUME’ dial to a comfortable setting)
Positioning the microphone
While in your chair in a comfortable reading position in front of your laptop, pivot and bend the microphone stand until the microphone is:
- at the same height as your mouth
- pointing flat and level toward your mouth
- pointing at a 45 degree angle to the side of your mouth
- a flat hand’s width away from your left cheek
This will be the ideal position to give you a quality consistent recording.
You can tighten the desk top clamp and arms on the microphone stand to lock in your ideal position.
Make sure (say after a break) to return your chair to the same spot on the floor, and each time measure a flat hand’s span between your cheek and the microphone.
Downloading and using Audacity
Audacity is a free app that will record your voice onto your laptop.
It takes the signal from the microphone, digitises it, loads it into a temporary space in your laptop’s memory, then allows you to save the recording permanently to your laptop’s disk, then send it out later for production and publication.
If you don’t already have Audacity version 2.1.1 or higher, here’s how to download it:
- Go to your web browser and search ‘Audacity’
- If you don’t see the link described in this video, then type in: https://www.audacityteam.org/download/
- Click the Windows or Mac OS download
- Click the link called: ‘Download Audacity Windows installer’ (https://www.fosshub.com/Audacity.html/audacity-win-2.2.2.exe)
- The download should start and appear in the bottom panel of your web browser, if not then click the link called: ‘Windows 2.2.2 installer’ (https://www.fosshub.com/Audacity.html/audacity-win-2.2.2.exe)
- After download has finished, click the ‘audacity-[blah]’ button in the bottom panel of your browser
- Follow the set up instructions (call me if you are struggling)
Recording with Audacity
Find the Audacity shortcut on your desktop and double click to open it.
You will notice a microphone icon near the top left of screen with a drop down box beside it. Hover the cursor over the drop down box and it should display: ‘Recording Device – Microphone (2 – Shure…”. If it doesn’t, please change it so it does.
OK. You are ready to do a test recording!
Get into your comfortably seated recording position. Open the eBook copy of your book on your laptop, then switch back to Audacity. In the near top left of screen, you’ll notice a button with a red circle – that’s the Record button. Click it, and you will start recording.
Switch back to your eBook and read the first four pages of your book’s introduction, then switch back to Audacity. To pause your recording, click the button with the black square – the Stop button, or the button with the quotes – the Pause button.
Click the button with the left pointing arrow to return to the start of the recording. Click the button with the right pointing green arrow – the Play button, to playback your recording.
Hint: You might like to connect your earpieces to your laptop, it will help you hear it ‘as if’ you were your listener and check for any strange noises like a creaking chair, distorted vocals from being too close to the microphone or emphasising too loudly or passing trucks, planes, or air conditioners you have forgotten to turn off, because they come on with the thermostat at random.
The point is – the microphone will pick up sounds in your environment that are usually ‘white noise’ to you i.e. sounds in the background that you can’t normally hear, because you aren’t listening out for them. The microphone can only ‘hear’ not ‘listen’, so it picks up every sound at it’s ‘true’ volume.
Saving your recording as a project
Audacity allows you to save your recording project, so you can come back to it later.
In the top left of screen, click the ‘File’ button. This will display a drop down list of options. Select ‘Save Project’. Select a folder on your laptop, type in a ‘File name’ (I normally use the audio book title), then click ‘Save’.
When you return to your recording project at a later time, just open Audacity again. In the top left of screen, click the ‘File’ button. This will display a drop down list of options including ‘Recent files’. Find your project name i.e. [Your audio book title] (it will usually be the project at the top of the list).
Exporting your recording as an MP3 file
The publishing industry standard format for audio books is MP3. If you want to share your recording e.g. via email or Google Drive, you have to export it first.
In the top left of screen, click the ‘File’ button. This will display a drop down list of options including ‘Export’. Click ‘Export’ and select the first option: ‘Export as MP3’.
If this is the first time you are exporting an MP3 from Audacity, the following screen will be displayed:
Click the ‘Download’ button and you will be directed to the following web page:
Click the Windows (Mac or Linux) link. After download, the following screen is displayed:
Click ‘Next’ and follow the prompts. You should now be back in Audacity.
Select the same folder that you saved your project into and make the ‘File name’ [Your audio book title] (same as your project name).
- In the ‘Save as type’ box, select ‘MP3 files’
- In the ‘Bit rate mode’ check box, select ‘Constant’
- In the ‘Quality’ drop down box, select ‘192 kbps’
- In the ‘Channel mode’ check box, select ‘Force export to mono’
- Click ‘Save’
The ‘Edit metadata tags’ screen is then displayed. Just click the ‘Clear’ button, then click ‘OK’.
That’s it! Your recording project is saved and you can send your MP3 recordings to your producer (or a friend for an opinion :>).
In the top left of screen, click the ‘File’ button. This will display a drop down list of options including ‘Exit’. Click it. You may be prompted to save your project. Click ‘Yes’ (unless you have a good reason not to!).
Tips for a great narration
So today’s the day (or tonight’s the night).
Put a magazine down on the table beside you, and a big glass of water on top. Keeping well hydrated and your mouth moist during recording is really important. And try to be as relaxed as you can, but with an ‘upbeat vibe’. If your mouth is dry, your lips tend to smack each time you open it after a pause (and the sound of working up saliva in your mouth doesn’t sound great on the recording!).
When thinking about expression and voicing your narration, try and imagine you are talking to a friend at a party. The story you are telling them will be just loud enough to be overhead by nearby friends, while still maintaining the intimacy of a semi-private story. You are neither using your public speaking voice nor whispering about a conspiracy!
Don’t be afraid to convey the various emotions in your story. It is one of the great ‘value-adds’ of audio for your listeners.
If you mispronounce a word or want to repeat a sentence to get the emphasis right, just count to one, say: “Stop”, count to one, then go again. This helps enormously during editing.
Don’t be afraid to pause. It allows the listener time to digest your content, and reduces the tendency to speed up while narrating.
Take a 10 minute break every hour to pause the recording, get up, stretch and walk around. It will keep your mood fresh and avoid fatigue. Narrating is surprisingly energetic.
There are four clear signs of narrating fatigue:
- speeding up
- shifting around in your chair
- a croak in your voice
- a loss of expressiveness
If you are experiencing any of these, take a longer break or call it a day.
Your story is likely to be heard many, many times over. It might as well be your best effort, so take your time.
Save your project each time you take a break.
Recording your book narrative
Now for the ‘doing’…
Re-open your audio book project in Audacity. Get into your comfortably seated recording position. Open the eBook copy of your book on your laptop, then switch back to Audacity and hit the record button.
Switch back to your eBook and good luck with your recording!