Grab These Household Items For Better Recording

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(By Troy Price) Believe it or not, I was not always the podcasting powerhouse you see before you today. I started recording podcasts with a plastic stick microphone that came free with the Packard-Bell computer I bought. But I MacGyvered that microphone so much that it sounded almost as good as the microphones I have today. I am going to share everything I learned with that microphone that could help you today, even if you are using equipment that you paid for!

Tip 1) Put a kitchen towel under your table top microphone stand. I used to tap on the table with my hands or hit the table leg with me knee when I was recording. Those vibrations would travel through the table up through the mic stand right into my microphone. Those were tough edits because I was usually doing that when I was saying something important or emotional. I found that putting that towel under the tabletop mic stand dampened all the thumps until I learned to talk with my mouth rather than with my hands.

Tip 1a) This tip is also good if you have an economy-class boom arm for your microphone. If your boom arm does not have thick foam in the clamp where you attach it to the table, add some material from a shammy inside your clamp. That will dampen all your thumps and still keep a tight grip.

Tip 2) Lifehack a Microphone Isolation Shield. This was the best tip that I ever found off the Lifehacker website. I have never been able to find the hack since, but they deserve all the credit. Grab another kitchen towel and an empty, washed half gallon milk jug. Cut the bottom out of the milk jug. Now apply glue to the jug‘s inside and line the inside of the jug with the towel. (Did I mention that you would not be returning the towel to the kitchen?) Now hold the milk jug upside down with the large opening at the top. You just created a lifehacked Microphone Isolation Shield (MIS).

Let the glue dry and put your microphone into the jug and let the bottom of the microphone stick out of the mouth of the jug enough to click it in your mic stand. You just improved your audio quality regardless of the type of microphone you use.

(Sigh, I tried to find an affiliate link for half gallons of milk, but could not find a single one on the whole Internet.)

Tip 3) Panty hose make a great pop filter. If you just created the Microphone Isolation Shield (that sounds much better than “Milk jug for recording”) you can make one more hack to make it sound even better. Next time you are out shopping, buy a pair of knee-high pantyhose. Just loosely put both of the panty hose over the large end of the MIS. The two layers will provide an amazing pop filter for you for something like 60 cents.

Tip 3a) Any pantyhose can make a good pop filter if you can create a frame to hold them in front of your microphone. You can put panty hose over a wire coat hanger, or heck, be creative and let me know how you can make it work! NOTE: Putting the pantyhose over your whole head does not produce the same effect.

Tip 4) Podcast Blanket Bingo. Let’s say you are in a pinch, you have to record and you are in a hotel room (or your bedroom). I bet at least half of your podcasting friends have done what I am about to recommend to you. Cover your head and recorder with a thick blanket and just talk normally. You will be amazed with how much sound is blocked by just a blanket. My wife and her friend have a podcast that is on hiatus named, What’s With The Drama. With one episode they had an issue connecting to the person we were interviewing and had to record with a spare laptop and use the built in microphone. NO BIGGIE! They threw a big blanket over the top of their heads and the laptop and you cannot tell a difference between it and their in-studio sound. (Go give it a listen and guess which episode it was!)

Tip 4a) When using the tried and true blanket technique there are two things to be aware of: 1) In the confined space of your blanket fort it is easy to talk right into the microphone. This will cause a lot of popping Ps or plosives, so be aware of that; 2) You might think to move your recorder from right in front of your mouth, but do not rub the recorder against the blanket. You most likely will not hear the horrific rustling sound until editing but every time the recorder touches the blanket it will record a horrible sound.

Regardless of how you are doing it, keep up your podcasting efforts! In just a few years you will be laughing at how you are recording today. Podcasting techniques, like fine wine, get better with time.

Do you have any lifehacks that you would like to share? Type them in the comments below or shoot me an email and I can work them in as tip 5, 6, or 7 in a future article!

Troy Price is the co-founder of Front Porch Studios in Berea, Kentucky. He’s been involved with podcasting for over a decade. Reach Tro by email at Troy@frontporchstudios.com .