Reduced heart rate. Increased skin conductance. The possibility of “aesthetic chills.” If you don’t think that sound alone can produce these physiological responses, think again. Studies show that there’s more to ASMR than a mere placebo effect.
What does ASMR stand for? It refers to the autonomous sensory meridian response. And ASMR is a legitimate industry now, having grown into one of the biggest trends on YouTube.
It’s also easy to create, which is great if you want to build an ASMR audience of your own. You can help people relax and reduce their stress levels with the right equipment and a little know-how. Here’s how you can build your own YouTube ASMR following through the power of sound alone.
What Is ASMR Anyway?
It’s one of the biggest trends on YouTube. And if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can look…a little strange. You’ll see YouTube stars breathing through cardboard tubes. Scratching the lens with their fingernails. Lighting candles and whispering into high-sensitivity microphones.
What exactly is happening?
From a distance, it might not make sense how the digital equivalent of someone whispering in your ear can evoke such a powerful response. Fortunately, there’s real science behind what’s going on that can help anyone understand the benefits.
What ASMR Stands For: An ASMR Definition
At a glance, the basic ASMR meaning is simple. It’s the physical response we get from vivid auditory stimuli.
Scientifically, this consists of what studies call the “tingling sensations in the crown of the head, in response to a range of audio-visual triggers such as whispering, tapping, and hand movements.”
ASMR enthusiasts are looking for those goosebump-inducing moments that trigger a relaxation response. Although many people describe a tingling starting at the top of the head, others describe a relaxation that works its way down the spine and out to the limbs. The result is a completely different experience than most of us normally get from the Internet: We chill out.
How Does ASMR Work?
Craig Richard, author of Brain Tingles, once described the experience of coming home from school and watching Bob Ross videos:
He would turn my brain to fuzz—this enjoyable, relaxing fuzziness.
Although not an ASMR artist explicitly, Bob Ross’ relaxing painting videos struck a powerful chord that lingers to this day. People enjoy his soft, consistent voice, the relative quiet of his painting videos, and the soothing sounds of paintbrushes swishing against the canvas.
Although studies like “More Than a Feeling” have identified a “pleasant” response among those who profess to already enjoy ASMR, the direct connections between specific ASMR sounds and individual responses aren’t precisely clear. It may come down to personal taste, with ASMR serving as a form of guided meditation. That makes sense. Is it really so strange that soothing, relaxing sounds produce soothing, relaxing feelings in a YouTube audience?
Why People Seek Out an ASMR Video
There are different reasons why someone might want to plug in their headphones and listen to someone speak or make soothing noises. But some of the most popular YouTube videos cater to something that affects up to 30% of American adults: insomnia.
Using ASMR to Sleep
The primary causes of difficulty falling asleep are anxiety, depression, breathing-related problems, restless legs, and nighttime reflux. Although some of these issues have physiological roots, there is undoubtedly a mental aspect to falling asleep that some people struggle with. And ASMR sometimes provides the solution.
According to the Sleep Association, “Since ASMR causes feelings of calmness and sleepiness, it has actually been known to help people sleep, even in people with occasional insomnia.” They point to a study that found 82% of ASMR users employed it to help them sleep, while 70% used ASMR to help deal with stress.
That’s created a veritable industry of videos on YouTube intended to help guide people into sleep. You can find videos of just about any sound you can think of—from rain pattering against a window to the hum of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s engines from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Given how many people use these YouTube videos for relaxation and falling asleep, it means there’s demand for ASMR built right in. And the next question becomes: How can you produce, rather than simply enjoy, your own ASMR videos?
Begin Your YouTube ASMR Journey
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How to Make ASMR Videos of Your Own
YouTube is undeniably a visual medium, but ASMR turns that on its head. Is it a good idea to use proper video equipment for your first YouTube video? Of course. But in ASMR, the auditory experience comes first. Here’s what you’ll need to produce ASMR videos that compete with the best sound experiences on YouTube.
