The Born Freelancer on how to get a great sounding interview – Part 4

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.


Yesterday I reviewed some basic mic handling tips. Today I share some final general thoughts with you on the mechanics of successfully recording quality sound interviews.



Always, always check a few minutes of playback once you are done your interview. I always ask my subject to wait a moment while checking. I usually playback a few seconds of the beginning then fast forward to the middle and then on to the end. This way you have ensured that you have actually recorded what you think you have recorded. When they still used tape in radio it was common to get to the studio after recording on location only to find out that the [expletive deleted] thing hadn’t recorded properly! You then had to meekly phone the subject back and either lie (and say you needed to urgently follow up on several points) or come clean and profess technical incompetence and ask to do it over again. It’s no different today with hard drives – you want to be sure that the recording actually worked. The only way is to check it yourself before departing.

Don’t rely on the fact it sounded OK in your headphones or looked OK on the screen as it was recording.



Always, always, create a “safety” copy of any raw recordings you make as soon as you can. File that away for safe keeping (ideally make duplicate copies and store on duplicate backup hard drives). That way if anything should go wrong during the editing process, or if you want to go back to the original recording one day to find something you subsequently took out, you won’t be disappointed. Many times I edited my only master copy because I felt it would be OK and later wished that I hadn’t.



Keep all your recording gear in one portable case, ready to go at a moment’s notice. I use an old laptop computer shoulder bag with multiple Velcro’d compartments. My main mics are carefully stored there, as are headphones, appropriate wires and connectors, windscreens, my mini-disc recorder (if I am not using my laptop to record), multiple mini-discs, my telephone interface, extra batteries and so on. Even if I am not using it I check it all thoroughly several times a month to ensure that everything is there and in working order. When a gig comes up suddenly you don’t want to be scrambling for all the bits and pieces. You need it all in one easy-to-find location. It is just a matter of deciding what elements aren’t required for a particular assignment and putting them aside. Although it is better to take too much gear than to not have enough. Despite your most diligent precautions, events can overtake you and you may find yourself needing alternative gear or some piece of kit you didn’t anticipate using.

I always carry extra batteries and a long extension cord just in case. If you need an electrical outlet, it may not be readily available. So you may need the extension cord. But when you find it you may discover that it is “dirty” and creates an annoying AC hum on your recording. Hence the need for extra batteries. You need to try to anticipate any difficulty so that you are not left looking like an amateur or with an unusable recording. Likewise, if you use gear with external recording media, bring extra. A proposed half hour interview might easily go double or triple that time during which any number of aural gems may be captured. You don’t want to shut down a willing subject due to lack of adequate recording media. With laptops and hard drive media this is less of an issue but the principle is still a good one to keep in mind. Bring extras or backups of anything you might need.

So – there are some of my most important tips which have seen (heard?) me through many years of great sounding recorded interviews. There are many more of course… why not share some your favourites with the rest of us using the “comments” feature below?


What sort of microphone do you use to record your interviews?

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Posted on October 4, 2012 at 8:30 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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  1. Written by JP Davidson
    on October 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Great series! Anyone interested in working with audio should check out the Canadian Sound & Story Workshop ( It’s a group for independents working in radio, podcasting, and multimedia.

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