Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Voiceover Recording for Telephony

Contributed by Production team member Brett Lubansky


Among recording professionals, the human voice is regarded as one of the more problematic instruments to capture. With most instruments you have a pretty good idea of your approach; however, the human voice is fickle. Every individual has a somewhat unique timbre, quality and behavior. Inconsistency in pronunciation, variations in delivery, lip smacking, breathing, and high air pressure releases called “plosives” are natural hindrances to a quality recording. When recording a voiceover for telephony, such as a script for a Message-On-Hold program or Auto-Attendant greeting, there is yet another concern; the recording has to be pleasing, and functional, for a listener who is hearing it in close proximity via a telephone receiver.

With these concerns in mind, here are a few tips for recording effective messages on hold.

Make sure that your voice talent is in a comfortable environment that will allow him or her to perform. If your talent is uncomfortable, he or she will have a hard time focusing and reading the script in a convincing, authentic manner. The more genuine the read, the more likely the listener will be impacted positively by the message. Positive emotions towards a recording and openness towards the delivered message will ultimately improve the image of your company.

Once comfortable, it is important to get consistency out of your performer. The audio engineer should encourage the talent to maintain a set recording position so that he or she can set an appropriate recording level. This level should be at a point where the reader’s loudest or strongest annunciations do not peak. Often an engineer can set a level that he or she feels is adequate, but is caught off guard when a stronger word will distort.

In addition to consistency in delivery, it is good practice to be attentive to the detail of the script. When a voice talent is reading a lengthy or repetitive script, it is easy for the mind to wander, causing the slip of a few words or the skip of a line. To keep this in check, follow along with the script as the talent reads so that you can catch any and all errors.

The final challenge in recording an effective voiceover is eliminating unwanted noise. Establishing a good signal to noise level is essential, but mouth noises in close proximity are tricky to avoid.  The best way to eliminate these sounds is with an effective Pop Filter. A pop filter is often seen in the form of a small circular screen that can be placed between the talent’s mouth and the microphone. The purpose of a pop filter is to block high-pressure air (a.k.a. "plosive"), most often the result of exaggerated P’s, B’s, S’s and T’s. Sibilance, the high frequency "white noise", or "hissing" sound created by the concentration of too much energy in "sss" and/or "sh" sounds, can also be averted through a signal processor known as a "de-esser".  To avoid other noises such as gulping, lip smacking, and breathing, you should encourage the talent to practice proper microphone technique, as well as strategic placement of such urges duringbreaks in the script.

Although there are an abundance of other factors involved in recording effectively for telephony, considering these instructions will serve as a solid foundation.

Tags: Audio Production, voice over, audio message, voiceover artist