With sound, it’s pretty obvious that you always need to use your ears as your main tool, for everything. But sometimes when we are recording, we do not pay attention to what it is you are recording, this is a simple tip, but very powerful, especially if you have not experience recording what you are about to record.
If you are using a handy recorder, the most important thing is to record with your headphones on, that way you are really listening what you are recording.
The second more important thing is to be aware on the present moment. In this way you can really hear what is happening everywhere.
We normally only pay attention to the source, to what we want to record, but by doing this we may stop paying attention to everything else, so if you want for example, to record a bird you may forget that a dog is barking in the distance, so all that unexpected sounds appear in the recording, making it less professional.
It is recommended to point at the source you want to record, and close, bot not to close.
You should also pay attention to the sound of the room you are in, the reverb, how close are you to a window?
Because sound bounces off everything, so if you want to record lets say a dialogue, it would be better to record inside a library pointing to the source that is in front of a book shelf, and not in front of a window, not just because of the bouncing off the window, but also because more sound filters from the outside.
Another important thing is to pay attention to the gain levels, sound should never clip, and if you put too much gain, know that also the devices internal noise will be heard more, so it’s better to have the gain levels at the middle or ¾’s (you can always add more gain with your DAW).
I also recommend that you record at least a minute, just in case there is an unexpected sound that you were not aware of.
With time you will get better, and if you always experiment with your microphone, pointing with different angles at the source, with different distances, you will learn to record better in no time. You will realize, that recording it’s not as simple as it looks, but it’s a lot more fun also.
Another very important thing to pay attention is wind and vibration, you should buy a wind-screen, because the wind always makes the recording less professional, a real wind-screen is the one that has hairs, not the foamy.
The foamy that comes with the handy recorders works but with a very weak wind, and vibration also records a recording, any vibration or hit that happens in your hand will be recorded, or let’s say you want to record the bottom of your car, if you tape a handy recorder the recording will be bad because of vibration, so you should use a shock mount, you can make one yourself with rubbers and a tube, there is probably a youtube tutorial for that.
Always use your ears and be in the present moment, totally aware of the sound that you are recording with your headphones on, and if you can’t use headphones, pay attention to every detail.