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Discover 7 Secret  Techniques Voiceover Pros Use to Eliminate Annoying Popping Sounds!

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

A picture of peas in a pod, with the slogan 'Stop the Pop!' over the top.

Voiceover artists often encounter a common challenge known as "popping their p's." This occurs when the burst of air from pronouncing the letter "P" creates an unpleasant popping sound in the audio recording. To avoid this, voiceover artists employ various techniques:

1. Proper Mic Technique

Position the microphone slightly off to the side of your mouth rather than directly in front. This way, the air from your plosives (like 'P' sounds) doesn't hit the mic directly.

Follow up on that tip by training yourself to always be in, and HOLD your position. It seems a simple thing but it makes a HUGE difference. I was seriously guilty of drifting off-mic in recording until a producer taught me 'performance position.'

What that means is as you prepare to record, just before you begin, you move your body into a practiced position. I center mine on my feet, then LIFT my spine, expand my chest, take a breath and RELAX. I'm ready. Like a golfer sets, or a batter. I hold this position throughout my read, then break, shake and get ready for the next take.

There's a rhythm and focus to it, and a distinct advantage is you avoid those pops!

2. Use a Pop Filter

A pop filter is a simple screen that sits between you and the microphone. It diffuses the air from your plosives, preventing them from creating a pop in the recording.

Keep the pop filter simple. Some of the stuff marketed today is not cool. A mic in a round ball of foam does not help the sound. It muffles it. You want your sound alive. Put some absorbent material behind the mic to catch the bounce of your voice, but don't wrap your mic in a galaxy of muffitude!

Does the round ball keep room noise out? Doubtful. But it does limit the mic's performance.

3. Mindful Pronunciation in Voiceover Work

Be conscious of how you pronounce plosive sounds. Practice softer articulation of 'P's by controlling the amount of air you release.

I became a much better voiceover when I a followed a less is more approach -- that is to say do not 'lean' too much into the troubling sounds. My kryptonite are 'esses.' I have a lisp thanks to British Dentistry. Hey, I like my lisp. It does mean, of course, I'm limited as an announcer, but it is also part of my charm. I had an agent fire my once because of my lisp. You should have heard his!

Some years, I've pulled in six-figures some years in v/o work, lisp and all, but I have learned to watch it on some consonant constructions.

Relax your lips and tongue, set your position, and go!

4. Distance from the Microphone

Don’t get too close to the mic. A good rule of thumb is to keep about 6 to 12 inches distance. This gives the air from your plosives space to dissipate.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen V/Os use what is sometimes called 'proximity effect.' I've used it myself, but mostly in a rock and roll band when I've got an SM-58 in my hand and I'm trying to make the girls dance, or sound like David Bowie.

In V/O work stand back from the mic. If you want to speak softly, speak softly, but don't make up for it by moving in close. Let the mic work. Let your full body into the act.

Think of it this way: Your sound is not just what comes out of your mouth. It's your chest too, your head bones, your groin, your diaphragm humming, it all plays in there when you've got your full voice instrument vibrating. You want every bit of that juice.

The close in whisper thing is a dead giveaway you're an amateur. Whisper if you want to whisper, but hold your position and adjust the level afterward.

One V/O student told me their room noise came up when they lifted the level. Yeah. Different problem. You need to fix that too, but not by leaning into your mic and cutting off your sound.

5. Breath Control

Work on your breathing techniques. Controlled breathing helps in minimizing the force behind plosives.

A steady flow of air, and focusing on that can really help. Speak from your diaphragm. How many times have your heard that? When I was studying singing at music school my singing teacher used a phrase - 'grasping a dime.' Guess where you grasped the dime?

V/O is a whole body experience. Relaxing and using full-body engagement lowers the possibility of the pops.

6. Recording Environment

Record in a space with soft furnishings that absorb sound. Hard surfaces can exacerbate popping sounds.

Home studioitis has really harmed the V/O industry. I don't know any professionals, myself included, that have any interest in recording V/O artists in a home environment. You cannot spend enough cash to make yourself a viable home studio setup that makes professional grade. Well, you can, but the price is $80k+. And the investment will be ongoing. A mic and a closet is a joke, and don't expect to be taken seriously if you offer your services from a recording environment like that.

Don't believe your agent or, or your pal V/O about it. You might pick up some gigs, but if you want a career, figure out a relationship with an actual recording studio and get yourself booked in there.

I direct hundreds of voice reads for commercials and animation projects, and you know how many finals I record from a talent's home studios? None. My clients expect pro service and I can't deliver it from somebody's living room. There's just too many things that can go wrong. As it is, in the most pro environment, things go wrong, but there's no solutions in somebody's apartment.

Home studios are for auditions and some demos. When you're being paid a fee for your voice, suggest a studio for your client to book. If your client says no way, you'll never make any money with them anyway. Not real send the kids to college money. When you get a shot at a real project, you'll need a real room.

Look, to do your best voice work, the last thing you want to do is be focused on mics and red buttons and monitor mixes and Source Connect.

I may sound like hapless King Canute fruitlessly trying to hold back the digital tide, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

7. Practice and Feedback

Record yourself and listen back to identify popping sounds. Regular practice and seeking feedback from peers or coaches can significantly improve your technique.

I'm going to cut to the chase here. Find a good voice coach and work with them. You can't really judge your own voice. You can't even hear your real voice. Too many filters in your skull.

A real breakthrough in your performance will come when you stop listening to yourself and FEEL your read.

Hyper-takes, too many takes, endless takes and editing is death to a voiceover career. Do your work and walk away. Your sound is either right or wrong. Nothing you can do about it except train. And nothing is better than a voice coach. There's some good ones out there.

My fav was dear Marla Kirban, who sadly passed. She was amazing and made a real difference to my career.

If you want some advice about your reads, send one in to me. While I build this company I'm pretty engaged and would love to hear from you. Send it in here.

All I ask is when you're on our site your subscribe, so we can stay in touch.

Thanks ~chris

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