A microphone sits in a shock mount with a pop screen in front of it. The background is blurry.

Working in your home studio can afford you great flexibility. You choose your hours, when you record, and what kind of work you audition for. However, when you’re working with clients who expect tight turnaround times, you may run into some challenges.

During the day lawnmowers, snow or leaf blowers run, children play outside, and trains certainly don’t take into account your recording schedule. Sometimes your own pets may even be the source of the sound you’re trying to avoid.

A lot of voice actors don’t start out with their own soundproof studio; what did they do before they had a great set up? Or what do they do when they’re on the road? Get a look behind the scenes at how they get the perfect take.

How Do You Get High Quality Audio?

I have a real studio now – a real actual sound proofed studio in my basement. BUT before the studio I was in the closet. Literally. Behind the winter jackets. In front of the empty suitcases (on which my purring cat would sleep).

I had a velvet blanket hung up to absorb sound. Even that wasn’t enough at times. I had an extra blanket in case I needed to muffle the sound. I’d hold it up with my hands around my head with the hope it would absorb enough sound. As a hand talker this proved difficult.

When I work in my house, I work in the closet. I have a tiny desk in there, with a tiny light (super cute!) and the clothes provide perfect baffling to reduce reflections. I make sure the house air is off, as well as any fans in the room. I also bought window inserts from Indow Window to reduce noise from the outside. I make sure my cat is well-fed, or else faint meows would certainly be heard in my recordings.

With all the work I’ve been doing with Voices, I was able to purchase a WhisperRoom isolation booth, so now I do most of my work at my own off-site studio. I typically make sure I wait an hour after I eat to record anything (the voice is an instrument!).

I’ve found my voices sounds best in the late morning/early afternoon hours. By night time, my voice has noticeably fatigued, and I lose some of my lower register. It makes my voice sound thinner, less warm.

When I am traveling and need to do a recording and meet my deadlines, I’ve found that the best place to record is under a double bed, with the pillows and duvets jammed in around the bottom edge. It is uncomfortable, but it sounds like a very tight vocal booth, with no resonance or echo.

It gets very hot and it also makes breathing very hard, but that’s what I do to get the perfect take in on time!

When doing auditions, I do make sure I have a few things set up:

1) I’m in a good head space. My family knows to not bring any drama to Mama when she’s auditioning. I need to be able to access whatever emotions, intentions and intonations I need to without anything from my “real life” competing for attention.

If something is bothering me, I’ll put off auditioning because I hear it in my performance.

2) I have a small basket of various textured items (elastic bracelets, a stone, a swatch of fur, etc.) that I keep in my booth. Tactile things ground me, keep me in the moment and make it sound fresh. It may sound silly, but whatever works, right?

3) I like to do several auditions in a row (6-12). I get into “audition mode” which is a playful, creative space (in my head) and requires a certain intensity of energy.

I have found laying down several auditions at once is better for my work flow. It conserves energy because I don’t have to switch hats all the time. I’ll rotate events in my day: audition, record work, audition, edit work, respond to emails, etc.

Recording Requires Sacrifice

Ultimately, it takes a combination of elements to come together for a great recording. Our members mentioned recording spaces that ensure good quality audio, but also their mental states and physical readiness as components that are also important for them to get a great sound.

What have you done for the perfect take? Let us know in the comments!

15 COMMENTS

  1. When recording at home, I always turn off the A/C or heater. Living in Israel, turning off the A/C in the summer is a sacrifice, but “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do”.
    Of course, one should always be grateful when there IS an A/C. A few years ago, I recorded at a tiny little studio with no A/C, middle of the summer, and I got locked in the booth. The booth became a sauna. The studio technician ended up breaking the door to get me out!

  2. When recording at home I turn off AC, have the phone turned off, the beer fridge and I remove the batteries from the clock on the wall – loud ticking! Since I don’t have a sound booth, it works for me. 🙂

  3. I too have a “ritual” before an ISDN session. As a matter of fact, I actually used to have a checklist that I went thru, but now I know it by heart. I make sure:
    – all phones in the house are muted, but one phone is next to me so I can see if someone calls
    – cell phone off
    – in summer, a/c is CRANKED… it gets way too hot in my studio without it
    – both doggies used to be put on the pool patio, but one of my dogs is somewhat ill and it attached to me at the hip, so I just take off his collar so he doesn’t “jingle” during a session. He lays on the floor next to me. The other, who is a pup at heart and a barker, goes on the pool patio.
    – make sure I have a big glass of room temp water
    – make sure I have a small glass of apple cider
    I used to also have a laminated sign I would put on my front door that said, “Shhh…. Please do not knock or ring the doorbell… I’m in a recording session. Thank you!” b/c I have some neighbors that like to visit. But, I’ve not used it in a some time, actually.
    🙂

