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Okay. Pardon me if I sound ranty.

I promised myself I would not ask this question, but frankly, I am fed up with it.

I record narration as a main part of my job in sound.

I have recorded possibly over 3,000 hours (final product, edited down) of narration, ADR, overdubs, etc. etc. etc. in my career.

I have still not found how to lessen someone's mouth-noise in the recording.

I have searched and searched and searched for a remedy to this.

I have read Randy Thom's article about it.

Many people's answer is MIC POSITION. This is utter rubbish of advice. I know well that the moment you add that top back on a voice that you lose by going off-axis that those clicks are just clear as day in the recording and have to be edited out, so I know for a FACT that doesn't work. Not to mention the recording sounds horrible in the end because you have a U87 pointed at your ear. Sure, you can even move the mic 4 feet back from the talent, you're going to have one thin recording and a lot of room to battle then - especially if it's supposed to be narration.

Lemon water. This has had mediocre results for me...

I've tried grapefruit juice,

I've tried having the guy suck on lemons,

I've had the guy put vasoline on his teeth,

I've had the guy eat so many green apples he was hypnotized into thinking he was Johnny Appleseed,

I have forbidden the consumption of all coffee,

I have forbidden the consumption of sugar,

I have forbidden the use of honey and other saliva-producing foods,

I have told the guy to drink water - funny, everyone asks the talent to do this when he gets mouthy and IT JUST MAKES HIM MORE MOUTHY, Surprise!! You're just putting more wetness in his mouth!!!!!

I have also tried Izotope RX and I personally think it adds digital artifacts to the recordings and makes the voices sound dull and processed...

I have tried everything I could possibly find on the internet or from other professionals about this and they all have had no avail.

I personally think it's an awareness thing. I think that the talent just has to know what it is and learn for himself how to fix it.

But, what have you used in the past that has actually worked?

Is there a "magic pill" that someone can take and MAGICALLY he has NO mouth noise and won't need ANY editing at all?

I highly doubt it, but I'm working on 20 seconds of narration right now and getting it clean as a whistle and I've spent the last hour on it.

One hour for 20 seconds of voice...

My standards are pretty high for this sort of thing as you can probably tell...

But besides that, what have you found that has worked for you.

Has it ever been a problem with your production and has a project ever been rejected back to you saying "It's got too much mouth noise in it"?

Sorry for ranting but I just don't think 20 seconds an hour is very viable.

Thanks - Ryan

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31 Answers 31

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The only way you're ever going to eliminate mouth noise is with an experienced, professional, voice actor.

The clicks don't eminate from the teeth, and rarely from the lips. They all come from the tongue. That means it's an articulation/enunciation issue. A pro will learn the correct tongue positions that allow them to cleanly pronounce the sounds they want, but it takes years. Even then, you're still gonna have some; but probably not so many that it will take an hour to clean up 20 seconds. That's rough, man. I sympathize with you entirely.

The best thing you can do is educate while you're in the recording session (or maybe right afterwards). Sure, it's not really going to improve your situation that day, but it may pay off in a future session.

The most extreme example I can think to give them is the character Boomhauer on "King of the Hill," voiced by Mike Judge. If you do an impersonation, you'll find that your tongue ends up in a tightly held position, with very little movement. Obviously that's not the delivery most of us will be looking for; but if they can identify the feel of the tongue there, it will at least teach them to be aware of what the tongue is doing (which is probably half of your problem). Then send them home to practice.

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But how do you really feel about this? Haha. I totally get it, it drives me crazy too! As a plus to us, you've compiled some cool tips during your rant. Thanks.

You are talking about those clicks right? I don't think it's the "wetness in the mouth" but rather the dryness. So I find that making them sip on water prior to every take (or when it's a problem) helps a lot. The main thing I noticed is that it happens when the talent is nervous and his/her mouth dries up, so I really put some effort into trying to relax them.

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Ha! No problem Ryan, it's a rant worth having.

Working with on-camera host talent who perform VO for the rest of the show, this is a standard gripe of mine. They're great on-camera, lively, engaging, funny, and interesting. But put them in a room by themselves with a mic in their face and it's clear they've never heard of a diction class let alone taken one. It falls into the same camp of having a $6,000 guitar doesn't make you a better guitarist, a U87 doesn't give you pro VO talent.

