Recording and Uploading Audio

Recording

How to record your reading.


Recording on iPhone
Importing audio from iPhone to computer
Recording on Android
Importing audio from Android to computer
General tips for recording on a smartphone
Recording on a laptop
Recording environment
Performance tips

Editing

How to edit your reading.


Editing audio in Audacity
Exporting my recording as an mp3 from Audacity
Editing audio in Garageband
Exporting my recording as an mp3 from Garageband
What do I do if my edited recording is longer than 30 minutes?

Compression

How to compress an mp3 file, and why it's important.



Recording

You’ll need 4 things:

  • 1) A device to record on (e.g. a smartphone, a digital audio recorder, or a laptop with an external microphone or USB headset).

  • 2) A quiet room with minimal echo.

  • 3) Some editing software (you can download this for free).

  • 4) Some headphones to listen back to your audio.

NB. If you're new to recording yourself, we recommend reading Recording Environment, and Performance Tips before you begin.

It’s surprisingly easy to get near broadcast-standard recordings using nothing but a smartphone, and the native software that comes installed on it.

Recording on iPhone

If you have an iPhone, you can record straight into the GarageBand app. You can buy this at the app store. The Apple pages show you how to use it.

Alternatively, you can use the native ‘Voice Memo’ app for free. To find it, swipe 2 fingers down the screen to reveal the search bar and type ‘Voice Memos’. And there are lots of alternatives available to download from the App Store, such as ‘Audio Memos’.

Importing audio from iPhone to computer



  • 1) Connect your iPhone into your computer. iTunes should launch automatically.

  • 2) Go into iTunes and click on the icon for your iPhone in the sidebar.

  • 3) On the left-hand side of the iTunes window, you’ll see a list of categories (Summary, Apps, Music, etc). Select ‘Music’.

  • 4) In the main panel (in the middle of your screen), click the check-boxes ‘sync music’ and ‘include voice memos’. Then click ‘sync’ at the bottom of the page. This should import your voice memo into the iTunes library.

  • 5) In the iTunes library, search for the name of your voice memo (e.g. ‘my story’ ).

  • 6) Drag and drop the file from your iTunes library to your desktop (or any other folder).

  • 7) Right click the file and select ‘Open in Audacity’.

Recording on Android

Many Android phones (e.g. Samsung) have a native voice recorder app installed (search for ‘Voice Recorder’).

If your Android handset doesn’t have a native voice-recording application, you can download Easy Voice Recorder, a free Dictaphone app, from the Google Play Store.

Importing audio from Android to computer

  • 1) Plug your android phone into your windows laptop/computer.

  • 2) From ‘My Computer’ you should be able to view your device. Access files on the phone by double-clicking it - an ‘Internal Storage’ or an ‘SD Card’ folder (or similar) should be visible.

   Tip: If you can’t see your device, it may be because your device drivers haven’t been installed properly. You can usually find these on your phone manufacturer’s website. If you can’t locate an ‘Internal Storage’ or an ‘SD Card’ folder it may be because your phone is pass-code locked. Unlock the phone via the handset while it’s connected, and the files should become visible.


  • 3) Navigate to the ‘EasyVoiceRecorder’ folder. If this folder is not in your Internal Storage, make sure to check your SD Card folder if you have one. Double click it to view it.

  • 4) In this folder, you should see your recordings. Copy and paste these to place you can find easily on your computer.

General tips for recording on a smartphone

NB. If you're new to recording yourself, we also recommend reading Recording environment, and Performance tips before you begin.


  • 1) You can just hold the phone in your hand. Remember that the mic on a phone is at the bottom (where you would speak into it if you were making a phone call), so hold it upside-down. Obviously, avoid tapping your fingers on the phone, especially near the mic, as this will pick up on the recording.
  • 2) It’s best to hold it about 12 inches away from your mouth. Too close and the recording may distort and ‘pop’. Too far away, and you’ll tend to pick up a lot of ‘room noise’ (echo from the room, background noise, and so on).

   Tip: Do a test recording in which you speak at an even level, and move the phone closer to your mouth, to find the optimal distance. Once you’ve got the right distance, make sure you don’t move the phone closer or further away during your reading.


  • 3) Because phones vary, it’s a really good idea to record a short sample, then play it back (with headphones/earbuds), to check you’re happy with the sound before recording the whole thing.
  • 4) If you stumble or make a mistake, go back to the start of the sentence or paragraph. You can edit out mistakes later.

   Tip: to help you locate the mistakes you need to edit out, click your fingers near the mic after you make a mistake. This will leave a ‘spike’ on the audio wave, which you’ll be able to see when it comes to editing the recording.

Recording on a laptop

Most laptops have a built-in microphone, but they can make your voice sound a bit tinny and pick up a lot of ambient noise from the room, so we recommend using an external microphone. These days, you can get microphones designed for podcasters that plug straight into a laptop’s USB port. If you want to invest in one, a Google search for ‘USB podcast microphone’ should bring up some decent options for under £40 GBP (or about $60 USD).

