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Why Voice Actors Cringe at the Word ‘Click’

I have a few friends who are incredibly annoyed by the sound other people make when they’re chewing. I know even more people who don’t like the sounds people make with their mouths while eating and drinking at a movie theater. But I was never aware of — and have never been more annoyed by – the sound my own mouth makes (more often than not) when I’m speaking into microphone.

I’m talking about the dreaded mouth click. When you’re having an average conversation with the person sitting next to or across from you, you probably would never notice it. However, if you’re wearing professional headphones in a sound treated room, mouth clicks in an audio recording can sound like the noise a roller coaster makes when climbing up that first hill.  Clackety- Clackety- Clackety- Clackety- Clackety- Clackety- CLACK…  Needless to say, a potential client may be distracted by too many clicks in your auditions, and an actual client probably won’t be thrilled by them in a finished audio file. 

 So, what causes these little clicks and snap-crackle-pops? Long story short, it’s the sound of tiny bubbles of saliva in your mouth popping. For me, those pops mostly happen in the space between my gums and my cheeks, as well as underneath my tongue. However, the little bubbles can pop anywhere in your mouth where you have saliva sandwiched between flesh. You’re also going to hear many more of them when you’re dehydrated, or after drinking a diuretic, like coffee or soda.

If you have them, how do you get rid of them? There are two basic ways. The first is at the source, which is your mouth. I’ve seen dozens of Facebook posts with dozens of recommendations on how to reduce mouth noises at the source. The most common is, simply, to stay hydrated. This works for a lot of people. However, for me as a wheelchair user, it doesn’t. I’m chronically dehydrated because it’s a real pain to use the toilet as it is. Having to go every two hours because I’m chugging water? Not really an option.

Other people swear by the throat lozenges, a tea called ThroatCoat, and biting into Granny Smith (green) apples. This is because they’re tart and make your mouth water, which keeps it hydrated. My personal solution is drinking very tart lemon water in sips, which I swish all around my mouth before swallowing and right before hitting the record button. I also make really extreme faces and stretch out every single side of my mouth to pop any remaining saliva bubbles.

The second way to combat the dreaded mouth click is to just edit them out of your audio, either manually, using a filter, or combination of both. One of the first things I installed with both Audacity (my first DAW) and Adobe Audition (my current DAW) was a de-clicker plugin.  I learned pretty quickly that you get what you pay for when it comes to de-clickers. I recently bought the Izotope de-clicker in their RX7 Elements package (on sale), and it’s really phenomenal. However, I’m planning on getting the more robust mouth de-clicker when the standard package goes on sale.

Keep in mind that too much of a de-clicker can be a bad thing. The RX7 de-clicker lets you change the settings for how much click it actually takes out, for lack of a better phrase. If you set it too high, it will also remove favorable parts of your speaking voice along with the clicks. This could introduce some ugly sounding artifacts into your recording, and I can tell you this from personal experience.

When the plugin doesn’t get out all the clicks, then you have to get your hands dirty and go into the waveform – and if you’re feeling brave, into the spectral view. I’ll be the first one to admit that when I switched over from Audacity to Audition, I was freaked out by the spectral view. However, if you want to get serious about removing clicks from your audio, need to get familiar with how to take them out in both the waveform and the spectral view. YouTube is a godsend for this! And so is the auto-healing tool in Audition, by the way. Whatever DAW you’re using, find out first if it has a fixing or healing tool, because you will be using the hell out of it for clicks.

What a mouth click looks like in both waveform and spectral view.

I participated in a really great session by J. Michael Collins during the recent One Voice Conference where he talked about editing auditions before submission. He emphasized that you don’t have to get them 100% perfect because probably 90% of people listening to them won’t hear the noises that you hear. It was such a relief to know this because I’m a perfectionist, and I’m spending way too much time editing out clicks. It really lengthens my workflow, wasting time that I could be recording instead of editing.

 Good luck and godspeed in your own personal battle with the click monster! And please let me know in the comments if you have any solutions, whether for the source (mouth) or for editing, that really work for you in getting rid of clicks.

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