Video Production

How to Stop Mouth Noise: avoiding lip smacks, saliva crackle and mouth clicks

Mouth noise ruins audio. Saliva crackle, mouth clicks, lip smacks - they are easy to avoid or remove once you know how.

Recording vocals in a quiet studio environment is a delicate process, as microphones tend to pick up every little detail of the human voice. Things that we don’t hear when we’re in a conversation with another person are magnified and can become uncomfortable to listen to, especially through good quality headphones. 

Lip smacking, saliva crackling, mouth clicking – in the process of recording, you might not notice these sounds. The trouble is, they often reveal themselves when listening back and treating the audio files afterwards, and by then it can be too late.

In the past you might have had to spend hours re-recording your content. But what if there were a reliable, effective way of removing troublesome mouth sounds in post? Well, with the launch of ERA 5.2 you can find out for yourself, as we have added Mouth De-Clicker as the latest addition to the plugin bundle.  

Mouth De-Clicker is a powerful and easy to use audio rescue plugin that hones in on unwanted mouth noise present in your vocal recordings and removes them. In this article, we’ll go through the full range of mouth sounds that it works on, and give you some helpful tips on how to avoid them in the first place. 

What are mouth noises?

Any unwanted sound that is produced through the act of speaking or singing is referred to as mouth noise. These sounds may be subtle, but an issue arises when they are picked up by the microphone during recording sessions. Nobody wants to hear the sound of saliva played back to them in high resolution audio, so it’s your job to resolve this issue whenever it crops up in your recordings.

It doesn’t matter whether you have the best microphone on the market or the worst, you can expect it to pick up some level of extra detail from your voice. Likewise, the type of content you’re creating won’t be any less impacted by a poor recording, whether it’s podcasts, live streams, vocal tracks or voiceovers. Sure, you can try to obscure unwanted mouth noise with loud background music or sound effects, but these approaches are rarely successful. 

“Mouth noise” is a broad term, and there are a few different types of sounds that fall into this category. Fortunately, most can be completely removed with Mouth De-clicker, saving you a huge headache and a few hours of re-recording. Let’s run through some of the main types of mouth noise that can cause problems in audio recording.   

Mouth clicks

Speaking and singing are both complex processes that require a number of body parts to work in unison, including the lungs, throat, jaws, tongue and lips. It’s the movement of the tongue and jaws which create little saliva bubbles inside the mouth that often pop, creating what are known as “mouth clicks”.

Mouth clicks are also referred to as clicky mouth, dry mouth or mouth noise in voiceover acting circles, and it’s safe to say that they are not looked upon fondly by those in the industry. 

As you might have guessed from the term “dry mouth”, mouth clicks can be caused by being dehydrated, but it’s not because of a lack of saliva in the mouth. What actually happens is that the saliva becomes stickier and less liquid, making it far more likely to make a noise that will be picked up by a microphone.

Lip smacks

Speech production begins in the brain, is fuelled by the lungs and ends with the lips. It’s a complicated journey, carried out in a matter of seconds, and one that humans have been refining over thousands of years of communicating together. Sounds become words through the articulation of our tongue and lips, and it is the latter which often causes problems when recording.

Lip smacks refer to the occasions when the upper and lower lip pull apart or come together to create a slight “smacking” sound. This occurs when the lips are overly moist, so while it’s a good idea to stay hydrated when recording your voice, drinking a bottle of water immediately before recording can sometimes be a bad thing.

Saliva crackle 

If a mouth click is the result of a dry mouth, then saliva crackle is the opposite. As the tongue and lips move in the mouth, excess saliva will too, creating sticky crackling sounds that are hard to listen to. Grossed out? So are we, which is why it is definitely a good idea to remove these sounds from your recordings with the use of a powerful audio repair tool like Mouth De-Clicker. 

Other mouth sounds

Of course, there are any number of noises you can make with your mouth, but the three types mentioned above are the “clicky” sounds that are usually awkward to remove. Other mouth transients that habitually make it into recordings include plosives, esses and sibilance. Think of plosives like hard “stop” sounds that we make using consonants, while esses and sibilance involve an overly audible hissing sound which we can show you how to remove.

Fortunately, the ERA Pro bundle is more than equipped to deal with these annoying sounds. With De-Esser Pro, Plosive Remover and our newest addition, Mouth De-Clicker among a package of 13 powerful audio repair plugins, you will be armed with everything you need to bring your recordings back from the brink.

How do I avoid mouth noise? 

In theory, when it comes to mouth noise, prevention should be the best cure. You won’t have to fix a problem if you don’t make one in the first place, right? 

There are plenty of tips out there on what you should eat, drink and stay away from if you want to avoid clicks, smacks and crackles. The only issue is that it is quite difficult to determine what preventive measure works for each person, as we are all shaped differently and our bodies don’t react in the same way.

A more reliable method might be to invest in some equipment to aid you in your quest for clean vocals. Microphones are often sold in a set these days, with a few accessories included that can make your life easier. Knowledge of proper mic technique, too, will be an effective preventive measure.  

