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Preventing those Pesky Popping P’s

It seems like every week at least one client asks me about popping p’s.  There appears to be a myth out there that some people are p-poppers and other people aren’t.

Think about it.  Do you ever hear anyone popping p’s in conversation? Of course you don’t.  That should tell you that these mysterious people who are plagued with always popping their p’s are nonexistent.  What it should also tell you is that something external must be the cause.  Look no further than the microphone!

Microphones are delicate instruments, as anyone using one probably knows only too well.  There are lots of times they pick up sounds you wish they wouldn’t like your barking dog or your audible intakes of air every time you breathe.  (Guilty of those?  Check out my video for some help on that.)  It’s also true that the slightest puff of air aimed directly into the mic will cause a popping sound.

P’s are called plosives in phonetics because they require a puff of air to make them correctly.  To see how these are made, CLICK here and SELECT the “Stop” tab and then one of the letters on the left. You’ll see an animation of the production of the sound, “p.”  If you hold your hand in front of your mouth and make a “p” sound, you should feel a puff of air as you say it.  Go ahead.  Try it.  Now imagine that puff hitting the head of a mic dead on.  You’re bound to hear popping, right?

My advice to avoid popping p’s is simple.  Move the mic slightly to the side or above or below your mouth so your air is not projecting right into it.  This will generally fix the problem for good!

For more tips on how to improve your on-air work, take a look at my book, BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK, and mp3’s.  They are loaded with info!

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Timothy September 7, 2010, 5:14 pm

    This is quite instructive

  • Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. September 7, 2010, 5:50 pm

    So many podcasters think popping p’s are a problem of their pronunciation. It is really quite easy to fix!
    Thanks for your comments, Timothy.

  • Jon Buscall September 8, 2010, 1:31 am

    Of course, a good pop filter won’t do any harm either ! 🙂

  • Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. September 8, 2010, 10:05 am

    They can always help, and it’s an inexpensive thing to try. There are times when a pop filter is not available, though, and I like to let people know all the “simple” fixes!

  • Josh October 1, 2014, 12:48 am

    It also works if you hold a finger in front of your lips (like you are shushing someone) while you say your P’s. The finger directs the air to the side instead of into the mic. Obviously this is a lot easier done when you aren’t visibly speaking in front of an audience.

  • Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. October 1, 2014, 10:03 am

    Great tip, Josh! Thanks for sharing it with my readers.

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