A Bit on Recording
My major considerations are equipment and technique. I use a Sony minidisc recorder. It offers the best price for the quality of sound, portability, and digital editing. I use the Hi-MD format, which is Sony's "new" minidisc innovation, and I recommend it since it offers a lot of recording time on each disc, has the option to record at levels of very high quality, and has better compatibility and transferability options. (The recordings I've posted on the blog have all been done on the setting for lowest recording quality. For a recording intended for archiving I might use a higher setting, but so far this seems fine for webcasting.) There are always disadvantages, and one consistent problem with the Sony minidisc option has been Sony's proprietary file formats, which have limited file compatibility ensuing from Sony's copywright protection measures. Sony is becoming a bit less big brother than it once was, though, and the new software is supposed to be better.
The microphone is at least as important as the recorder. In fact, I think it is really the key to making a clean and clear recording. An external mic is really essential because otherwise you pick up machine noise. I'm using an electret condenser microphone that is easy to find in any Sony store (there are a lot in the Czech Republic, I don't know about other places in Europe). It cost about 100 USD. This is not fancy by microphone standards, but it works. The advantage of the microphone is that it is very small and (relatively) unobtrusive. A lot of "technique" will differ based on the sort of microphone you use. Condenser mics, even a low-end one like mine, are very sensitive (note windscreen note below) and have to be handled with care lest your recordings sound like distant thunderstorms are forever threatening.
Mic positioning is aso important. To record specific sounds, it's important to get close as close as possible. When I recorded the ticket stamper, for example, the microphone was only inches from the stamper (I used a dummy ticket so I could get the sound more than once). The farther away from the sound source(s) the microphone is, the more you hear other noises.
Windscreens (the little foam bits that cover the end of the microphone) are important. The more sensitive a microphone you use, the more important that little piece of foam becomes. Some microphones have built in windscreens. Here's my tale of woe. When I got my current microphone, I thought, "Hmm. That crappy little piece of foam doesn't do anything!" I promptly lost it when moving out of an apartment. Then a friend told me that it was important. I was skeptical. I tried recording outdoors in a very light breeze, and it sounded like elephants were stampeding over the microphone. This wouldn't have been such a problem except that I can't find a new one in the Czech Republic that fits the microphone. The moral is, keep your windscreen or you may not be able to find an affordable one (new ones can cost more than 30 USD, even though they're just foam; the big poofy ones cost even more).
For editing on computer, I use Audacity, a free program that is great for simple editing. There are fancier options, but Audacity works fine for my purposes. You can read a good article about moving audio from your original recording to the computer here.
Finally, you need a way to play it on the blog. I chose Odeo because they have the embeddable player option. I got the idea from the Global Voices Online podcasts page.
I say all this with longwinded musicologist-geek authority because I learned it the hard way. Graduate school ain't about learning practical skills, it's sink or swim while contemplating the finer points of Schenkerian theory. Which means that there is a lot I don't know, but this is what I have done so far. I suggest the following sites that offer lots of helpful recording information:
If you want to do recordings of specific sound environments in cities or other soundscape type recordings, Quiet American (currently linked from the sidebar) has a lot to say about techniques and equipment. Another helpful site is www.transom.org, a wonderful radio resource with a lot of sound advice (thanks for the tip, IM). Three helpful guides to field recording, equipment, and editing are maintained by Andy Kolovos at the Vermont Folklife Center. Finally, if you use minidisc, or want to know more about it, have a look at minidisc.org.
Tags: recording, audio, soundscapes