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How to Ensure High-Quality Recordings

To ensure the quality of your recordings:

  • The equipment should house a condenser or omni-directional microphone.
  • Conduct the interview in a quiet environment.  Turn off TVs and radios; close doors and windows; try not to sit under a fan or motor; and excuse anyone not being interviewed.
  • Use the AC feature of the recorder.  Plug it in; don’t rely on batteries.
  • Check all the settings on the recorder (such as volume, Dolby, high bias) and conduct a test after the recorder is positioned, but before the first question.  Adjust settings according to the test and retest until it is satisfactory.
  • Do not record using the condensed or slow speed.
  • Do not use voice activation.
  • When using one microphone for two people, place the microphone close to the person being interviewed.
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  • When using a tape instead of a digital recorder:

    • Use only quality, brand-name tapes like Maxell, TDK, Sony.  Never use store brands.


    • Use brand name tapes that are designed for recording the human voice, not tapes with features essential for high-quality recording of music.  These are tapes void of features to pick up especially high or especially low tones.  In other words, don’t use tapes that have features like high bias or Dolby options.

  • If interviewing more than one person, and if you want the individuals identified on the transcript, have each person talk about him or herself (name, profession, connection to your project) for two to three minutes.
  • Try not to speak simultaneously, and avoid interviewing more than one person at a time.
  • Repeat garbled responses using phrases such as “Let me make sure I understood what you said.”
  • Provide notes with the recording.  Include a running list of names, dates, words or phrases that may be hard to hear, old-fashioned, technical, or otherwise difficult words.