Using the Right ASMR Microphone
There isn’t explicitly an ASMR microphone—but you’ll find that there are different types of microphones that best lend themselves to the whispering and in-your-ear sounds we associate with ASMR.
Remember: Common ASMR triggers include low voices, tapping on hard surfaces, or ordinary tasks like a wet shave. This requires sensitive microphones that can pick up on the little details that make your recording sound like real life.
One of the most popular “budget” ASMR microphones is the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. But keep in mind that this is not a binaural ASMR microphone.
What Is a Binaural Microphone?
As you might guess from the bi- prefix, a binaural microphone features two points of sound recording to mimic the experience of giving sound to something with two ears. In fact, many binaural microphones are often in the shapes of ears, which gives ASMR artists an easy reference point for creating realistic whispering videos.
With two distinct audio channels, you can easily record ASMR corresponding with our experience as binaural beings. This 3Dio “Free Space” Binaural Microphone is a good example of what you can expect to see. While you can create a “two-ear” effect in post-production, binaural microphones make it easy to record it all at once.
ASMR Tools for Recording and Editing
Speaking of post-production, what exactly can you use to replicate professional-level audio recordings once you’ve hit “stop”? What about the other ASMR tools besides microphones for getting your YouTube ASMR channel up and running?
- Post-production software: Audacity is your best bet here. This free, open-source audio production program helps you compress, normalize, and isolate your tracks. You can take an ordinary, static recording through an everyday USB microphone and turn it into something that sounds much more like sophisticated ASMR with this tool alone.
- Physical ASMR equipment: Your camera is there to pick up any props you might use as well. This depends on what kind of ASMR you’re producing. Recreating “wet shave” sounds? You’ll need a brush, a soap dish, and something safe to draw a safety razor across. Think of yourself as a foley artist, a sound technician who recreates many of the physical sounds in movies. But since YouTube is a visual medium, most of your subscribers will want to see the physical representation of your sound at the same time, confirming its authenticity.
- Stock sounds: Sometimes you might create “ASMR” of a more gentle type: consistent rain-on-window sounds for falling asleep, for instance. In that case, you can download and edit your own audio tracks using royalty-free sites like Orange Free Sounds. To build corresponding videos, you can use software like Adobe After Effects.
Dealing With YouTube Sound Search
To succeed on YouTube, you’ll need to know a few things about making your videos visible. Or, in this case, audible.
YouTube does have sound search features, but these typically apply to humming to help a user find a song. With ASMR, you’ll have to do a certain amount of YouTube SEO—which stands for search engine optimization—to ensure your video gets the appropriate attention.
For starters, do some research on the competition. What sorts of keywords are popular within the type of ASMR you want to do? Visit a competitor’s channel and sort by most popular videos. Do you notice any trends you can isolate? This can help you create a roadmap for building your own ASMR content library. Remember, you’re now a content creator and your job is to put your finger on what people are looking for as you grow your YouTube channel.
You should also take time to tag and properly label your videos, which you can do as you’re uploading your video to YouTube. Make sure that both your video title and the video tags include your target keyword and plenty of associated keywords. Fill in the video description with the same.
Finally, download a browser add-on like TubeBuddy. This will give your browser the capacity to see not only what keywords other videos are targeting, but to more easily incorporate them into your own uploads. TubeBuddy will also give you an “SEO score” once you’ve uploaded your video, with specific tips on further optimization.
Produce Your First YouTube ASMR Videos
Although ASMR is popular on TikTok as well, YouTube is a natural home for ASMR. It’s a platform built for longer, steadier videos.
Remember that your ASMR videos are always going to be more than sound. The sound is the main attraction, true, but you also need to attract new viewers with enticing thumbnails, appropriate lighting, and a video experience consistent with your audio recording.
Put it all together and you might just activate someone’s autonomous sensory meridian response. Once you’ve done that, it’s only a matter of time until you’ve built a successful following.
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