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Mouth noises in speech - should they be edited out

You are recording some speech but your voice artist makes lip smacks, clicks and other unwanted mouth noises. Should you edit them out?

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Mouth noises are a fact of life, but they don't seem to trouble us in everyday real-life interactions. When someone talks, we hear speech, and ignore the smacks, clicks and other rather sloppy sounds that the human mouth can produce.

Put a microphone in front of someone speaking and it's a different story. Sometimes the mouth noises are so bad it's hard to concentrate on what the person is saying.

The problem is that in natural speech, or when the microphone is at a reasonable distance from the mouth (more than 60 cm or so), then mouth noises tend not to be noticeable.

But if you move the mic closer for a warmer sound, or simply to combat any unwanted background noise lurking in the studio, then mouth noises can become obvious, distracting, or even repellent.

Other than moving the mic away a little, there are three ways to reduce mouth noises...

  1. Use a voice artist who naturally, or through training and practice, doesn't produce them.
  2. Suggest tactfully to your voice talent that they might take care not to produce such noises.
  3. Edit them out.

Considering the third option, if you have recorded a 500-page audio book you potentially have an incredibly tedious and time-consuming task on your hands. The chances are that it will not be economically feasible to edit out all of the mouth noises.

What you might do is edit out the worst noises (which you might with foresight have marked during the recording sessions) and declare yourself satisfied with that.

If you were a little sneaky then you could do your best editing in the first five minutes or so, then let the mouth noises creep in. A listener would then have time to become accustomed to them.

But here is a passage of speech from which any mouth noises would definitely have to be edited out, to perfection...

"Space, the final frontier..."

Thank you to Star Trek for that.

If you have a passage of speech that is short, and as important as this, then definitely you should edit out the mouth noises. In other audio, you might just have to accept that mouth noises are part of being human.

P.S. Prompted by Glen Stockton - see comment below - and respect for James T., we have sourced a better quality version of the audio, directly from the blu-ray release.

By David Mellor Thursday May 3, 2012
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