Like you, I have a series of tricks to attempt to lessen mouth noise at the recording stage. But regardless of what I do, I find the most reliable way to reduce mouth noise is with the pencil after the recording's done.

It used to make me crazy going through narration trying to clean it all out. It wasted a huge amount of time and, you're right, it sounded too clean. Recently I've turned to ignoring the mouth noise (as much as possible) and putting it off until after I have at least a dialog and music stem together as well. It gives me a bit of perspective on where the mix is headed and how much the mouth noise actually sticks out.

My most recent show had such a small budget and tight turn around with such awful mouthy narration (recorded somewhere else) that I turned to Waves' X-Click and X-Crackle. Using it very lightly, it turned out a passable result. Didn't catch everything, but also didn't sound artificial. I don't know if I'd lean on it when I have the time to draw clicks out, but in a pinch it was very useful.

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Granny smith apples.. One client at the studio swears by em. He does a large amount of narration.

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"Hire" an intern and teach her/him how to draw out all the clicks using Pro Tools' pencil tool.

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Have to say I'm actually pulling back from being overly clinical on the dialog cleanup - it all passes QC etc but after listening back to one show I thought it lacked life or a bit of naturalness because I'd totally overdone it.

As for cutting it out at the recording stage, I've tried most things and some artists really are just 'noisy'. As mentioned above, the good ones know their voice and know retakes are a part of the process. Kids dialog on the other hand are just hard work full-stop ;-)

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Water has not be helpful for me and coffee makes it worse. Some of the talents I use to record will make this noise and some not. Some are not even conscious that they are doing it and some keep trying to hide the gum they were chewing when they came. But most of them will thank any advice that will help them to improve their performance. So my advice is to keep making them aware of this, I´m sure it can be avoided with practice.

If this doesn´t work, nothing makes my mouth drier than brushing my teeth.

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No coffee or milk based drinks. Apple or watermelon helps stop mouth clacks.

Izotopes RX plugin is very good in the spectral mode to remove all the problematic mouth noises

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It can take a very long time. I've done one major dialogue editing project. Izotope RX, like mentioned before is great, just like Waves X-noise.

I used to edit all dialogue in sound forge. Using basic stuff like simply cutting out clicks or editing the click away via the pencil tool. Adobe's audio editor features a nice spectral editor and some nice brushes like the stamp tool etc. Both programs are fast and easy.

Maybe the most important thing with dialogue/VO editing is making good decisions and acting on your instinct. Don't waste too much time on things people will not hear. Also: are you working on headphones? headphones will drive you mad ;)

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I just read a pro VO talent's advice on this: drinking lots of water is the solution but it has to be at least 2 hours before recording to give your body time to thoroughly hydrate.

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Try sucking air into the mouth as if you were using a straw, get them to use as much force as possible. This temporarily dries out the mouth, but you have to make sure that the person is comfortable swallowing their own saliva.

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I have had this problem both in radio and tv. It helps if the actor or VO artist is experienced and is aware of this problem. It is terrible to get a novice in the booth who is totally unfamiliar with working in such an environment. I have had mixed responses from both experienced pros and new comers. What I find, apart from making sure their mouths are not too moist is to get the right distance to the mic after a few rehearsals to assess the actors voice and potential problems. But clicks will always be a hurdle in the process of recording and editing. Mic placement is silly, I don't understand why people say this.

Anyway, good luck with it and if I find anything else, I will file another answer.

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1  
Also when you work with a pro there's never an issue asking for retakes because of mouth noise either in my experience. –  ianjpalmer Jul 28 '10 at 9:53

I am a voice actor and I am aware of this problem because I am also a sound designer and mixer. It is a major problem because that's just how the mouth works. Before I go to a voice recording, I tend to practice some lines from where ever and hear if some of the words become a click, and I take a note of the word and the movement of my tongue for that those letters, strangely, it is different for me everyday. I also only drink water and soda before I go.

I often curse at myself in the booth when I hear it and redo the take. I recently did a 7 hours narration from home and there were some clicks, but I found that there is a click remover in adobe audition that works. It doesn't produce any annoying sounds.

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Voice clicks are a royal pain in the arse!

Artist awareness is the main part imho.

Anyone who is aware that they may have this problem should steer clear of milk and dairy products, sugary foods and drinks, coffee and alcohol before they have sessions. Harsh but fair. If you're a pro athlete, you don't eat an entire cake the day before a race, so, if people want to do their jobs well, then they should look out for it.

