How to Make a Recording

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Necessary tools

This area of the classroom provides helpful tips and practical considerations to help you decide what tools to use and how to use them when making speech recordings.

In making recordings, the goal is always to get a clear, undistorted speech signal with as little noise as possible.

To get a clear, undistorted speech signal you need:

Noise that will detract from or ruin signal quality for acoustic analysis can include:

The recording environment

The best way to minimize environmental noise is to record in a sound-proofed or sound-treated room. To reduce the effects of noise in an ordinary room:

When recording citation from texts (e.g. word lists or sentences) it is usually possible to satisfy all, or most of the above conditions. However, to record speech in "natural" situations, speakers often must be allowed to move around and interact with other people, with objects, or with their surroundings. This makes it substantially more difficult to get optimal recording quality.

In natural speaking situations, speakers are much less likely to maintain a consistent distance from the microphone or consistent loudness levels. They may bump equipment and make noise while interacting with their surroundings, or their surroundings may generate noise. If the objective is to conduct different types of acoustic analysis, a portion of speech recorded in natural situations may not be useable. However, with digital equipment it is nevertheless possible to get very good overall recording quality in natural situations - i.e. speech that is not just clearly intelligible, but that can be analyzed for its acoustic properties.

To get the best possible recording quality, you need to match your equipment (especially the microphone) to the recording situation.

The content of this page was developed following the recommendations of "Practical Considerations in Recording Natural Speech" by Jean Andruski (Wayne State University).

For more resources visit the E-MELD Reading Room Audio/Visual Index or Claire Bowern's online Recording Equipment resources page from her book Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide.

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E-MELD School of Best Practice: How to Make a Recording
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