Microphones and the human voice

This is a well written article about the human voice, and how microphones really work in terms of capturing it. Even if you read this and plan to forget everything—you’ll come out *way* ahead when recording your and your guests’ voices.

https://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university/facts-about-speech-intelligibility

It’s full of insightful information, about the human voice:

…the voice chances spectrum in almost any other position than when we approach the speaking person with our ear – or microphone. Each position on the head or the chest has its’ own sound color – or timbre. For instance, the spectrum of speech recorded on the chest of a person normally lacks frequencies in the important range of 2-4 kHz. This results in reduced speech intelligibility. If the microphone does not compensate for this you should make corrections with an equalizer.

Important frequencies:

The important frequencies in non-tonal (Western) languages are illustrated by the diagram below. Here, the frequency band around 2 kHz is the most important frequency range regarding perceived intelligibility. Most consonants are found in this frequency band.

…and about what affects intelligibility in a reproduction of the voice:

A lot of research has been carried out in this area. In general, the results demonstrate that:

1. Optimum speech level is constant when background noise level is lower than 40 dB(A)
2. Optimum speech level appears to be the level that maintains around 15 dB(A) of S/N ratio when the background noise level is more than 40 dB(A)
3. Listening difficulty increases as speech level increases under the condition where S/N ratio is good enough to keep intelligibility near perfect

Furthermore, the 1-4 kHz frequency range should be “kept clear”. When, for instance, adding music as background for narration, a parametric equalizer cutting the music 5-10 dB in this frequency range will improve intelligibility.

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Nothing Fails Like Success

There are internet companies (like Basecamp, or like Automattic, makers of WordPress.com, where I work) that charge money for their products and services, and use that money to grow their business. I wish more internet companies could follow that model, but it’s hard to retrofit a legitimate business model to a product that started its life as free.

~ Jeffrey Zeldman from, https://alistapart.com/article/nothing-fails-like-success/

ahahahahahahahahhahaahahhaaa! Sometimes I like to share stuff just because it makes me happy. (The stuff; not the sharing of said stuff, I mean.) I regularly talk about how this web site is a vehicle for my reflection—I’m quite often literally thinking through things. Writing, (tappity-tap-tapping on the keyboard here,) and writing, (scratchity-scritch-skratching with a pen on paper,) are two of the ways I figure out if the dross I regularly find in my head actually corresponds to reality.

When I read sentences like the ones I quoted above, I leap (sometimes literally) to my feet knocking over my chair in the process. It does my weary—deeply deeply weary it be—heart good just to read sentences like this. And I hope—not in the sense that I little value your ability to think and “hope” you’ll finally get what I’m saying; no. I only hope that sometimes, some of the things I share make you happier.

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Listening to comprehend

When you’re in a job interview, a podcast interview, a sales call, a meeting… if we take the approach that this is a test and there’s a right answer, we’re not actually engaging and moving things forward.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2018/08/ignore-the-questions/

In a podcast conversation, if a guest slips into this-is-a-test mode, things get awkward. If I ask, “what’s something people get wrong about you,” the guest will think I’m looking for dirt, and that I want something they’d not want to share. Or worse, they wonder if I already know something, and that I want to drag that skeleton from their closet.

But the sort of conversations I’m interested in sharing are ones where those involved are working together to create something interesting, and which are respectful of the subject. So it’s important to create the environment where the guest naturally treats questions as prompts. It turns out that this is easy to do.

If I honestly want the good sort of conversations, then my actions follow automatically. I share things about myself and doing so invites the other person to share. I take things seriously which conveys that I value the interaction and what I’m hearing. I express my interest directly by asking interesting questions; questions which show the other person I’m generally curious. Overall, I demonstrate that I’m listening because I’m interested, rather than because I want to do something with what I’m about to hear.

I’m listening to comprehend; not listening to respond.