We have a sign up in our reception by the coffee pot asking voice artists to think twice as coffee can create voice clicks and therefore cost us engineers time and their (and our) client money cleaning it up.

I agree that it's more to do with the dryness of the mouth and I have found that green apples and also good apple juice help, and you can also get products like Thayers dry mouth spray which I have seen used and working well. Don't just ask your artist to have a sip of water - get them to have a good ole swill around!

It also seems to be worse in some older artists.

I would also like to point out that some artists simply aren't aware as they think that they're 'hearing more' in their cans. If you feel that an artist has a problem, then pull them to one side away from all clients and have a quiet word. Failing that - it might even be worth a call to their agent. Sometimes engineers will tell the client that the voice is really clicky without the voice artist actually knowing - therefore the client may not hire them again as they're deemed 'hard work' meanwhile, the artist is oblivious!

I tend to edit in protools and have become expert in pulling clicks out - a pain in the arse as it is, but I would also like to recommend Adobe Audition as you can program quick-keys as de-clickers.

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Oddly enough, with all this talk of the pencil tool, I'm surprised no one has suggested an actual pencil. I've actually seen some engineers (who I really trust that have several Grammy's on their wall***) have the singers practice with a pencil or pen in their mouth. What it does is it teaches them to enunciate without using their tongue. Stick a pen in your mouth and try speaking for a while. Pay attention to what it does when you try to get things to sound right. It teaches you to speak with your diaphragm, vocal chords, your lips and mouth.

* Not that I trust them because of their honors and awards though. I trust them because they're actually good. These are the types of engineers that can tell if you tuned up with a different guitar tuner the day before.

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I haven't dealt with VO, so my suggestion may be moot, but have them use their stage / outside voice. More projection on the stuff they intend may allow you to record at a lower volume, and reduce the clicks.

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I have only recorded Voiceovers a handful of times. One actor used a apple to help with his performances in addition to drinking water occasionally.

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One more very useful tool for editing I did not see mentioned here before is the Click and Crackle Remover plugin included in Sony SoundForge versions 9 and up. I've edited a hell of a lot of dialogue lines for games, and even though most clicks you can work out quickly by hand (as the waveform display in Sound Forge is very accurate for this sort of work), there's always some you just can't get rid of and drive you up the wall.

I've mapped the Click and Crackle Remover plugin to a shortcut key so when I press it the plugin window pops up, I quickly adjust the sliders/settings (or not) and hopla, job done. Works like a charm - big headache saver!

But yes - I do agree: it's also important to see your lines of dialogue within a larger context, and to not obsess over clicks. I've always felt I'm mainly taking out clicks for myself... and other audio people perhaps :)

Sorry - I have not enough experience with actually recording VO to give tips on how to prevent clicks in the recording stage, although I've been told once that giving an actor Listerine or similar mouthwash should help... No idea if that's true though!

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I have two sugestions. First try using a click removal tool that is usually used for cleaning up vinyl records. It will identify and remove sounds with fast transients such as tongue clicks, and leave other sounds with slower transients. Also try a different mic. You don't have to record everything with a U87 (which has an enhanced HF peak - right at the click frequency) A mic wth a less pronounced HF will sound fine - it will just sound like the mic was a little further away (as air absorbs high frequencies more than mids).

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I just found this thread after recording about an hour of voiceover and driving myself crazy trying to reduce my clicks. I do a lot of narration that then gets sent to a producer for cleanup and final production. But it's annoying and embarrassing to send out a file filled with clicks! So I end up doing a fair amount of manual cleanup before i send it out. I've tried several filters in Audacity,but so far, no magic bullet.

I do find that the granny smith apple idea works pretty well, at least for a few minutes into recording. But the discussion about better articulation is interesting. I've found that the more I articulate, the more clicks I hear. Perhaps because the tongue is working hard to be clear, and that can cause some freezing up or something. But I'll play with that further.

I also find that if I can humidify my studio before I start, that helps a lot, too -- just using a room humidifer. Obviously can't leave it on for recording, so the usefulness is limited. But that also reminds me that this problem seems worse in the dry winter months.

Thanks for all the ideas! MT

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Pencil tool, null point editing and high pass filters. There isn't such thing as a mouth noise, wind or p-pop that can't be cleaned with skill.

