Skype ($0) and Piezo ($15) are a powerful combination for recording high-quality interviews on a Mac. This tutorial will show you how to get the best sound possible from this cheap and easy setup. Most of the instructions are the same for Windows users too – but they should try MP3 Skype Recorder ($0) or Total Recorder ($18) to make their recordings.
Note: The process is the same whether your interviewee is also on Skype, or if you’re calling their phone via SkypeOut (you’ll need Skype credits for this though). If you’re calling a phone, try to get your interviewee on a land-line, and don’t use a speakerphone.
- Find a quiet space: Less background noise = better sounding audio. Find a quiet, non-echoey space to do your recording. Turn off cellphones, close windows, unplug the fridge, take off jingly jewelry etc… [update: silence Skype’s notification sounds by changing your status to “do not disturb” for the duration of the interview]. It’s a good idea to ask your interviewee to find a quiet spot beforehand too.
- Conserve bandwidth: To avoid audio hiccups, close any non-essential bandwidth-using applications. A web browser is fine, but downloading a movie or performing an online backup could cause problems. For this reason it’s also ideal to turn off the video component of Skype for the duration of the interview (it can be on when you initially connect and say hi though).
- Headphones: Wear headphones or a headset to prevent your interviewee’s voice from picking up on your microphone. Ask your interviewee to do the same if possible.
- Microphone: If you’re using a headset with a boom mic, place it near your mouth, but aligned such that you’re not breathing on it. It should be a couple of inches away from your mouth, either just to the side of it, or just below it. If you’re using a separate external mic, use a stand or a stack of books to get it up near your mouth. Avoid using your laptop’s internal microphone. You can use an iPhone headset, but it won’t sound as good as an external mic or a boom headset.
- Open Skype
- At the top of the screen, click “Skype” > “Preferences” > “Audio/Video”
- Make sure “Microphone” is set to your external mic or headset
- Make sure “Speakers” is set to your headphones or headset
- Leave “automatically adjust” checked
- Click “save”
- Open Piezo
- Select “Skype” from the source list.
- Piezo might have to relaunch now, that’s ok.
- Click the gear the icon
- Type a name for the recording (I usually use the interviewee’s name and the date)
- Under quality, choose “Music (high quality)”
- Press the red record button to start/stop recording (you can start it well before you make your call)
- Make a test call: I make a quick test call before every Skype interview. Hit record on Piezo before doing this. Add Skype name “echo123” to your contacts and call it, it’ll ask you to speak and play back what you said. Try saying something like “Peter piper” to ensure you’re not popping Ps. Also leave a little silence so you can hear the background.
- Check the recording: Stop Piezo recording and click the magnifying glass to show the file you just recorded. Play it to make sure it sounds ok. Adjust your setup if anything sounds bad.
- Make sure you’re recording! Hit that red button! (I’ve realized I’m not recording halfway through an interview, ugh, you only make that mistake once…) You’ll know it’s recording when you see the timer running.
- Call the interviewee
- Check sound quality & make adjustments: Chatting with the interviewee before the formal interview starts can help you identify sound issues and address them. Sometimes asking them to shut a door or scoot up closer to their computer/microphone can help a lot. If they have a headset or an external mic, using it would be best.
- Interview away!
- Periodically glance at Piezo to make sure the timer is still running.
- When you’re done, press the red button again to stop recording.
- The magnifying glass icon will reveal the file you just recorded