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Performing with a safety net

When recording conversations for the Movers Mindset podcast the guests know I’m not going to edit what they say to change their meaning. They know I’m bringing journalistic integrity to the conversation. (I’m not doing strict journalism, but that feature of journalism is present.) I do my best to set up the correct space (physical, emotional and mental,) so that we can co-create the best conversation possible. I’m not digging for dirt, creating tension, nor trying to create any other saccharine artifice. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are performing for an audience. The final necessary piece to facilitating a great conversation is a safety net.

Each conversation… each performance is better if we can reach just a bit farther than we might normally be comfortable doing. That’s why I bring a safety net. I very clearly give the guest a safe word which they can incant at any time to take back what they’ve said.

I don’t include the guest in the post-production process. They’re not invited to review the material, or to give additional thoughts about what to keep or what to cut. In fact, the only people who have time to do that, are wanna-be cooks, who will only mess up the soup if I let them in my kitchen. Instead, I and my team do all the post-production difficult work which is in fact our responsibility. The guest already did the really hard work of being themselves on-mic.

I do also say, “take your time— silence is free and we can easily trim out 30 seconds of you thinking before you speak.” I’ve also a few other little coaching tidbits I share to prep them for being recorded. But it’s the safety net which makes them feel comfortable trying something they might otherwise hesitate about. Part of the magic of a great conversation is how it develops organically, and without the safety net most people dial their caution up a few notches to be safe. With a safety net, most people are delighted to take a leap to see what they can do.

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Some thoughts on file organization

Within the team that creates the Movers Mindset podcast, we assign numbers to our projects. We use “R42” for our 42nd recording project, then R43, and so on. This enables us to start naming things from day one, in a way that we don’t have to change later. If you’re putting your files in a folder, what would you name it, that you could be sure wouldn’t change?

We also use our podcast’s initials on file names, “MM.” When we see files whose name contains, MM-R42… we know what it belongs too. It’s part of the Recording-42 project for Movers Mindset.

We also exclusively use people’s family names on files. So a raw WAV file from an interview is 20200423-MM-SMITH-TR1.wav … April 23, 2020 recording for Movers Mindset, of someone named “Smith”, and this is track one [a recording from one microphone.] 20200423-MM-SMITH-TR2.wav is track two, and so on. No matter where you toss that file, it’s going to make sense.

Eventually, a recording project might lead to one (or more!) episodes of our podcast. They get assigned episode numbers, EP56, EP57, etc. Then we have filenames like MM-EP57… and it’s always clear what that is.

Sometimes we have a dozen files to keep track of in a podcast episode and we end up with
20200423-MM-SMITH-TR1.wav
20200423-MM-SMITH-TR2.wav
MM-EP56-INTRO.wav (introduction recorded after interview)
MM-EP56-OUTRO.wav (outro recorded in post production)
MM-GCORD.wav (a little music ‘button’ used when joining bits of interview)
…the final episode is then MM-EP56-SMITH.mp3

Since I’ve typed this much, here’s another thing we do: We use consistently numbered folders to store the files. Every project has a folder, 2020.04.23 Bob Smith R42/EP56 — we create 2020.04.23 Bob Smith R42 in our archives when we do the raw recording, and at the very end we add the /EP56 to make it easier to find things. In side each project we create five folders 1 assets, 2 recording, 3 episode, 4 publication, and 5 social — the leading number ensure they sort in nice order in various displays. 1 contains anything the guest gives us (photos, writing) or any photos we take during recording. 2 is the raw original recordings, 3 is everything to make a podcast episode (intro, outro, whatever we have to assemble, AND the finished MP3), 4 is anything we create as part of publishing the episode (transcript, articles, highlights ) and 5 is anything that’s ok for social media and sharing. And then we have a multi-terabyte file server with a “few” files on it:

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Self-esteem box

Today, two thoughts popped into my head in rapid suggestion: “Self-esteem box,” and “I’ve never pull-quoted Movers Mindset.”

