Voice tracking your radio show can carry distinct benefits. It extends the human element at the station into hours which would otherwise have music only, and this is attractive to the listener. It also allows one person to cover more hours on the air than you might otherwise, and it can create a space for flexibility when you have other duties or functions to attend to. Essentially, the show can go on. And the station can do more with less.
The challenge, however, in pre-recording your voice breaks is to make them sound interesting, believable, and like they are being presented “live”. While working with a group of announcers in the classroom last month, I was reminded of some key ideas to keep in mind for effective voice tracking. Here is my top 6 list:
- Do your show prep – just like you would for your live program. As American media practitioner Dan O’Day reminds us, “The secret to any good show – live or prerecorded, paid or unpaid – is show prep.” There is no substitute for proper, scripted preparation – make sure you know what’s happening in the community, at the station, and who people are, so you can talk easily about them. Use the songs on your playlist and find interesting artist bits to drop in to your voice tracks.
- Think about what people will typically be doing when the program goes to air. Will they be driving home from work? Collecting their children from school? Cooking dinner? Working in the field? Make a brief mention of these regular activities in your voice tracks.
- Leave out exact time checks and weather conditions! It is ok to give general time information (“It’s just after two o’clock now”…), but the exact time when your voice track plays may be different to the time shown on the run sheet. The weather could change dramatically from the time you are recording your voice tracks until your program airs, so don’t be caught talking about the lovely sunshine when it is actually raining.
- Listen to a portion of the song(s) you will back announce and forward announce with each voice track. This will help set the energy and mood you need in order to present in a believable way.
- Make sure that your voice tracks do not fade in or fade out. This is a sure giveaway that you are not actually in the studio. Depending on your automation software, you might need to leave a second or so of silence at the start and end of your voice track to accomplish this. RadioBoss, for example, will fade out voice tracks even if instructed not to in the filetypes settings. Megaseg will fade in and fade out voice tracks. These issues may be corrected in future versions of the software, but it’s important to always test and see how your software plays back your recorded voice.
- Don’t re-record your voice tracks to perfection. In live radio, people make mistakes when they speak. Your show will sound much more natural if there is an occasional misstep in your speech, and it is often true that the first take is the best take.
With a bit of extra care and attention, your voice tracked program can sound highly engaging, local, and relevant – almost as if you are in the studio presenting it live. Happy programming!