How to Make Voice-Tracking Sound Live

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It’s hard to duplicate the authenticity and the energy of a live mike.

We talked to syndicated host Zach Sang, KUPL Portland Program Director/Afternoon Host, MoJoe Roberts, and drew from our own voice-tracking experience. The same principles that serve you live, apply to voice-tracking.

The perfect recipe for sounding mechanical and canned is to use this line we’ve often heard in workshops, “Hey, I’ve got to take a fifteen-minute break to knock out a show.” You can’t make a track show sound live and authentic in fifteen minutes.

Planning is crucial. Trying to come up with something compelling on the fly as you come to each segment will not only take forever, the content will not be very good. Plan the setup, exit, your point of view, and tease for every segment. Line up the audio, callers, and scribble down some notes for each segment.

Best Practices for Making Voice-Tracking Sound Live

Bank phone calls…just because you’re tracked, doesn’t mean you can’t inject listener calls to enhance and localize your breaks. Staging calls with other air staff members creates dynamics and the sense of camaraderie for the station.

Leave in the little mistakes. Tracked shows sound antiseptic when you record breaks over and over for perfection. Mistakes help you to sound like a human being, and they give you an opportunity for self-deprecation. Limit editing, and just re-cut massive mistakes. To sound live, avoid going in with the mindset that you have that safety net.

Recycle great content from the first and second hours to later hours in the show. Even NPR stations, with their eternally long time spent listening, repeat segments every two hours.

Bring another person in the studio when you can. Grab an intern (appropriately!), the receptionist, or your producer. Interacting with someone a few times will give your show energy and dynamics. Just having someone there to make eye contact with helps to make you sound more lively and authentic.

If you are tracking in advance, be careful about things that can change, like the weather. Weather can be unpredictable, and the most obvious sign that a show is recorded is hearing a talent say it’s sunny during a rain storm.

Contesting via text, web or social media is a great way to connect and offer incentives on tracked shows. Be sure to respond to social media, emails and text messages.

Crank up the music going into and out of songs. It’ll feel more live, and help you to maintain energy.

Recall the adrenaline and feeling of your highlight live performances. After all, you’re a performer and entertainer, and a big part of that is mindset. Then press record and go for it.

If you are a VT vet, we would love to hear any additional tips you have to make pre-recorded audio sound live.

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