Imagine how frustrating it would be if you lined up a great guest to talk about a great set of topics for your podcast, but failed to pay attention to something as critical as sound microphone practices – microphone positioning in particular. When I started podcasting, I figured all I needed to do when I got my brand new Blue Yeti microphone was plug it into my laptop, change some software settings, and start talking. Until our Technical Director barked at me with new orders with each new recording:
- “You sound like you’re 10 feet away from the mic!”
- “You’re way to close to the mic… I’m picking up a whole bunch of mouth sounds!
- “What side of the mic are you talking into?"
- “You’re moving around too much…I’m picking up random sounds!”
- “What is wrong with you, dude?”
Why positioning your Yeti Microphone for podcast quality is so important?
In order to deliver a great podcast recording, two things are critical: 1) participant comfort and 2) sound quality, and proper mic positioning enables both. If your microphone is in the wrong place, a number of things could happen. You may have to move your head such that your posture is poor or you’re otherwise uncomfortable, which can be distracting and result in a less than confident delivery. Or the microphone can obstruct the sight lines between participants and with other visual reference points. With poor microphone positioning, you also run the risk that the audio will be recorded at the wrong level, contain acoustic anomalies, or otherwise be compromised.
What follows is a list of steps and best practices that ensure proper microphone positioning. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll focus on the Blue Yeti podcasting mic, which we consider to be the best podcast microphone for the money, but several points below generally apply for any microphone.
How to achieve the best podcast microphone positioning
There is more to microphone positioning than meets the eye (or ear). Follow these steps and you’ll feel comfortable, confident, and focused as you record, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of producing high quality audio.
- Lay out all the elements of your recording environment. Whenever you start recording an Episode, you want everything physically laid out so that you’re comfortable, can move items easily, and have unimpeded sight lines to everything you need. This includes visual access to your computer screen so you can work with any podcasting recording software (for ex., Riverside.fm, Squadcast, etc.) and any notes that you might want to refer to. Be sure the microphone does not obstruct the sight lines to these elements, and, if you’re also including video in your podcast, that the microphone is positioned such that nothing is blocking the viewer from seeing you. Above all, make sure you’re comfortable. Whether sitting down or standing up, you’ll want to maintain good posture without having to strain or contort yourself while speaking.
- Use headphones and a pop filter. Headphones are indispensable for podcasting. Using them is the only way you can determine the right sound levels, and it will allow you to hear yourself clear and not be distracted by extraneous sounds. If needed, you may also attach a “pop” filter to your microphone. This looks like a round, flat screen that is positioned between your mouth and the podcast mic. It filters our any extraneous mouth sounds that can be a distraction in your podcast recording.
- Set up a boom arm. When your Yeti podcast mic is attached to a boom arm, it can be moved along multiple axes so that it can be positioned at different heights and angles. A boom arm can be attached to a weighted base or clamped to your desk. To further improve this setup consider using a shockmount so that any audible vibration is dampened and not picked up by the microphone. A quality boom arm will have a way to adjust the tension of the boom arm joints. This allows you to easily change the mic position but also ensure that the mic doesn’t move once you’re got it set in the right place.
- Pick the proper pickup pattern. There is a setting on the Yeti mic that determines the direction from which sound is picked up. For a podcasting environment in which the participants are in separate locations, the most employed setting is “Cardioid,” which is represented by a heart shaped symbol displayed as one of 4 choices on the “pattern” knob located on the side of the Yeti mic opposite of the label (there are knobs; it’s the one farthest away from the working end of the mic).
- Speak into the front of the microphone. The Yeti is a “side facing” podcast mic. This means that you should speak into the side of the microphone and not into the very top of it. Sound is best picked up when speaking in to the “front” of the microphone, which is the side marked by the Yeti label, and also where the mute button is. By the way, make sure the red light is solid, not flashing. Early on, I bitched and moaned for 15 minutes with our tech team about “the lousy equipment” and “confusing software” because I could get any sound to register in my recording software…only to find that the mute light was on. Fortunately, no one could see how red my face got when they asked me if the red light was flashing. I still hear about this.
- Find the right mic placement relative to your mouth. Should the mic be point from above you, to the side of you, or below you? Well, that depends in part by how comfortable you are with each option, and where your eyes might need to go. I find that positioning the mic from below affords the speaker a high comfort level and unobstructed sight lines for him/her and other participants, but this may be a matter of preference. As long as the mic is picking up your voice clearly and at the right volume level, multiple options could work.
- Find the optimal distance between you and mic. You’ll want to be sure you’re close enough to the mic such it picks up your voice at the right volume level, but not so close such that “plosives” (sounds made by your mouth when saying certain words) are picked up in the recording. You can find the right distance by putting on your headphones, initiating a test recording, and speaking continuously into the podcast mic – while varying the distancing and positioning of the microphone until you find the optimal set point for both.
I’ve found the time to do all of this over time, and now not only has our Technical Director stopped yelling at me, but my audio is much better, and I’m a lot more comfortable and less stressed/rushed while recording. We’ve learned that there are also other areas that require sound preparation for recording a podcast Episode, so we know offer a free Episode Preparation Checklist, which you can get by clicking here. Or better yet, check out our Get Ready services for Podcast Series preparation. We’re also happy to provide guidance irrespective of where you are in your podcast journey; just Contact Us and we’ll be glad to help!