Follow these steps to successfully record from home:
What equipment do I need?
1. Computer and Internet
You can use either a Mac or PC to record your program. You will need access to decent internet speeds. As Soundtrap is recorded in a browser, if you lose your connection you might lose your recording so decent internet is a must.
You don't need a fancy microphone unless you are setting up a permanent studio. A gaming mic or simple USB microphone will be adequate. Here are some microphones we have worked with or have been suggested. You can find these at your local Best Buy or on Amazon. Also, for issues with the microphones, see below.
- MPOW Headphones
- Logitech H540 USB computer headset
- Blue Snowball Ice USB mic
- Blue Yeti USB mic (higher end)
3. A quiet area to record
A small room with lots of insulation works well. We usually recommend a closet or small bedroom with a lot of furnishings. If you try to record in your dining room with high ceilings, it will sound like you are in a cave. A room without a lot of outside noises is often best.
What are my first steps?
- If you are a former reader, please send us a five-minute recording to let us hear how your setup is working. We can tweak sound quality and help you troubleshoot issues. Any five minute reading will do. Please email it to email@example.com or send your test recording to firstname.lastname@example.org through Soundtrap (see below).
- If you are a new volunteer, please fill out the volunteer application. All new volunteers will complete a short, 5-10 minute audition reading. After we receive your application, the Volunteer Manager will send you a short newspaper story, a short book excerpt, and a list of 100 vocabulary words. You can use any of the ways below to record and send us your audition.
What program should I use to record?
There are a variety of methods to read from home. If you have an Apple device, we generally recommend Voice Memos as it is easy to use and good quality. If you have a PC and/or don't want to try to save large files and send them to us, Soundtrap is your best bet.
- Soundtrap.com- Pros: Similar to editing in booth, record in Windows or Mac browser, easy to share files, good controls, sound check. Cons: Quality not as high, dependent on internet connection, must make frequent saves, can be glitchy. Click here to see a video overview or get step-by-step instructions here.
- Apple Voice Memo- Pros: Easy to use, comes standard on Macs, iphones and ipads, easy editing. Cons: Audio quality not as good without decent mic, not available on Android, must Dropbox files. Click here to see a video overview.
- Garage Band- Pros: Comes standard on Macs, iphones and ipads, more editing controls, more features. Cons: not available on Windows/Android, multiple tracks, larger learning curve. Click here to start with Garage Band.
- Audacity- Pros: Free professional-level software, exceptional editing controls, great sound quality. Cons: much larger learning curve, not practical for short-term recorders, must send audio file through Dropbox or FTP. Click here to see a video to begin using Audacity or here to view a pdf.
- Podcast Studio (Apple)/ Spreaker Studio (Android/Windows)- Pros: specifically made for podcasting, robust editing tools, desktop and app versions. Cons: Larger learning curve, must send audio file through Dropbox or FTP. Click here for an introductory video.
I'm done recording! How do I send you my file?
Option 1: Soundtrap- just send us a quick invitation to collaborate and we will be able to download your file. No need to send the file!
Step 1: In the list of your projects, click on the three dots next to the “Studio” button on the project you just finished recording.
Step 2: Click on “Collaborators.”
Step 3: Click on “Invite”
Step 4: Search for email@example.com. Be sure you spell it correctly—if it is incorrect, you will not get an error message and we will not know about your recording.
Step 5: Send and email inviting firstname.lastname@example.org to work with you on this project. We will then be able to access and download the recording. (No need to change the automatic text!)
Option 2: If you used a recording method other than Soundtrap, if the file is small (25MB or smaller), you might be able to email it to us--please send to email@example.com. Chances are it will be too big and you will have to send us a link (like in Google Docs) or use Dropbox.
Option 3: If the file is 2 GB or less, the easiest method is to use We Transfer. You can use the free version to send files 2 GB or less. There is a quick video here to show you how to use it. Please email the file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Option 4: Dropbox- Send us large files.
a. Download dropbox for desktop.
b. Save your files to your Dropbox. Video: How to save stuff in Dropbox
Everyone: When the producers pick up your file, you should get a short reply letting you know they received it. If you don't get a reply, they might not have received it.
Recording from home tips and troubleshooting
Here is a website that helps identify common audio issues when recording from home (i.e. hiss, hum, distortion.) It gives audio examples of each and then ideas to try to eliminate the noises.
- A small, quiet room (closets work especially well due to the small space and sound insulation from clothing.)
- Microphone and earphone or headset-- The headset can be picked up at any big box or electronics store. The headsets usually run anywhere from $10 to $20 and up, but the $10 to $20 version will work perfectly fine. Or we have has luck with this one from Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XWG12QS/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.
- Time- please allow for time for soundtrap.com to mix the program after you finish recording which can take up to 45 minutes. Make sure to build in adequate time for the program to be mixed, downloaded, and emailed to the producer in time for them to edit the program and upload it into the system. We need programs at least two hours prior to their scheduled broadcast time.
Best Browser To Use
Google Chrome seems to work the best for recording.
Check your sound settings
Recording your program and sending it to us through Dropbox or FTP? Be sure and check your sound settings. If you are recording using something other than Soundtrap (such as Dropbox or another FTP), please check your recording settings to make the transfer is easy and smooth. The following settings make a smaller file which is easier for you to send and easier for our producers to download and edit.
- Be sure that you are saving your file in mono not stereo.
- Export your file at 16000 Hz (16 bit) rather than 44,100 Hz. This results in a smaller file which is easier to transfer.
- Although you can send us either .wav or .mp3 files, we prefer mp3 files as they are easier to download. Just download the file as an mp3 at the end of your recording. If you save as you go, save it as a .wav file and then download it as an mp3 at the end. Saving as an mp3 as you go tends to make the recording distorted.
Creating an at-home portable sound booth
Here is a tip from another radio reading service. Placing your mic in a sound-proofed box significantly helps your recording sound at home. And here is a link to how easy it is to build a box with examples of sound before and after: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWgLCPaOAzo. You can use any box and even pillows or blankets worked for their volunteers. For those with poor sound quality, you may want to try this!
Troubleshooting Microphone Issues
- Make sure your microphone is connected to your PC.
- Select Start > Settings > System > Sound.
- In Sound settings, go to Input > Test your microphone and look for the blue bar that rises and falls as you speak into your microphone. If the bar is moving, your microphone is working properly. Check to be sure your volume settings are not too high or too low. This may cause distortion.
- If you aren't seeing the bar move, select Troubleshoot to fix your microphone.
- Click the Apple logo in the upper left corner, and then click System Preferences.
- Click Sound.
- Click the Input tab.
- Click your headset.
- Speak into the microphone. The input level should fluctuate as you speak. Check to be sure your input and output volume settings are not too high or too low. This may cause distortion.
Troubleshooting Sound Tests
If you are unable to perform a sound test, it may be because
- The headset may be muted. Tip: On some corded headsets, the mute switch is located on the cord.
- The volume may be set very low in the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties window in the Windows Control Panel or the Output tab in Apple.
- You may have a loose USB connector.
If you need additional help, email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or call a producer on duty at 404-685-2825.