  4. I too have a “ritual” before an ISDN session. As a matter of fact, I actually used to have a checklist that I went thru, but now I know it by heart. I make sure:
    – all phones in the house are muted, but one phone is next to me so I can see if someone calls
    – cell phone off
    – in summer, a/c is CRANKED… it gets way too hot in my studio without it
    – both doggies used to be put on the pool patio, but one of my dogs is somewhat ill and it attached to me at the hip, so I just take off his collar so he doesn’t “jingle” during a session. He lays on the floor next to me. The other, who is a pup at heart and a barker, goes on the pool patio.
    – make sure I have a big glass of room temp water
    – make sure I have a small glass of apple cider
    I used to also have a laminated sign I would put on my front door that said, “Shhh…. Please do not knock or ring the doorbell… I’m in a recording session. Thank you!” b/c I have some neighbors that like to visit. But, I’ve not used it in a some time, actually.
    🙂

  5. Oh, yes, Stephanie, it was a hoot to read your Vox Daily today, considering it had a small slice of my real-life voice over readiness attempts embedded within its text! I imagine just about everyone has to get ready for recording in a way that works for them. Since there are five family members in our home, the line of communication has to be very clear as to when I’m recording. That often means I have to track everyone down to give them the message. But…just as I’m ready to record right now, the mailman is delivering the mail to everyone’s doorstep! Can you hear every dog in the neighborhood carrying on? I can! By keeping a sense of humor about me, and abandoning the recording session for the moment seems the best course of action. Besides, my family will be happy to know that I’m choosing to fix dinner, instead of hanging out with my microphone and laptop!

  6. I close the windows (this is fine in winter, but hot in summer!); try not to record around 5 p.m.ish — that’s when peeps are heading home and cars come down the street one after the other; I put my mobly under my pillow in the bedroom down the hall (I have a muppets ringtone for my hubby, and the song has been known to find its way into a recording if he calls while I’m working; of course I then have to start over!); and of course I have my water and Entertainer’s Secret at the ready.
    cheers…
    😀

  7. With a four year old in the house, I not only have to turn off appliances, I also have to make sure I remove all of those toys that are supposed to make noises only when you press a button, but seem to go off at the slightest atmospheric disturbance…

  8. It’s fun to hear what others do.
    Being in chilly New England, I crank the heat first thing in the morning and do paper work until the house it toasty warm. Then I turn the thermostats down and voice (so the heat won’t kick in). Around lunch I have to crank it back up and repeat the process…I try not to think of how much oil I waste by doing this.
    Also, no cheese or milk till I’m done voicing for the day.

  9. Personally each day I have a ritual of exercises for warming up the voice, throat and body . It’s “show prep” as usual.
    No heat or a/c while recording. The blower vent is directly above my isolation booth. The booth is not sound proof. Anything that I can control that’s potentially a noise intrusion is dealt with prior to turning on the mic. Even the more silent things like fans on in other rooms can sometimes affect recordings. My mic can pick crumbs off the floor. (heheh) Then there are the frustrating items I cannot control; Mondays are trash truck days in the neighborhood. UGH! My next door neighbor has a couple of large dogs who like to vocalize too, and I am located right in the flight path of helicopters flying several times per day between Miramar and Camp Pendleton Marine bases.
    All in all, everything works out. I might take a bit longer to get things done at times, but consistently delivering a quality recording is paramount.
    All The Best,
    Bobbin Beam- Voice Actress

  10. Hello Stephanie,
    I’ve read some pretty funny stories thus far…and thought I’d add my own.
    -For my son’s 17th birthday, I took him to a Metallica concert. I did a lot of “fist pumping,” but did all I could to NOT yell & scream. (My son has good taste, they’re a very good band—very tight!)
    -When recording in my in home studio, in a finished room in the basement, the heat’s turned off (in the house), NO laundry can be done, and I even need to turn off the overhead florescent lights (a horrible hum comes from ’em). That’s why I installed overhead track lighting–for use while recording!
    -Oh, yeah….my dog “Motown” needs to be crated, too! (clickety-clack on the kitchen floor above my studio)
    What a fun subject, thanks Steph!
    -JC

  11. Before moving into my current studio I had to turn off the A/C in summer. But the heat was supplied by portable electric “oil” heaters. They look like little radiators with a power cord. They are silent.
    Recently I discovered a little buzz… it turned out to be my computer monitor, which had never made noise before. I had reduced the “brightness” on it a day or two earlier. When I boosted it back to its old setting, the buzz went away! Old dogs, new tricks…

  12. Hi Stephanie,
    The one sound that gets through into the isolation booth is the doorbell on the second floor.
    We kept getting “we missed you” notes from Usps, Ups and Fedex (do they really ring the bell?). So fed up with receiving these things, my wife bought a gargantuan decibel busting door ringer.
    Fortunately, it’s not hardwired so you can unplug it, which is exactly what I do before a session.
    Occasionally, I forget to plug it back in……..
    James
    British Voice Talent

  13. I try to remember to close the door. It is usually so pretty here that the door to my office/studio area stays open most of the time.
    And now that the ceiling is inuslated, I don’t have to do the chill down routine with AC and the floor fan. In winter, I do have a small radiant heater that has a random “ticking” sound. But I wait until I hear it usually before turning it off. So no real routine there.
    Not much you can do about the trash trucks, or the lawn mower/blowers, or the alley elves, or the helicopters chasing bad guys into the canyons. But those are usually temporary and easily worked around. Of course, the SECOND you start recording one of those things usually happens and there will be a short delay in recording.
    Wait, I do have one regular thing – if I am in my ISDN studio, I ask that the toilets not be flushed.

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