Brandee Laird

Craig: So for me it’s I know if I go for a walk that’s almost, not always, almost always enough to make it so I can go back into the cave of ugliness and get back to work kind of thing. So what are some things that will help you turn that corner, brighten you up or energize you?

Brandee: Yeah, that’s a great question, because I do get very dark moods pretty often actually, because with compassion comes the pain of caring so much about all these people and all this situation, it feels very futile a lot of times, like what can I do to change this. Yeah, I get there and I have a few tactics, I basically build protocols for myself for when I get in those moods. So one of the first things I go to is my self-esteem box.

Craig: This sounds like a good idea.

Brandee: And my self-esteem box is digital, it’s a digital self-esteem box and what I have done, is I have taken screenshots and copy/pasted and just dumped in all kinds of nice things that people have said, either to me or about me over the years.

So I have this file that is just full of gratitude and compliments and just stuff that I have had to read over and over and over in order to actually believe it. So that’s actually more like last resort is the self-esteem box. If nothing else works, open the self-esteem box, look through here.

Craig: In case of emergency, break glass, right?

Brandee: Totally. Totally. So that’s something I think everyone could and should do that. I guess I’ve never really told anyone about that. But it’s a nice thing.

Craig: I think that’s a really good tactic. People talk about doing gratitude journaling, but the gratitude journaling. I mean, I know that you know what it is, but gratitude journaling is a process which you have to execute on the spot when you feel like you’re having a bad mood. But the idea of having a self-esteem box is a clever one.

Brandee: Why, thank you.

~ Brandee Laird from 46’30”, https://moversmindset.com/72

I think these two thoughts popped into my head as the photo-frame on my wall changed. One of the smartest things I’ve ever done is set up a digital photo-frame. I email it photos of things—you know, all those digital photos you never do anything with. :)

Anyway. I love love LOVE my photo-frame. It’s chock full of hundreds of great photos. It’s not quite a self-esteem box. But it generally has the same effect. Every single time I glance at it it makes me smile.

Meanwhile, ever since I had that conversation with Brandee, (in September 2019,) I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a self-esteem box. I’m not quite sure where to put it [digitally] though; Also, I really do not need to make up yet another system for myself for organizing and storing things.

But the idea keeps calling to me.

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The process of reflection

Much of the power of the Movers Mindset podcast’s signature question, “three words to describe your practice?” comes from thinking about one’s personal understanding of the word practice. In the podcast episodes, sometimes the guest’s discussion of that understanding is a profound part of their interview. Sometimes their surgical statement of three words is its sublime culmination.

In 2019, we posed the three-words question of the project itself. This turned out to be a surprisingly fruitful exercise. We came up with three words to describe our practice, and I subsequently adopted them as the three words to describe my practice:

Discovery. Reflection. Efficacy.

If those three words describe my practice—the journey of my whole life—then what is the purpose of this web site? Why go through all this work? It’s taken me 9 years and the previous 2,499 posts to understand:

It’s a vehicle for my process of reflection.

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Tension

I’ve been thinking about ways to create more opportunity for engagement among the people who are following the work of the Movers Mindset project. We’ve reached a point where we’re creating plenty of content and sharing ideas—but currently almost entirely in the broadcast direction. We’ve a considerable collection of people who are passively consuming.

Meanwhile, every time I manage to engage with someone [in this context of Movers Mindset], it’s an energizing exchange of ideas about movement, movement’s place in society, and sometimes even philosophy in general.

The whole project is intentionally aimed at people who are becoming, or already are, reflective. Such people tend to have made the growth step beyond low-value interaction and engagement and are increasingly aware of how they engage and expend their time especially online. I suppose the key is to simply engage with them one by one, until that becomes untenable for me.

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On podcasting

The short version of this story is simply: I’m simply curious. I try things. I make mistakes. I ask questions.

