Your Best Narration is Just a Breath Away


monkeysDo you find yourself meticulously removing every breath in recorded audio like a chimpanzee nit-picking fellow chimps? You may be afflicted.

It starts with difficult breathing brought on by nervousness and stress. It’s recorded as gasping for air or a huge sucking sound.

Common studio remedies include removal or the significant reduction of breath noises. This process can build to neurosis, where beginner to professional voice talent compulsively delete every obnoxious, normal and subtle breath recorded.

If this describes you, you may be suffering from Spiritus Aveho.

Spiritus – The Latin word for “Breath” and defined as: breath, breathing / life / spirit.

Aveho – The Latin word for “Remove” and defined as: to carry away / remove.

This OCD variant troubles many professional voice-talent and producers from beginner to expert.

Well, take a deep breath and relax.  Help is available. With treatment and self-help strategies, you can break free of the unwanted thoughts and irrational urges and take back control of your life and your breath.

Have you ever been asked not to breathe while talking? Have you experienced a conversation where you’ve been asked to repeat what you said, but to do so without taking a breath? Of course you haven’t.

Like conversation, narration is suited well for the inclusion of breath sounds. It’s OK.

Preventive Treatment

Most times, treatment is as easy as becoming familiar with your script and minimizing stress. Taking only a few minutes to prepare the words you’ll be reading with indicators to breathe will make you sound more natural and full of life. And, reduce stress by including deep breathing exercises as part of your daily warm-up routine.

Wake in the morning feeling alive and free to breathe and keep Spiritus Aveho out of your studio.

Killing the Microphone by rawmarius

Not to be confused with other oral noises such as mouth clicks, lip smacks, tongue ticking or spit bubble pops. Tummy noises may also happen during sessions, so make sure to eat ahead of recording, but avoid the foods which cause mouth clicks, ticking, smacks and pops. Staying hydrated and getting enough sleep also helps reduce stress.

Avoid Spiritus Aveho and breathe life into your scripts. Don’t become an unnatural sounding breathless voice-over zombie.


© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn


Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

10 thoughts on “Your Best Narration is Just a Breath Away

  1. Tim Keenan February 17, 2015 / 12:18 pm

    This whole “de-breathing” trend is one of my major pet peeves! Nice post to show that if you get in sync with your script you can make it flow naturally and control some of those out of control breaths – and edit down the bad ones if absolutley necessary. No Need to Sanitize, I say…


    Liked by 1 person

    • J. Christopher Dunn February 17, 2015 / 5:23 pm

      Tim, there’s even a plugin for removing breaths. It’s epidemic! Thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment. 🙂


  2. Mike Harrison February 20, 2015 / 4:28 am

    Whew! What a relief! Some sane thinking. Somewhere along the line, a producer afflicted with Felix Ungar syndrome decided that all breaths should be removed from spoken word recordings. And, like the equally twisted advice of the self-appointed fashionista who says wearing white after Labor Day is a no-no, many of us climbed on-board that wagon and proceeded to needlessly rack up extra editing time and make ourselves crazy in the process.

    I will add that – in many cases – breaths (and other icky noises) become greatly exacerbated by the overuse (aka misuse) of compression and/or being too close to the mic. Natural-sounding speech does not and should not wind up sounding like it’s on the radio. Especially in long-form narration such as eLearning or audiobooks, spoken word that consistently runs at near peak level becomes tiresome to listen to after only a short time, and that’s a good way to turn off your audience.

    The quickest way to learn what good spoken word recordings sound like is to visit and listen to the narration demos (particularly documentary) of some well-known actors. Alternatively, find samples of audiobooks they’ve narrated.

    Natural-sounding speech is such a pleasure to listen to. Thank you, J. Christopher, for helping point the way toward that end.


    • J. Christopher Dunn February 20, 2015 / 7:25 am

      You’re welcome, Mike! And, should be THE goto source when learning what’s current in the sound of VO. It’s inspirational while educational.

      You’re spot on about handling breaths. Most broadcast audio is void of breaths when every second of a :30 or :60 is filled with precious verbiage.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!


  3. Lyrian February 24, 2015 / 10:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Coyote Monster Audio and commented:
    I started out this way, but after 16 chapters of obsession, I eased up a bit. This is nice validation for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • J. Christopher Dunn February 25, 2015 / 10:45 am

      Hey, thanks for stopping by and sharing my blog. Glad it only took 16 chapters for your moment of discovery and not 16 books. 😉


  4. solargrrl April 4, 2015 / 12:31 pm

    This is just what I was looking for! I’ve recently been given some audio files that were anticeptically clean. I could see the breaths on my spectral view in Audition, but couldn’t hear a thing. Even floor noise is at -60dB. May I share your blog? It might be a more fun way of informing the good people, that breaths and some real noise is OK to have in the recording. Thanks!


    • J. Christopher Dunn April 6, 2015 / 9:40 am

      Yes, feel free to share the post. I’m thrilled you feel it’s useful!

      Commercials are word-tight and usually void of any breaths, unless it’s for dramatic effect. Narration should have them intact. Loud, gasping breaths can be reduced easily and a ragged sounding breath can be replaced with one that’s clean.

      Thanks for stopping by and just breathe!


  5. Melanie Fraser July 26, 2015 / 3:34 am

    Great article and oh so true. Personally I leave breaths in most of the time but reduce noisy ones or replace them with room tone for audiobooks. I agree, removing them altogether would sound weird and the script or conversation devoid of emotion.


    • J. Christopher Dunn July 27, 2015 / 12:26 pm

      Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. I think your method is spot on. I was reviewing an audiobook title the the other day and the narrator was listenable but the delivery was missing breaths. It sounded weird. I could hear where the breaths had been gated or manually removed. The edits sounded uneven.


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