How much editing do you do to make your Narrations sound better?

Jun 05, 2013

I've only recently started using Audacity to record and clean up my narration tracks.  I've done a lot of scouring for tips and tricks on how to make things sound better.  But I'll be the first to admit that I'm doing a lot of it by rote - without any real understanding of why I'm doing what I do.

Using Audacity, these are the steps I go through:

  1. Record the tracks
  2. Edit out all the screw ups
  3. Remove te Noise
  4. Equalize
  5. Compress
  6. (optional) - change pitch if i'm feeling particularly fiesty
  7. Normalize

Not being an audiophile, I'm not sure how many of these are truly necessary, or if some are redundant.  All I know is that it sounds better coming out than it did going in.

So, i'm interested in what others are doing to edit / clean up their narration tracks.

11 Replies
Philip Lima

I use Sound Forge for editing.  I normally:

  1. Edit breath sounds
  2. Care for plosives and ticks
  3. Filter out any background noise I can
  4. Adjust all pauses in recording.  Different prople have different speach patterns.  When I make the pauses similar (stopping at periods, commas, etc) the whole track flows much better.  Usually .4 for periods and .2 for commas.
  5. Normalize
  6. Play with semitones and add time stretch to add richness

One hour of audio will normally take me 6 hours to edit.

Michael Harris

My rule of thumb is do as little as possible to get the desired result for a particular recording, which begs the question,"What is the desired result"? Editing out unwanted sounds is mandatory, and for that I use two different techniques. I delete sounds a human being would never make (e.g, dogs barking, trucks going by). Breathing is normal, but perhaps distracting. I rapidly fade breath sounds down and then up by applying automation envelopes. Replacing breaths with silence can sometimes sound unnatural. It depends on how the track will be used. If I want more low-end, I use a mic that has a distinct proximity effect and move closer to the mic. If I want the most natural sound possible, I use a large-diaphragm condenser mic that has a flat frequency response. Thinking about these things in advance means I don't have to apply EQ and "fix it in the mix" during post-production. The final aspect of the desired result is the overall level. My target is between -6 and 0 db, preferably closer to 0. That's what normalization is for. Alternatively, I might use a mastering plug-in to adjust the input level as needed and limit the output level to my target. If the script isn't a "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!" over the top announcer thing, there's not much to be gained (no pun intended) by applying compression.

Under most circumstances, I do not recommend noise gates for removing low-level unwanted sounds. Gating can sound unnatural and introduce its own artifacts. Summary: Get the best sound you can in the original recording and manipulate it as little as possible, bearing in mind the end use.

Rebecca Shamblin

I guess I'm behind the curve - I do my recording and editing directly in Storyline!  I usually edit out breaths and any background noise, and call it good.  I use a good microphone and pop filter, and record in a room with a lot of curtains and very little white noise.  Using a laptop with SSD also cuts down on white noise.  These factors help a lot from the start, and I don't have the time or skills to get fancier!  I've gotten a lot of compliments from users, so apparently for my purposes, this is good enough.

Barry Abrams

Hi, folks!

I am a narrator, and I appreciate - especially in the time of COVID - a DIY approach to improving audio.  I have seen a variety of audio editors use differing sequences of enhancements to improve narration tracks. I reached out to someone I trust to install on Adobe Audition a sequence that I think has really improved the quality of my tracks.

I agree with your underlying belief that you don't need to pay someone to improve your tracks each time someone records them for you.  You can do it yourself, as I do, but first consult with a trusted engineer who will set you up to succeed.  Give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish.

Rock on!

Barry Abrams