If you’re on a Mac, you’ll already have Garageband installed. This is Apple’s native audio recording and editing software, and it works just fine.

Audacity - free audio software available for both Mac and PC - works great too. You can record into it, and it has a lots of really useful editing tools. Get it free here. Remember to select your USB microphone from the drop-down menu in Audacity before you begin recording, which might still be set to ‘Built-in microphone’.


Recording Environment


  • 1) Choose a place that doesn’t have a lot of background noise. It’s really hard to edit that stuff out. So - best not to record in a house that’s under a flight path, or near a main road or railway line (though double-glazing helps).

  • 2) Find a ‘dry’ sounding room. That means there isn’t much echo. Check the echo by clapping your hands in different parts of the room, to hear which surfaces are ‘reflecting’ back. Sometimes a room doesn’t sound that echoey while you’re recording, but then afterwards, when you compare it to a studio recording, it sounds like a cave. So – try to record somewhere with carpet and curtains (compared to, say, a bathroom, with lots of bare, reflective surfaces). You can deaden the echo from bare walls by making your own baffles. A free-standing clothes-drying rack with a duvet over it works a treat. Alternatively, line up a few chairs with cushions on against the bare wall.

   Tip: Does muting the room seem like a lot of hassle? Here’s a fast-and-dirty hack: you can get a really good dry sound by recording sitting upright in bed, with a thin sheet over your head (downside: it can be a bit dark and stuffy).


  • 3) Authors have told us it’s best to record somewhere you can’t be overheard by other people (family members, for example), for the simple reason that in can inhibit your performance, distract you, and make you speak too quietly (which results in a thin sound).


Performance Tips


Some people are natural readers; for others, it take a bit of practise. Here are some tips we’ve garnered from authors, actors and voice-over artists.


  • 1) Familiarise yourself with the story/poem, and practise reading it out loud. It’s obvious, but if you know it really well, you’re less likely to trip up.

  • 2) Make a note on the text of any bits you stumble over. These might be difficult-to-pronounce names, or sentences you keep giving the wrong inflection to (whether you raise or lower the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence; for example, to denote a question).

   Tip: spell-out difficult words phonetically on the text, and mark tricky inflection with an upstroke or downstroke line at the start of that sentence.


  • 3) Warm-up your voice. If your vocal chords are tight, your voice can sound thin and strangled. Do some singing, gargle, or try the National Theatre’s vocal warm-up exercises.

   Tip: don’t record audio early in the morning. Your voice will sound thin and high-pitched.


  • 4) Pay attention to your breathing. Get into the habit of taking deep, even, breaths between sentences, so you don’t run out of air.

  • 5) Read it like you mean it. Readings sound flat when there’s not much variation in tone or pace, and this is often because the performer has stopped thinking about what the words actually mean, and is reading on autopilot. You can’t fix this by randomly raising and lowering the tone of your voice, or speeding up and slowing down for no reason. It has to relate to what’s going on in the text. That means thinking about the meaning, and trying to convey that to the reader.

  • 6) Should I do the voices? 
Unless you’re really good at it, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of doing accents or wildly different voices for various characters. You might find you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

  • 7) Decide how you’re going to turn the pages of your script before you record, and if you do make rustling noises, make sure you go back to the beginning of the sentence and record it again. Some writers prefer to read from a tablet or eReader or laptop, to avoid rustling.



Editing audio

We recommend using Garageband or Audacity to edit and format audio. Garageband comes installed on Macs. You can download Audacity for free, for Windows or Mac, at http://audacity.sourceforge.net. There’s a really good online tutorial here.

If using Audacity, you’ll also need to install something called a LAME mp3 encoder, to export your sound files from Audacity in mp3 format. It’s really easy and quick to do. Get the Windows version here, and the Mac OS version here.

Editing audio in Audacity

When you open an audio file in Audacity, you’ll see the audio represented as a wave (or two waves, one above the other, if you recorded in stereo). You can highlight bits to delete, cut, copy and paste.


  • 1) If it’s a stereo file (2 audio waves), make it mono. In the ‘Tracks’ menu at the top of the window, select ‘Stereo to Mono’.

  • 2) Cut out any mistakes. If, when you were recording, you remembered to click your fingers when you made mistakes, they should be easy to see as ‘spikes’ on the audio wave. Cut out mistakes by highlighting that part of the audio wave and clicking delete on your keyboard, or mute them using the ‘Amplify’ tool (see below). We also recommend cutting any silence from the start, so the reading begins straight away.

