Recently, I have had the wonderful opportunity to travel…a lot. Some travel is for work, some travel is for pleasure. When I travel for work, I always make sure to take my travel rig with me just in case an audition or a job pops up while I am on the road. Heaven forbid I miss an opportunity to make money while pursuing another opportunity to make money, right? The issue with being on the road is that you can never quite recreate the same acoustic space as when you are recording in your treated home studio or can you?
I’ve learned a trick or two, especially over the past few months that might just come in handy when building a “make do” home studio. Of course, you will always need a laptop, a travel mic (I have started traveling with my Sennheiser 416, which always gives me the very best sound), and it helps to have some spring clamps. They’re only $.99 at Home Depot!
Here are some tricks and tips about how to build a creative home studio on the road:
Use your car. If you are lucky enough to have your car (or a rental), the back seat is an ideal, sound dampened location to record. Bring some blankets from the hotel room and your spring clamps, so you can create a little more noise muffling.
Use the closet. Often times, the closet in the hotel room can offer you a lovely little recording studio, although you will need to make some adjustments. Make sure you have clothes hanging in there to muffle the noise. Be sure to pull pillows from the bed to put behind your mic or whatever direction you are talking in to, so that your voice doesn’t bounce off of a flat wall. While in your hotel room, be sure to turn off the air conditioning. You may also have a noisy refrigerator that you must unplug. Be hyper aware of ambient noise since hotel rooms can have some of the craziest noises and buzzes. If in a hotel, request a room away from an elevator, away from the ice machine, away from the pool and on a top floor.
Use what you got in the room. My friend and fellow voice-over actor, Steve Ket, taught me how to create a studio on the road. He showed me how some typical things that you use in a hotel room can create a great studio sound. The mini-ironing board makes a great frame for your home studio. You can set the board up on a table and adjust it to just the right height. If you are faced with a particularly noisy room, you can place pillows behind the legs of the ironing board. The piece that really creates the best sound muffling is a comforter placed over both the ironing board and your head and back as you record. It’s not super comfortable, but it works like a champ. The spring clamps can be used to help clamp your mic to the back of a chair or the ironing board leg. It can also keep the blankets or pillows in place.
No matter what, you probably won’t get the same sound that you typically get in your home studio. I really like to use the “noise reduction” effect in Audacity when I am recording on the road. It helps to fix ambient noise problems. To keep your clients happy, I suggest letting them know at least a month beforehand that you will be recording on your travel rig, then remind them again as you send it. If it sounds great, they think you are especially awesome. If it has some audio problems, they know what to attribute it to.
Here’s to your voice-over journey – whether it’s on the road or right at home!
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About the Author
Jillian Nielsen is an expressive voice talent with over 14 years of experience in radio and television commercial and promotional voice-overs.