My podcasting journey began with the Movers Mindset project, which grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. Started in 2015, at first it was just a web site that shared others’ writing. But as I travelled, I kept finding myself in cool conversations until one day someone said, “you should have recorded that. I’d listen to that podcast.” Excited, but with no clue how much work it would be, I kicked off the Movers Mindset podcast at the start of 2017. For the first dozen episodes I did far too much of the work myself, until I wised up and started finding a few incredible people to share my new passion.

By this point I was devouring anything I could about interviewing. I smashed through thousands of podcast episodes in the process of wondering, “how does everyone else do it?” Podcasts, books, online courses… Everywhere I turned I found something new to work on in my own journey.

In the fall of 2018 I had about 30 interviews published on the podcast. I was getting comfortable travelling by plane, train and automobile, being invited into people’s lives to capture the Movers Mindset interviews. I was invited to the North American Art of Retreat, a Parkour leadership retreat, in the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle. There I did a series of interviews with the event’s presenters and organizers, and handed those recordings off for Art of Retreat to create their own podcast.

When 2019 rolled around, on a whim, I jumped into an Akimbo course called The Podcast Fellowship. I wanted to search for unknown-unknowns, to rethink everything I had done so far, and much about the Movers Mindset podcast changed in this period. To my surprise, I was invited back to be part of a small group of alumni who assist the coaches for the 4th, (and then the 5th, and 6th) running of the course. It’s mind-bogglingly inspiring and energizing to hang out daily with hundreds of people who share your passion. I even tried to summarize the fun of it in The Journey.

Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset episode numbers kept climbing and I’ve been branching out to interview more challenging guests; challenging for me as I’m forced to converse and discuss topics I know less and less about, but which none the less intrigue me endlessly. In the fall of 2019, this time with help from some of the Movers Mindset team, I was invited back to Art of Retreat. There, we did a second series of interviews for Art of Retreat’s podcast. Today (circa 2020) I’ve done over 150 recorded interviews and conversations… and every time I find new things to explore and learn.

I have another fun podcast based on my ever-growing collection of quotes. You can search for “Little Box of Quotes” wherever you normally listen to podcasts, and the related posts here on my blog are tagged, as you might expect, Little Box of Quotes.

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Big changes for 2020

For the past 5 years, I’ve been passionately working on a project called Movers Mindset. I’ve been particular about keeping it separate from “me”—in the sense that I would think, “is this idea something I want to put into Movers Mindset or on my blog?” (It sounds weird, I know—why didn’t you tell me years ago?) This led me to wind up with multiple “outlets”; this blog, public Movers Mindset web site and the Forum. As part of my continued efforts to simplify, we’ve taken down the Movers Mindset public web site.

* We didnt literally turn it off, but it’s just a static page about the project, and it powers the technology to make the podcast work. There’ll be nothing new posted there, and everything that was there will slowly appear in the Forum.

The entire Movers Mindset project grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. The project started late in 2015, under a different name, and it was initially simply a web site that shared others’ writing. The project grew, and in 2017 I started a companion podcast involving a team of people. In 2019 I created the Movers Mindset Forum. I’ve worked extremely hard, but none of this would have been possible without so much help from so many people.

The Movers Mindset Forum

Everything Movers Mindset does, everything we create, all the people who work on the project for fair pay—  Everything is made possible by people who value what we create and support our work by joining the Forum.

If you’re already a Forum member, thank you for your support.

If you do join the forum, you instantly gain access to everything. I hope you will consider supporting our work. To learn more, see  Welcome! Join the Movers Mindset Forum .

A note about “access to everything”: I’ve a tremendous amount of stuff to repost into the Forum. I’ll be chipping away at it, but it will take months as I work through it. If there’s something in particular you’re looking for, let me know.

Podcast

The Movers Mindset podcast is available wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Just search for movers mindset and you should be set. You can also find a listing of the podcast episodes in the Movers Mindset Forum. See the topics tagged “podcast “.

The public topics for each episode have only the show summary. Forum members can see the members-only Podcasts category where everything else is actually posted.

Thank you!

I hope you find my blog, the Forum, or the podcast interesting. Please consider sharing if you do.

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