  • 3) Under the ‘effects’ menu, there are lots of useful tools to help you improve the sound of the audio. The most useful are ‘Amplify’, ‘Noise Removal’, ‘Equalisation’ and ‘Normalise’:

   • Amplify - this is actually most useful for removing noise (e.g. small background noises in pauses, coughs, etc). Highlight the section of audio you want to quieten, go to the effects menu, select ‘Amplify’, the drag the slider to the left (so you have a minus amplification value). Click okay. You can also use the Amplify tool to increase the overall volume of your recording. If the volume level is inconsistent (e.g. you speak very loudly, then very quietly), select ‘allow clipping’ as you Amplify. This will raise the overall level without the louder parts distorting.
   • Noise removal is useful for getting rid of ‘room noise’ (any general hiss or roar in the background of your recording). To do this, find a place in the audio file with a pause (i.e when you’re not speaking), highlight a small section, go to the effects menu, select ‘Noise Removal’, then click ‘Get Noise Profile’. Now highlight the whole audio file (double click on the wave), go back into ‘Noise Removal’, bring the noise reduction slider down to about 10db, and click okay. We recommend removing noise by increments, then listening back carefully - too much artificial noise reduction sounds weird and is worse than a bit of hiss.
   • Does your recording sound too thin, or too boomy? Equalisation is great for increasing or reducing the bass, treble or mid-range of your recording. Highlight the whole audio wave, go to the effects menu, select equalisation, then drag the sliders up or down to EQ your recording. Again, subtle adjustments work better than extreme EQ-ing. It's a really good idea to compare your EQ'd recording with another spoken word recording, to see if it sounds too boomy or tinny.
   • Normalisation makes the quiet bits louder, and helps ensure your recording will be loud enough for listeners to hear at a comfortable volume. Select ‘Normalise’ from the effects menu. The default setting is for a peak amplitude of ‘0’. This doesn’t mean silence; it means that the loudest bits of the recording shouldn’t distort with this level of normalisation. Click okay. You might wish to repeat the process, with a higher peak volume, to bring it up to a reasonable level. It’s a really good idea to compare the volume of your recording with that of another spoken word recording.

   Tip: Try listening alternately though your computer's speakers, and through headphones. This will give you a better idea of whether it's too boomy or tinny.

Exporting my recording as an mp3 from Audacity

Select ‘Export’ from the File menu (at the top of the window). This will bring up a dialogue box, where you can chose where to save the exported file. Make sure ‘Format’ (towards the bottom of the dialogue box) is set to ‘mp3’. If you click the ‘Options’ button, you can select the quality. We recommend selecting 64 dbps.

Editing audio in Garageband


  • 1) Open a new Garageband project.

  • 2) Drag and drop your audio file (wav or mp3) into Garageband.

  • 3) To edit-out mistakes, highlight a section of the audio wave you want to cut, and press delete on your keyboard. Make you sure remove any long pauses at the start or the end.

  • 4) Garageband has lots of easy-to-use effects to help your recording sound as good as possible. You can access them in the pane on the right-hand side of Garageband (it says ‘Real Instrument’ and ‘Master Track’ at the top of the pane). Click the ‘Real Instrument’ tab, then the ‘Browse’ tab below it. Then click on ‘podcasting’, and play around with the pre-set effects. There are lots of Garageband tutorials online, if you get stuck.

Exporting my recording as an mp3 from Garageband


  • 1) Make sure you’re happy with the edit, and that any vocal effects you don’t want (like reverb) are switched off.

  • 2) Click ‘share’ in the top menu.

  • 3) Click ‘Export song to disk’.

  • 4) Click the ‘compress’ check-box.

  • 5) Make sure that the drop-down menus below are set to ‘Compress using: mp3 Encoder’ and ‘Audio Settings: Good Quality’ (which should be 64kbps).

  • 6) Save it down somewhere you can find it.

What do I do if my edited recording is longer than 30 minutes?

You'll need to cut it into two sections that are both shorter than 30 minutes, and upload them separately. You'll also need to cut the text into two (at the same place where you cut the audio), and upload each part with the corresponding audio file (as though they were two separate stories). To help readers, we suggest you follow this naming convention: 'The Story - part 1' (for the first section) and 'The Story - part 2' (you guessed it, for the second), and so on, for as many parts as you need.

Once you've uploaded the sections, you can go into Account > Your Stories > Edit, and link them together from the Edit panel.

If you're uploading chapters of a novel, upload each chapter separately. To help readers, we suggest you follow this naming convention: 'The Novel - part 1' etc. Once you've uploaded all chapters, you can go into Account > Your Stories > Edit, and link them together from the Edit panel.


Compression

We strongly recommend that, when exporting your mp3 from Audacity or Garageband, you compress it to 64kpbs. You can select this in the export options of both Audacity and Garageband (see above).

This is because people will be streaming your recording on their smartphones. Large audio files may mean sluggish playback, and/or higher data charges from the listener's mobile service provider.

Audio files uploaded to MacGuffin must be no longer than 30 minutes in length, or bigger than 15MB. A 30-minute mp3 file compressed at 64kbps should result in a total file size of 14.4MB.