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X-Click and x-crackle work wonders. They rarely get rid of the entire click, but they do a lot to soften it to where it's no longer much of an issue. Perfect if you doing hours worth of VO.

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Like some have said X-Click/Crackle works wonders. I personally love WaveArts restoration package as its low cpu usage.

However, each VO artist is different.

However as you're opposed to practical advice, I can only say what has worked good for me.
Use a boom mic and point it at the persons chest / diaphram. This should eliminate MOST of the mouth noises while retaining the majority of the clarity of sound.

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I have never had mouth click problems when I was using tape and really working close to the mic. If they were there I never heard them. This clicking thing is amplified in the digital format and you can see the clicks very clearly when looking at the wave file. I wind up lowering the volume on the clicks or deleting them unless the noise is over speech and then you can't do anything but re-do. I've tried working farther away from the mic and even talking across it and still those clicks appear. It was recommended that I buy a compressor and run my mic through it. The various settings will squash any clicks for a smooth voice track. Any and all comments welcome. It's the only way we're gonna find out what really does the trick.

Ed edwardto@shente.net

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Even I am not as experienced with VO recordings as some of You are, I would say: try a different recording chain. A ribbon mic with a different preamp.

And any drink without sugar.

That helped me quite some time.

BTW, this site is sooo great.´was living under a stone for Not finding it earlier.

Good luck!

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I had a very famous Danish director in the studio once, who took some anti-depressive medication which made his mouth dry out and make a lot of clicks.

I was prepared and asked around on the internet and the answer was to make him eat apples.

It worked!

We had two sessions of voice over for a feature film, and the click noises were greatly reduced by the apples...

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I want to thank you for this posting which I found in my desperate search for HELP!!! I am a novice audiobook narrator and, as such, must also act as my own audio "engineer." I'm finding my biggest hurdle is my own biology, specifically in the nasal and oral cavities -- not to go into too much gory detail. The editing of my pieces has been tortuous, to the point of making me question why I'm entering this field. I've tried all the "potions" and suggestions regarding eating and drinking and nothing seemed to work. The comments here regarding elocution lessons got me thinking about what's actually going on in the oral cavity, with the structures interacting in a viscous environment. Since attempts at adjusting the viscosity have failed, I figured maybe I should reduce the mechanical interactions when speaking as much as possible through control over the movements within, by keeping the inner cheeks close to the teeth, with only as much tongue and mouth movement as necessary. It takes some practice, but my initial results are very promising! Vocal instructors may take issue with this, but I am so aware of the agony you engineers are experiencing, that this is a direction that I really want to explore to the fullest. It's my job to make the raw product as easy for you as possible. Thanks!

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wow Utopia you really tried them all but i do understand your frustration, i personally deal with this issue everyday and i haven't found a magic solution yet however here what we do:

  • educate the talent ( we have many pro voice actors but also non pro and by explaining them the issue makes them more clicks aware when speaking as a result we get better takes, even with people who have piercing on their tongue and believe me those guys can sound like alva noto music when speaking)

  • i may be totally wrong here but we noticed that using those spongy pop filter/wind shield and positioning the mic not right in front of their mouth attenuate those sounds, there are still there but not so prominent

  • we simple use water and apple ice tea or juice, but ask them to swallow more often to keep their mouth neither too wet nor too dry, i think with the apple or anything containing apple i got the best result.

  • lastly... well, we actually clean the mouth clicks by hand using spectral frequency view, which is very time consuming.

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Clicking often comes from the palette at the top of the mouth, so I usually find that tilting the mic at a downwards angle helps reduce it. This doesn't eliminate the clicks completely but does noticeably reduce it.

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Jrock, mouth noise can be easily removed by zooming into the waveform at the sample level - i.e. the highest zoom your DAW can manage. It will look spiky at the top as opposed to the usual rounded off waveform of regular audio. The important thing to do is to remove it at the start and end of the cycle or cycles if it's more than one revolution long. Always cut at the zero crossing and do a tiny crossfade if need be. But, if you cut at the zero crossings, most times you won't even need to crossfade the edit.

The easiest way to find the mouth noise is to scrub across the audio. You'll hear the regular audio as low end-ey and warm, the mouth noise will sound like a click or tick. Zoom in and look for the few cycles of the waveform that don't look like the rest of it, this is your mouth noise. I work in audiobooks and music too and you can completely remove 100% of mouth noise without it being noticeable, tedious as hell but do-able

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