Of course, once the noises are already in the recording the only choice (other than re-recording) is to use audio cleanup tools to rescue the situation. We have put together some guides on how to do exactly that, which you can access here

Let’s look at each of the ways you can avoid mouth noise in your recordings in a bit more detail.

‘Natural’ techniques to avoid mouth clicks

Hydration is a key consideration when recording your voice. Singers are rarely seen in a vocal booth without a bottle of room temperature water in hand, and it is recommended that you take regular sips to keep your vocal cords well hydrated. 

As well as drinking during the recording session it is important to keep on top of your liquids in the run up to it as well, so if you know you will be using your voice in the morning, make sure you hydrate properly the night before.

There are also things that you should stay well clear of. A diuretic is a substance that essentially increases the amount of water loss from your body, and unfortunately quite a number of things that we put into our mouths every day fall into this category. Caffeine and dairy are two of the main offenders, so maybe think twice before downing that cappuccino before your next recording session.

Hardware solutions for preventing mouth clicks

One piece of equipment commonly employed to avoid mouth noise is called a pop filter, essentially a piece of extremely fine netting (think a pair of tights) stretched tight to create a guard. Pop filters are placed a few inches in front of the microphone and work best to deflect plosives. 

They say that the best pop filter is distance from the mic though, and it’s true that good microphone technique contributes to less mouth noise. You’re going to hear more weird sounds from someone speaking directly into your ear than someone speaking to you from the other side of the room, and it’s the same when it comes to recording. 

The further away you are from the mic, the less mouth noise will be picked up, but you will also need to project your voice more as you step away, and you run the risk of recording too much of the room (which can be removed with Reverb Remover, another plugin in the ERA bundle.) 

Positioning the mic slightly to one side instead of dead centre will help. It’s all about getting a balance, so always do a recording test first to hear how you’re sounding. 

Mouth De-Clicker

Sometimes you do all you can to get a clean recording, and it just isn’t enough. What do you do when you pop on your headphones and listen back to the audio, only to find that it’s littered with mouth noise? 

Well, the best thing you can do in that situation is load up Mouth De-Clicker and let the powerful software do its job. With an easy to use single knob interface and dual modes to target the specific type of mouth noise that you’re dealing with, Mouth De-Clicker is truly a rescue remedy for your audio. 

Mouth De-Clicker comes as part of the ERA 5.2 bundle, which you can download here. For an overview of the product and some examples of it being used on audio samples, check out this video.  

Why should I remove mouth noise?

On a bad day, with poor preparation, your audio recordings can end up full of mouth noises. Other times you might get lucky and only have a few moments here and there. Some of you reading this article might have more experience of the latter situation, and wonder why you should remove mouth noise from your recordings at all. 

Of course, you can skip the quality control, or apply a band aid solution to the problem like ramping up background music to distract from the unpleasant noises in the recording. Let’s face it though, you won’t be fooling anyone, and it is unlikely that your content will ever build up an audience if you take this route.  

On a bad day, with poor preparation, your audio recordings can end up full of mouth noises. Other times you might get lucky and only have a few moments here and there. Some of you reading this article might have more experience of the latter situation, and wonder why you should remove mouth noise from your recordings at all. 

Of course, you can skip the quality control, or apply a band aid solution to the problem like ramping up background music to distract from the unpleasant noises in the recording. Let’s face it though, you won’t be fooling anyone, and it is unlikely that your content will ever build up an audience if you take this route.  

- Professionalism 

Think of your favourite podcast; do you find yourself cringing at the constant mouth noise and audio interference while you listen? Most likely you don’t, and this is because in an oversaturated world of online content there is no room for poor quality product. 

We consume content daily, whether it’s a song on Spotify, a vlog on YouTube or a gaming stream on Twitch. As a result, most people have become used to high recording standards, whether they know anything about the technical side or not. 

If you’re serious about your content, you should be committed to quality vocal audio, through the performance of the person speaking or in the way you process the audio afterwards. This means being vigilant towards mouth noise in your recordings. 

Fortunately, you can find plenty of tips on good recording habits to get you off on the right foot.

- Misophonia

Did you know there is a disorder where people have unusually strong, unpleasant reactions to certain sounds? Those who have misophonia are affected emotionally by sounds like breathing, yawning and chewing, to the point where they experience heightened levels of stress and anger.

These types of sounds can be irritating to us all (try sitting in a quiet environment next to someone eating an apple) but misophonia affects people in a much more intense way, and is more common than you might think. 

Be kind to those who experience the disorder, by keeping your vocal recordings free of irritating mouth noise!

So, if you’ve tried every natural and hardware solution there is, and you still end up with lip smacks, saliva crackle and mouth clicks in your recordings, don’t worry. Removing mouth noise has always been tricky, but it just got a whole lot easier with the launch of Mouth De-clicker. 

If you regularly run into these types of audio issues in your recordings, or you’ve recorded something great but weren’t quite as hydrated as you should have been, the best thing you can do is to make use of our ERA 5 bundle. As well as the recent 5.2 update which includes Mouth De-clicker, the bundle also includes other plugins like Voice Deepener, Reverb Remover and many more to help you get the best out of your audio.

Our plans start at only $7.99 per month, or you can test the software to your heart’s content with a 14 day free trial first.

March 15, 2021
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