How to Make an Audio Recording

Audio recordings of authors reading their works became a regular feature at qarrtsiluni with the Insecta issue (Nov.-Dec. 2007). The inclusion of a Flash player allows readers who have Flash (installed on more than 90 percent of all computers) to read along while they listen, rather than being taken to another page. We feel that the ability to include audio alongside text is one of the most important innovations in poetry publishing since the invention of movable type, returning orality to its rightful position at the center of the verbal arts. And in September 2009, we took the next logical step and turned these recordings into a daily podcast, reaching a whole new audience through iTunes.

Except for spoken-word artists who are submitting recordings in lieu of text, we encourage authors to hold off on recording until after they hear from the issue editors. For those who have never made audio recordings before, here is our ever-evolving list of suggestions.

1. General considerations

  • We don’t insist on crystal-clear production, just easily understandable readings at a reasonable volume.
  • We can clean up and increase the volume of recordings for you. We can usually remove most white noise, for example, though this sometimes gives the recording a bit of a tinny or echo-chamber effect.
  • We publish MP3s, but can convert from most other audio and video formats. In fact, if your email system will permit the larger attachment size, we actually prefer getting WAV files to MP3s.
  • If you’re familiar with the technical side of recording, for a Flash player the MP3 sampling rate should be at either 44k or 22k per second. If that’s Greek to you, just make the recording as best you can.
  • Send your recording as an attachment to qarrtsiluni (at) gmail (dot) com. If it’s too large to go via email, post it to a free file delivery service, such as Senduit, YouSendIt, or DropBox.

2. Easiest options

  • Get someone else to do it for you. Know any audio engineers? If not, how about the folks at your local cable-access television or community radio station? Someone there might be willing to record you if you tell her it’s for a good cause.
  • Have an iPhone? Apparently there are more than a dozen recording applications. Try iTalk or SpeakEasy. (The former is free; the latter costs US$2.)

3. Recording yourself with a microphone

  • Most laptops have built-in microphones. The quality of recordings made on such mikes can sometimes be pretty good, and most of the time will be good enough for our purposes. A noisy laptop fan can ruin a recording, though.
  • If you have an iPod or other portable music device, you may be able to use that. Many models have built-in mikes.
  • For desktops, plug-in mikes designed for dictation and web-based phone services can be purchased for less than US$40. Portable MP3 recorders are also inexpensive and are of course ideal for just this sort of thing. But if you don’t already have access to this kind of hardware, please don’t purchase it just to record a poem for us! We mention these alternatives in case you plan to get into regular audio production, for example for publication on your own blog. That we do encourage.
  • If you’re using a mike, please position it to the side of your face or sit a little ways back so your Ps don’t pop.
  • For software, we recommend Audacity, which is free to download and easy to learn for anyone with basic computer skills. Please refer to the very clearly written online manual for instructions, or if you’re in a hurry, watch this video tutorial. (If you don’t want to download the extra software needed to turn your recording into an MP3, just save it as a WAV file and send us that.)
  • If you’re a Windows user, the very basic sound recorder found under Accessories > Entertainment can be used to make recordings less than one minute in length, or longer with a fairly simple hack. (But really, download and use Audacity instead.)
  • If you’re a Mac user, you should already have a good audio software system on your machine — GarageBand. Here’s a good video tutorial. (A Mac-using friend informs us, though, that Audacity for Mac is actually easier to use.)
  • You can also try dispensing with the software and recording online with a free account at SoundCloud or podOmatic. (Other, similar services have fallen by the wayside, including Odeo, WildVoice, and GCast. Please let us know about any other options we should list here.)

4. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you run into any difficulties along the way.

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