Audio memoir — getting started

Congratulations! You’ve decided to do an audio memoir. That’s awesome. And, if you think about it, pretty darned brave, too. It’s not something just anyone can do. But, before you rent time on an MGM sound stage, or get another mortgage to convert your spare bedroom into a home recording studio, it might be a good idea to do a little warm up, first. This is what folks who know mean when they say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

You can start with the free software that comes standard on most home computers. If you’re using a machine with a built-in camera, then you’ve almost certainly got a built-in microphone, too. Neither may be state-of-the-art, but who cares? For now, you’re just stretching and flexing.

If all you want to do is hear yourself, crank up the sound recorder program that came with your computer. You may have to search for it, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find. If you just can’t find the darned thing, consider casting aside your technical shyness and ask someone who knows your PC (Mac, whatever) a little better than you do. Don’t be concerned if they smirk and tell you how miserable the built-in stuff is. Right now, that’s not important. You’ll eventually learn a lot about recording audio. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? For now, just suffer through the commentary, shoo the interloper from the room, and crank up the program. If it asks for permission to use your built-in microphone, click “Yes.”

This dreadful screen is from Windows 8.1. Let's pray  that version 10 will be better. God knows, it can't be worse.

This dreadful screen is from Windows 8.1. Let’s pray that version 10 will be better. God knows, it can’t be worse.

Suddenly, you’re looking at a screen you’ve likely never seen before. With any luck, it’ll be fairly free of clutter (buttons, dials, controls and whatnot). In fact, there’s probably little more than a microphone graphic on the screen. That’s enough. Click on it and start talking. Feel free to yack about anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter. Now, while you’re doing that, notice that the dot underneath the line is moving to the right. That means you’re actually recording something. It could just be the sound of your breathing, but if you’re actually talking, words are being recorded! Whoa — who knew it was that easy?Skinny

When you click on the circle symbol that replaced the microphone thingy, the recording stops. Click on the triangle in the lower left-hand corner of the screen to hear yourself. Note: it could be painful.

[Pause for sharp intake of breath]

I’m guessing one of two things just happened. Either you didn’t hear anything (or it was so faint it amounts to the same thing), OR you realized your voice sucks. It’s too high, or too low, too soft, or too raspy, or it sounds like someone is trying to make fun of you. Alternative One is easy to fix; just crank up the volume. Alternative Two? You’ll just have to live with it. For now, anyway. Later, with better recording tools, there might be some hope.

You’re not done yet, however. It’s time to read something out loud. Maybe it’s a part of your memoir, or your notes for your memoir, or maybe someone else’s memoir. Whatever. Just read it and record it. Remember, we’re just playing around here, trying to get used to the idea of making a recording of your voice. The likelihood that you’ll want to actually use what you record now is remote — seriously, like Easter Island remote.

Skinny notWhen you’re done, save it. Depending entirely on the freebie recording software you used, this could be a simple task, or not. Again, if you need help, ask your techie pal for it. This would also be a good time to figure out where you’re going to store the stuff you intend to put into your audio memoir. While you’re working on it, there are going to be many, many (did I say “many”?) audio files. You’re going to need to identify them — in order — so when the day finally comes you’ll be able to assemble them in one grand pile. Maybe with photos and charts and diagrams, too. And other sound effects.

We’ll be talking soon about all of that, and some really good audio recording software. Best of all, you’ll be able to afford it, no matter what your budget looks like.

For now, get busy working on what you intend to record. If you’re not sure where to start, try reading through some of these suggestions. If you still can’t think of anything to write about, it could be a sign of something more significant. To be brutally honest — another way to say “blunt” — if you haven’t got anything to say, why open your mouth?

Y’know?

–Josh

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Memoir, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Audio memoir — getting started

  1. I think everybody learns that his/her voice sucks. Ew!

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