How I record voice audio for YouTube
Keep it simple & stupid
The vast majority of my content on YouTube features voice-over pre-recorded footage. And since the voice audio isn’t “physically linked” to the footage, recording voice audio in a way that sounds convincing is difficult.
By “physically linked” I mean the difference between talking while you record, and talking after you record. It is easier to sound passionate about a topic if you are talking while doing said thing (such as coding, for example).
I often receive positive comments about how my voice sounds in videos and I wanted to share the way I record my audio.
Money vs Quality
Some YouTubers have videos explaining their gear and setup. I’ve considered doing a video like this but my setup is so simple, the video would be maybe 2 minutes tops.
My voice audio recording setup consists of this:
- Audacity + Plugins (Free)
- Shure SM57 ($100)
- Shure X2U XLR-to-USB adapter ($100)
And that’s it. Seriously. No mixer and no expensive software or tooling.
I originally bought my Shure SM57 for recording guitar tracks. It’s really an amazing and versatile microphone and there’s not much it can’t do. But it isn’t ideal for voice work because the microphone with the adapter is about 14 inches long. But it sounds great with my voice (and guitars) and that’s why I continue to use it.
Time vs Quality
Most of my voice-overs are recorded in one long take with lots of “micro-takes”. The average time to record and edit a voice-over is about 15 minutes. My most recent video (at the time posting this article) took a little under 20 minutes to record and edit.
When I’m ready to record, I open Audacity, press the record button, and start talking to my microphone. If I’m discussing a game or benchmark, I will likely have some game footage and or the benchmark graph up on my other monitor.
I almost always record a voice-over in one sitting but I also re-record parts of the voice-over to fix various imperfections such as run-on sentences, uhms and uhhs, etc.
I’ve found that it is easier for me to get into the proper mindset for recording a voice-over if I’m sitting alone in front of my microphone. It’s a skill I’ve honed over the years and there’s no real secret to it.
Preparation vs Quality
I never write scripts or otherwise plan out my videos. I may take some notes in the form of bullet points (I do this with my review videos) but most of the time it’s me talking to the microphone.
Most folks prefer to have a script to read or memorize. The initial reason why I went script-less was because I have dyslexia and it’s extremely difficult for me to read aloud. But improvising my voice-overs ended up being the format that works well for me.
Coding videos are an obvious exception to this rule because I have to match up my voice-over with what is happening in the video. This is both annoying and time consuming but it works well.
Enhancing Voice Audio
Content creators often manipulate the audio in order to “enhance” it (removing background noise, increase bass, leveling, etc). From my experience, if you feel like you have to put effects on your voice to make it sound “good”, something is wrong with your setup.
The best recordings require very few (if any) effects at all. The only effect I apply to my voice-overs is compression. And I use the default compressor plugin built into Audacity for this.
If you feel your voice needs more bass or that it sounds tinny, consider using a different microphone. If you are using a Blue Snowball, consider a Blue Yeti instead. Find a microphone that works well with your voice.
I attribute a fair amount of my audio quality to my excellent Shure SM57. My guitar recordings use the exact same setup; compression only. I’ll probably never use a different microphone 😍
You don’t need to spend a bunch of time and money to produce good audio.
You already have a great voice. Find the right microphone for you, record, compress, and you’re done. It’s really that simple.
If your audio has some background noise, consider using a noise removal plugin/tool but keep in mind that it may have an undesirable effect on your voice. I avoid using the noise removal plugin because I’ve found it alters the treble in my voice and I don’t like it.
I hope you enjoy this article and if you have any questions or comments, let me know!