Mobile sound recording

The way professionals record sound in a documentary, theatrical show, mobile podcast, vlogging channel, and even a wedding video, is to wire up the “talent” with a hidden lightweight recorder in a pocket or belt that is connected to an itsybitsy microphone discreetly clasped on a coat, shirt, dress, under a hat or in hair. The least expensive ($200) industry standard for this job is the Tascam DR-10L. It runs on a AAA battery for 10 hours. The sound is sterling, studio-quality, dependable. (Audio is recorded separately from video and easily synced later.) I’ve been relying on this small device for interviews and podcasts in the field. — KK

AudioClaudia Dawson
Earphone adapters

For a reason that no longer makes sense, airlines use a headphone jack that has two prongs, one for each ear channel, instead of the standard single ⅛” plug used everywhere else. That means you need a small 1-to-2 adapter if you travel with your own earphones/earbuds. These adapters are tiny, easily lost or left behind. I wanted to replace the several units (extra for companions) that I carry and lost, and could not figure out what they are called to order them. No specification I could think of worked. Eventually I discovered they are called Airline Headphone Adapters. You are welcome. — KK

AudioClaudia Dawson
Figure out what song was playing

Whenever I’m watching TV and a song catches my ear, I often don’t have the chance to ask Siri what it is. Tunefind is great for that, because the next day I can just look up whatever show I was watching and listen to clips of all the songs that were played during that episode. Once I find the song, I can be redirected to listen on Spotify or search for the song on Youtube. — CD

AudioClaudia Dawson
What song is that?

Maybe everyone already knows this, but I just figured out you can ask Siri on your phone to identify music playing in the background. No need to load an app; similar function is built in to Android, too. But further coolness: if you go into the iPhone’s iTunes Store app, tap Menu upper left, then tap Siri, you get a list of all your queries so that, of course, if you want to buy the music, there it is. At least it’s a way to record/remember the new tunes. — KK

AudioClaudia Dawson
Automatic transcripts

When doing interviews, I like to have a transcript of the conversation. This is useful for fans of podcasts, and for journalism. The best transcripts are done by humans, but I can get very cheap, very fast transcripts that are 90-95% accurate done by AI. (Depends on quality of recording and accents.) Temi will give me a transcript for 10 cents per minute of audio ($6/hr), delivered in about an hour turn-around. The Word doc or PDF output will have time stamps on it, making it easy to go back to find the actual audio for correction if needed. The Temi transcript is accurate enough to find key passages; with one listen-through I can quickly clean it up for public consumption. — KK

AudioClaudia Dawson
Ambient music generator

Sleeping Dragon is a generative music application, available for free on Mac and Windows. You adjust sliders, and the software creates a unique piece of never-ending music. I listen to it while I work. If you don’t want to download the software, you can just listen to the calming sounds it generates on its website. — MF

AudioClaudia Dawson
Movie scores

Some of the best music being written these days is for movie soundtracks. Because they usually lack dialog and lyrics, I find movie scores easy to listen to while working. If you want some suggestions to start with, this is a decent list of the best scores since the start of this century. Quite a few of them are available on Spotify. — KK

AudioClaudia Dawson
Best song identifier

I’ve been using the SoundHound smartphone app for years to identify songs, but my 15-year-old told me to switch to Shazam. She’s right, it’s much easier to use the features that I need. My favorite way to use: If I’m in a store or a coffee shop that’s playing unfamiliar music that sounds great, I just press the large button on the screen and it will grab the title and artist of every song and save it for later. I can then easily add the songs to Apple Music (you can also save to Spotify) and save them to my library. — MF

AudioClaudia Dawson
Dirt cheap transcription

VoiceBase takes audio recordings and turns them into text. It also analyzes the text to identify subjects and keywords, and can play back the audio as it highlights the text. It’s not as good as a human transcriber, but it does a decent job and is much cheaper (2 cents a minute compared to $1 a minute for a human).You get $60 in free credit to try it out, too. — MF

AudioClaudia Dawson
Hamilton soundtrack

The broadway hit Hamilton is worth attending in any mode. Tickets are precious and rare, but anyone can download or purchase the musical soundtrack by the original cast. Its super popularity is not just hype: Hamilton is as great as any Shakespeare play. The lyrics are topical, timeless, profound, and linguistically witty. The entire 2.5 hour play is sung, so there are 46 songs, each one memorable. You may have heard that much of it is in rap, with different characters rapping in their own style. It’s an incredible experience just in audio. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve listened to it, but each time I derive more understanding of that period of American history, more appreciation of early American culture, and more heartbreak about the biography of a political icon. And you can sing along! If you eventually are able to get reasonably priced tickets to some version of the performance, my tip is to listen all the way through the album at least twice before you go. This play is so dense with layers, and so packed with powerful language, that your enjoyment will be multiplied by 10 each time you pre-listen. — KK

AudioClaudia Dawson