Pops and plosives are a sure-fire way of ruining your podcast audio. Those pesky noises can really be frustrating and negatively impact your audio quality, but that's not to say they can't be avoided. Plosives are hard consonant sounds, such as the letters P, T, C, K, B, and J, that when spoken aloud send out a strong blast of air, which usually create wind noise and harsh bass frequencies that can cause your recording to pop or click. Not only do these sounds have the potential to ruin your recording and reduce the quality of your podcast audio, but they can cause a lot of extra work, which may translate to wasted time and effort. So, for some tips to help stop these pops and plosives, keep on reading!
Know Your Mic
Firstly, your microphone itself has to be right for the job and environment. If you are recording anything outside or in a noisy area, it's important that you have a microphone that handles this environment well, such as an omnidirectional microphone with a metal mesh on the top. However, if you are recording in a relatively quiet podcast studio, a large diaphragm, dynamic mic would be the best option, although a windscreen and/or pop filter is an absolute necessity with one of these mics. There are a variety of other mics out there, including cardioid microphones that capture ambient sound best, so it is vital that you know the job and environment that you need your microphone to perform in and choose accordingly.
It's also worth noting that you can adjust mic settings to make plosives less severe. Settings vary across mics, but some functions include the bass roll-off feature, sensitivity, pick up patterns, and even adding the EQ on your microphone beforehand. Simply be mindful of your mic settings and test them out. You might just find the perfect setting to really reduce those plosives.
Change Your Mic Technique
Your mic technique includes your volume, breathing, and general mindfulness of your mic in correlation to your speaking. One good test for preventing plosives in your recording is to say “pa, pa, pa” aloud as you hold your hand out in front of you while moving it around in front of your mouth. Once you no longer feel breath blowing out, you’ve found your plosive range and the angle at which you should talk into the microphone.
In terms of volume, ensure that you are speaking at a normal level and not raising your voice as yelling largely increases plosive sounds. In addition, try not to blow extra air on hard consonants and be careful with harsh enunciation. Note that when you believe a plosive noise might result from your speech, it is best to slightly turn away or side-step so that plosive blasts aren't directed straight at the microphone. While you want to speak clearly, any overexaggeration or extra air will produce pops and plosives.
It's also important to be mindful of your breathing. When you’re short on breath, your words become more clipped, which means plosives are more likely. Take time to relax your breathing as this will increase the chance of a smoother delivery and lessen the chance of harsh plosive noises. Aside from your breathing while you're speaking, ensure that you don't take deep breaths and exhale into the mic. Even exhaling through your nose can cause plosives so it is crucial to be mindful of your breathing at all times.
Mind Your Mic Placement
Your mic should be around three to six inches away from your mouth. This gives the air in front of you a slight chance to filter out the bassier frequencies and the harsh pop sounds you will make. You also might consider having the microphone angled slightly above your mouth and/or slightly to one side of your mouth. The air you expel to get these hard consonant sounds is either pushed out directly in front of you or downwards, so angling your mic can be helpful in reducing plosives.
Additionally, ensure that your recording location is reasonably quiet and won’t be affected by outside noise. Places where it is very windy or there is a lot of traffic are not ideal as the noises will end up in your recording and you will also find yourself speaking louder to talk over the noise. This means more plosive sounds, pops, bass frequencies, and wind noise making their way into your recording, which ultimately means poor quality audio.
Don't Forget the Pop Filter and Windscreen
Pop filters and windscreens are vital parts of your setup that largely minimize pops and plosives. Pop filters are a thin piece of mesh that go in front of the microphone, which act as a barrier between the speaker and the microphone. With that said, they largely reduce plosive noises. Windscreens, which are often foam pieces that cover the top of your mic, generally stop wind sounds and bass frequencies from getting through.
However, it's important to note that pop filters can only be used in studio while windscreens can be used anywhere, but windscreens aren't as effective in combating pops. It can be useful to have both though to ensure plosives don't get through, especially if you are yelling or harshly enunciating.
When in Doubt, Post-Production
If you've worked through all these tips and still have noticeable pops in your recording, editing is your last line of defense. There are a couple approaches that you can take. You can equalize the audio, cut out any of the plosive sounds, or use a processor on the recording.
If you didn’t record into an equalizer, then equalizing the audio to get rid of problem frequencies should reduce the severity of the plosive sounds. There are many presets on editing software, so use some trial and error to find the best approach to minimizing plosives with EQ.
You can also simply cut out the large bassy blast of wind that follows the very beginning of the consonant sound. While this takes some precision and attention to detail, editing out the distorted bass will usually leave you with good sounding audio and the pop won’t be so noticeable.
Finally, you can use a processor that is designed to remove plosives. While these tools tend to be pricey, they are your best bet for those trickier plosives as processors almost always reduce or eliminate the bass spike and leave the rest of the audio the same.
As you can see, pops and plosives don't have to take over your audio. Prevention is especially key. With these couple tips, you can get your plosives under control and have awesome sounding audio even before getting to post-production. Then, you always have editing to rely on when you end up with some pesky plosives despite your best efforts. So, whether you've been dealing with lots of pops and plosives in your audio already or not, get ahead of them with these couple tips. Your audio quality will be next level, taking your podcast quality to the next level as well. Happy podcasting!
For 8 microphone etiquette tips, click here.
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