Using an audio editor, you can REALLY improve your voice over recordings. This article and video shows you how to get rid of saliva noises, which come out sounding like mouth clicks, when recording voice overs. Of course it works for any kind for any kind of vocal recording where your mouth is close to the microphone.
These saliva "clicks" - along with "p-pops," (for how to remove those, see our article How to Fix a "P-Pop" in Your Audio With Sound Editing Software) are probably the two most common problems we experience when recording vocals.
Just this past week, I was helping a voice-over actor to improve the quality of her recordings. She had just been turned down for a job because, according to the client, there were too many saliva noises in her audio. When I listened to one of her recordings, I knew exactly what the client was hearing.
I struggle with this on my own recordings, so I have experience doing everything I can to prevent that spit noise. But usually I cannot prevent it all, so some saliva noises get recorded.
So If You Can't Prevent The Noises?
Once the noises are already in the recording, the only choice (other than trying to record again...and again) is to use audio editing tools to remove the offending saliva noises. My editing tool of choice for this is equalization (or "EQ" for short). To brush up on what EQ is, see our article What is Equalization, Usually Called EQ?
It is almost always best to prevent a problem rather than have to fix it later. So here are some things you can do to keep those spit sounds out of your recordings in the first place:
- Eat tart apple slices - This helps my wife and me quite a lot. Try different kinds of apples (or any type of food, for that matter), but we like Pink Lady apples for this.
- Drink water - This is probably the most commonly offered advice for keeping that saliva from sticking under and around your tongue. But again, try different things. I've heard of people using unsweetened tea and even beer for this:). That could be a fun voice-over session:).
- Mouthwash - Ironically, I find that the times when my mouth feels dry is when the saliva noises are the worst. You might try one of the moisturizing mouth rinses like Biotene to help with this. Biotene also makes a convenient moisturizing spray.
Fixing The Saliva Noises After The Fact
- Open your audio in an audio editor - Though it is possible to do this kind of editing in digital audio workstation (DAW) software like Reaper (usually more geared toward the recording and mixing of audio), I prefer to do it in a program more focused on editing. Examples in include Adobe Audition, Sound Forge, and even the free Audacity. There are many others of course. I used Audacity in the example below, since the video is an excerpt from our course, The Newbies Guide To Audio Recording Awesomeness 1: The Free Recording Studio.
- Find the saliva noises in the recording - Listen for where the saliva spit noises are located in the audio file and make note of where they are. Then highlight/select the first bit of audio containing the offending sound. We’re going to use EQ on as small an area as possible so we can be surgical about this. It we apply EQ to large areas of the recording that do NOT contain saliva clicks, the resulting voice could sound a bit muffled. The more we can surgically remove these noises without affecting the audio around it, the better.
- Hit it with EQ - When we used EQ to fix p-pops, we reduced frequencies around 250 Hz and below. Those are low, bass-sounding frequencies. But for the saliva clicks, we need to focus in the higher frequencies from about 6,000 Hz (6 KHz) and above. See Figure 1 below.
You’ll see in the video below how to do this using a graphic EQ setting in Audacity’s equalization tool.
As promised, here is a video showing you how to do all of this:
There you have it! Another way to clean up your audio pretty easily, as long as you have a good idea what to do, which is what Home Brew Audio is here to do for you:).
This process CAN take awhile though, especially if you have a long recording, such as when doing a podcast or audiobook. There is a great tool out there for taking care of mouth click sounds MUCH faster. It is not free though, like the above solution. But it might well be worth the investment. That tool is actually a set of tools called iZotope RX.
There are several great tools in RX for editing vocals. But the one I use most - when I'm not just using EQ as above - is the Mouth De-Click module (only available in RX Standard or Advanced, not in RX Elements). It is capable of removing saliva noises from an entire section of audio without affecting everything else (as long as you have the right settings). That REALLY speeds things up.
CLICK HERE to find out more about iZotope RX and/or to purchase it.
Now go forth and produce better audio!