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How to edit out pops in speech or singing

Microphone pops are an unpleasant side effect of recording. It's best to avoid them in the first place, but what if someone sends you a poppy vocal recording to fix?

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We recently received a vocal recording - just the vocal, no backing - that was perfect in all respects except that it had a few small pops. Pops happen when a blast of air from the mouth strikes the diaphragm of the microphone, normally on 'p' and 'b' sounds. Of course, it is always better to record without pops, either by pointing the microphone at the mouth but not positioned directly in front, or by using a pop screen. It is still possible however that an otherwise perfect take, the best in the session perhaps, still has a few small pops. What can you do?

Zoom in on the pop until it fills around half the screen so that you can see it clearly. If the pop occurs before the actual 'p' or 'b', then you can simply edit it out. Make sure that when the audio resumes, it resumes from a point where the level is zero, otherwise there will be a click. If there is a click, then move the edit point to a zero-crossing, or apply a very short crossfade.

It may be however that the pop is overlaid on top of a sound that you want to keep. Often pops occur only at low frequencies, in which case it may be possible to filter out most of the problem. Select an area about twice the duration of the pop and apply a high-pass filter. Experiment to find the best cut-off frequency and slope. Process the signal, then shift the boundaries of the region so that only the pop is filtered. There may be clicks at the in and out points of this region, so apply very short crossfades to eliminate them.

After you have done all of that, there might still be an audible pop in the soloed vocal. You might be lucky and the backing track covers it. If not, there is another possibility...

There might be a similar syllable somewhere else in the song. If so, you can copy it and paste it over the pop. Once again, apply crossfades if necessary to avoid clicks.

Clearly it is better to record without pops. But the occasional pop here and there is a fact of studio life and it is essential to have the skills necessary to make the best of the situation. Remember also that however perfect and meticulous your recording techniques are, one day you might have to work with someone else's recording that isn't so clean.

By David Mellor Sunday March 10, 2013
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