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GOHP Sound Recording Tips

Oral Histories all start with an interview, and making a quality recording of the interviewee's stories is probably the most important aspect of the whole process.

Microphone recording

There are all sorts of things to consider to make sure you get the best quality sound - the type of microphone you use, where you place it, the location of the interview, the ambient noise - it can all seem a bit daunting for those of us just starting out.

But don't worry, the GOHP is here to help. We've put together a little library to help you get your head around using digital recorders and microphones, setting your sound levels, and producing high-quality sound recordings for your oral history interviews.


 

Digital Recording Equipment

There are a range of different brands and types of digital audio recorders that you can use to record your oral history interviews either at home or on location, from the basic hobbyist models through to high end professional equipment used by radio stations. 

The GBA uses Zoom brand digital recorders to produce podcasts, and based on their sound quality vs price, we find the Zoom Handy Recorders to be excellent value, with all the features required to produce high-quality podcasts.


The Zoom H1 Handy Recorder is one of the simplest and easiest digital recorders to use for your oral history interviews.

The Zoom H1 is portable, meaning you can take it to the interviewee's home, and use it as the basis for your very own mobile studio. Retailing in the range of $150-$200, the Zoom H1 is a good mix of capability and price. In terms of reliability, the GBA uses a range of Zoom recorders, and has, to date, had no issues with them.


The Zoom H2n Digital Recorder (image courtesy of Zoom Corporation)

The Zoom H2n Digital Recorder (image courtesy of Zoom Corporation)

The Zoom H2n Digital Recorder is the next step up in the ladder.

With its four stereo mics (two at the front and two at the back) it's ideal for recording panel discussions or interviews. Portable like its smaller sibling, the H2n can be fairly easily set up on site for interviews, but as the next level device, it holds a range of other features that the more expert user can take advantage of. Retailing between $200-$300 the Zoom H2n is good for both basic level users and for people wanting to take advantage of its more advanced features.


(Image courtesy of Zoom Corporation)

(Image courtesy of Zoom Corporation)

When you want to get really professional, the Zoom H6 Digital Recorder has the functions and capabilities to do all sorts of on location recording jobs.

A six track recorder with four interchangeable microphone attachments for all sorts of recording - interview, on-location, music, panel discussions and more. Just as portable as its smaller siblings the H6 can be carried with you, and is extremely suited plugging into your video camera and matching audio inputs with video for great location sound for you videos. Retailing around $500-$600, the Zoom H6 is very much targeted at those who have a bit of recording experience behind them already.


 

The basics of sound recording

From what types of microphones and digital recorders are there, and what sort of jobs can they do, through to tips on what to consider when setting up to record, check out the videos to get some basic information about how to go about recording audio for your oral history interviews.


Let's start at the beginning, with a look at different types of microphones and what they can do.

Daniel Norton of Adorama Pro gives a tutorial showing the differences between the various audio recording options for interview video work. Compare the Sennheiser G3 Wireless Lav Kit, to the RODE NTG-2 shotgun, to the Zoom H6 recorder internal microphone, to the Shure LensHopper on-camera mic.


Produced by the College of Communications at Penn State University in the US, this tutorial gives you a great introduction to the H1 Digital Audio Recorder. Watch to learn where everything is, what all the buttons do, and how to set and test different sound levels.


Juan Bagnell, a.k.a thegadgetguy.com, made his name as a voice-over artist on YouTube videos, and, despite the tongue in cheek title, he's got lot's of good advice for anyone planning on recording audio for interviews or video clips.


Time to get more advanced?

Once you've figured out the basics of how to use your digital recorder, and had a bit of play around, you can start getting a bit more advanced. We've got some guides below which have some very good information to help improve your sound recording techniques, but some of them start getting a bit technical. Don't worry though, as long as you can remember the basics, you'll be fine!

 

From Robin White, writing for the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) in the US, comes "How to Mic a Field Interview", aimed at professional audio recorders, which covers everything you need to consider to successfully record audio interviews on location. While you're there, you can check out a many more articles about the best ways to record interviews on location.

From Tamara Keith, one of the team behind B-Side Radio, comes this great explainer (with heaps of examples) of the technical terms and techniques you can use to build a podcast soundscape

The team behind the seminal "This American Life" Podcast share their knowledge of how to produce engaging stories for radio with how-to guides, videos and information about the equipment they use. A great place to go to find out more about podcasting life stories.

Transom is a new public radio initiative in the US that seeks to support creative and experimental approaches to program production and distribution. Their website is full of fantastic advice about producing radio programs, all written by experienced professionals.

 
 

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