Tips for Recording Quality Spoken Word for Podcasts

Recording spoken word and dramatic readings can differ significantly from recording singing. In this article I’ll go over some simple tricks to get the best audio quality possible from your recording, and how to deal with some common issues that occur when recording spoken voices. Whether you have a cheap or expensive microphone the following tricks will help you to alleviate potential problems that can interfere with the audibility of your vocal.


Plosives can occur when we use syllables that contain the letters T, K and P, and also sometimes with D, G and B. The air pressure from the plosive can overload the microphone causing an ugly “pop” in the audio. While this is undesirable it is easy avoided by using a popper stopper to reduce the plosive. Popper stoppers are inexpensive to buy but can also be made easily at home using a nylon stocking and a coat hanger. Either way it is an essential tool when recording quality vocals and should be used at all times. (See image 1 – pencil trick)

{image 1: picture of a wooden pencil attached to a recording microphone using an elastic)


Another issue that interferes with the quality of your recording is “smackiness”. This sound is generated by the mouth and can be tricky to EQ out, but it can be dealt with easily. A common trick used in studios is to eat a small piece of green apple. Simply have the reader eat a small bite of green apple before recording. This may sound strange but it will temporarily alter the chemistry of the saliva and will eliminate the unwanted smackiness. Another trick for dealing with this issue is to attach a pencil vertically to the front of the microphone with a rubber band. The width of the pencil happens to coincide with the wavelength of the offending smackiness and will block the frequency from being captured by the mic. However, the latter technique is less effective than a small bite of green apple. (see image 2 – popperstopper apple)

(image 2: picture a green apple next to recording equipment)

Reflections and unwanted reverb:

Not every environment is ideal for recording and the setting you are recording in can drastically alter the quality of your recording. Mic placement is a part of the puzzle for dealing with this issue and it is worth exploring multiple placements before recording. Generally you will not want your microphone too close to the wall, as the hard surface will cause unwanted reflections. This can also be dealt with by tacking a blanket to the wall behind and around the mic. If you have hardwood or concrete floors, which will also create unwanted reflections, putting a blanket on the floor will block many of these reflections and improve the quality. You can always add reverb for desired effect, but it is nearly impossible to remove if it is in the original recording.


Sibilance is another issue which can interfere with the clarity of your recording. It can cause the voice to sound lispy and more difficult to understand. This issue can usually be cleaned up with a plugin called a de-esser, which as the name implies reduced the “essey” quality of the vocal recording. Another easy way to  educe the problem is to use your equalizer to filter out a small dip in the typical frequency range of sibilance. Sibilance is typically centered around 5K to 8kHz, and gently scooping out these frequencies will greatly improve the clarity of your vocal.

These are only some of the basic issues that can come up when recording spoken word, and all of these tools are worth experimenting with both in isolation, and in combination, until you find the ideal arrangement for recording quality vocal tracks. The cleaner you can get it to sound before doing any processing the better. While plugins are great for solving problems, the more you can do outside of the box the less of a headache you will experience when mixing. I also encourage you to familiarize yourself with the use of compressors, gates, de-essers, and noise reduction plugins, as these can all be powerful tools for making your spoken word tracks sound the best that they possibly can.

Jean-Paul L. Garnier

Jean-Paul L. Garnier lives and writes in Joshua Tree, CA where he is the owner of Space Cowboy Books, a science fiction bookstore, independent publisher, and producer of Simultaneous Times podcast. In 2020 his first novella Garbage In, Gospel Out was released by Space Cowboy Books and in 2018 Traveling Shoes Press released Echo of Creation, a collection of his science fiction short stories. He has also released several collections of poetry: In Iudicio (Cholla Needles Press 2017), Future Anthropology (currently being translated into Portuguese), and Odes to Scientists (audiobook - Space Cowboy Books 2019). He is a two time Elgin Nominee and also appeared in the 2020 Dwarf Stars anthology. His new collection of SF poetry, Betelgeuse Dimming has just been released and is available as a free download audiobook / ebook at He is also a regular contributor for Canada’s Warp Speed Odyssey blog. His short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in many anthologies and webzines.