A Podcast Tip from Old-Time Radio

I was just listening to a podcast of a professionally-produced program that is broadcast on radio, and I was surprised to hear excessive amounts of sibilance — that annoying whistling “s” that overpowers all the other consonants and vowels and that, for some people, causes the same reaction as fingernails on a blackboard and makes them want to go after the announcer’ front teeth with an emery board.

Not me, of course. *Ahem.*

During my stint in college radio over 20 years ago in Santa Fe, I had the privilege of working under the tutelage of a veteran program manager, Bill Dunning, whose career had started in the days when AM was king. To this day, I’ve never met anyone with better diction, and even when he wasn’t on the air his every word was as clear and resonant as a Tibetan singing bowl.

Bill was adamant about the proper placement of a studio microphone. Never, ever place it in front of your mouth pointing at your face, he would admonish us. Rather, place it in front of your face, between your eyes, facing down toward your mouth. This has two immediately noticeable effects:

  • The microphone picks up the resonance of your voice in your sinuses, which adds depth and texture.
  • Sibilants and plosives will blow harmlessly past the microphone, lessening their disproportionate impact.

If you record podcasts for your own business or for a client, remember the advice of an AM radio veteran and put the can between your eyes.

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.