21 Podcast Recording Tips For Polished Episodes

21 Podcast Recording Tips For Polished Episodes
21 Podcast Recording Tips For Polished Episodes

Jul 23 2019 | 00:14:15

Episode 0 July 23, 2019 00:14:15

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Recording great audio takes some practice, but you can skip a lot of the trial-and-error with these podcast recording tips. No amount of editing will make terrible source audio sound great so practice these to-the-point strategies to capture clean podcast recordings from the start.

The Top Podcast Recording Tips

Great podcast recordings come down to the host’s ability to produce the right sound. These tips are all about creating the perfect recording environment and actionable techniques you can put to use every time you sit down to create an episode.

1. Use the right equipment

You can record a podcast with your laptop’s microphone, but we don’t recommend it. You’ll need a few pieces of podcast equipment to record professional and clear audio. This is the easiest of all our podcast recording tips and it has the biggest impact on your audio quality.

2. Don’t forget to warm up

To state the obvious, recording a podcast episodes requires a bit of talking. Rather than going into your session cold, warm up your mouth and vocal cords by practicing your script or saying a few tongue twisters. Properly warming up will improve your dictation and keep you from stumbling over words. There’s nothing better than delivering your points flawlessly the first time around.

3. Record in a small, quiet room

Record episodes in the smallest and quietest room possible to reduce outside noise and echoes. Shut your windows and doors, turn off any machines or devices that make a constant noise, and put your pets somewhere they won’t disturb you for a couple hours. Fill your recording environment with soft items (couches, pillows, carpet, etc.) that absorb sound to muffle any errant noises. 

4. Create a brief noise profile

Pause for four or five seconds at the beginning of your recording to create a noise profile. Stay absolutely silent and eliminate all environmental noise. You can use this moment of silence during editing to identify and remove any background noise by following The Audacity To Podcast’s tutorial on removing noise using Audacity.

5. Adopt proper microphone techniques

First, place your microphone at the same height as your mouth. Then sit a few inches back and have the pop filter between your mouth and the mic. Next, focus on your mouth’s distance from the microphone setup and adjust your body for the desired volume level. Remember, the closer you are the mic, the louder your voice will sound. While you can alter your voice’s volume level during post-production to keep it consistent, reduce your editing time by keeping your mouth the same distance from the mic while recording.

Having the right microphone isn’t enough, you have to know how to use it. Watch our Podcast Like A Pro video tutorial on how to achieve the perfect mic technique!

6. Watch your volume levels

As you keep your microphone distance consistent, you can monitor the volume levels while you record. Most recording softwares display your levels as a scale from green, yellow, to red. Keep your volume in the green section for your normal conversational tone and yellow sections when you need to add emphasis. Stay out of the red section or your sound will be distorted. 

7. Watch your breath

We all need to breathe but controlling the sound of your inhales and exhales will stop any big gusts of wind from sneaking into your recording. For quieter inhales, sit up straight, try taking smaller breaths, or completely move your mouth away from the mic when you need to take a big breath.

8. Keep your body still

Moving your body around creates background noise while recording. This happens a lot if you use earbud headphones. The wire lays close to your chest which causes the microphone to rub against your shirt and collar. Try to stay still in your chair with your feet planted. Avoid moving things around on your desk. If you print your notes on paper, move them around as silently as possible too. 

9. Resolve sound issues early

Make a test recording before you officially start to dive into your episode. If there’s a problem with your guest’s microphone or you can hear construction crew outside, don’t try to power through. Identify and resolve audio issues from the start or even wait to record. The worst case scenario is recording a full episode only to find there’s a larger issue you can’t fix in editing.

10. Record with headphones (your guest too)

While it’s possible to record a podcast episode without headphones, you’ll probably catch a lot of audio feedback. Have everyone wear headphones so you don’t have to waste precious editing hours cleaning it up.

While set of earbud headphones will do, we recommend ones that fully cover the ears. Our favorite pair is from Sony.

Sony MDR7506 Headphones

Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones

11. Stay quiet while your guests speak

It’s tempting to drop in simple phrases like “yes” and “right” and “okay” while your guests speak. Those are natural parts of language that we use without realizing, but they can distract your listeners. Yes, you can remove them during editing, but that’s a lot of unnecessary work. It’s easier to train yourself to limit interjections and allow your guest or co-host to complete their thought.

12. Leave audio cues for mistakes

Mistakes happen. They aren’t stuck in your episode forever because you aren’t performing live. Slicing out mistakes is basic podcast editing, but you need to give yourself a cue to find them in the track. 

Fortunately, there are a few ways to do this. You can add a spoken marker where you say “remove the story about the pizza restaurant.” Then give a few second pause and keep going. During editing, find those pauses, and remove the mistakes. Another option is a high-pitch sound marker, like a dog clicker, that will produce a spike in the volume level. Click it a few times after the mistake occurs then find the spikes when editing.

13. Mute when you aren’t speaking

Save yourself some editing work by muting your microphone when your co-host or guest is speaking. This way you won’t pick up their voice in your microphone and it’s less noise that you’ll have to remove later.

Pro Tip: Every podcaster needs a background noise cancellation tool in their toolbox. Use Krisp to have high quality podcasting experience without background noise and echo. Krisp automatically removes background noises as you’re recording your podcasts or video interviews.

14. Use production elements sparingly

Sound effects have their place. They can add life and uniqueness to your show. But they can also distract and cheapen used them too often. Use sound effects only when the content calls for it and stick to effects that match your brand.

15. Stay hydrated

Drink at least eight ounces of water before you record. This will settle your stomach, loosen your mouth, and help your focus. It’ll also reduce any mouth clicks, the natural clicking and popping noises we make as our mouths dry.

Our stance is it’s better to drink more water and pause to use the bathroom once or twice than suffer the effects of dehydration. 

16. Record a separate channel for each person

If you have multiple people speaking on your show, record each on their own channel. This will give you control over their individual volumes and noise profiles during editing.

You can have each person record themselves on their own computer (sometimes called a “double ender”) or use recording software with a multi-track recording feature.

If you use Zoom to record remote interviews, check out the video tutorial on how to record separate channels:

17. Record under a blanket

If you’re stuck in a noisy environment, an easy way to eliminate background noise is to drape a blanket over you and your microphone. It’s a crude technique, but it works. This is useful if you’re forced to record in a busy hotel, your car, or apartment building. 

18. Don’t be afraid to take a break

Try breaking your show into segments with logical places for you to take a break. It’s perfect time double check the audio for any issues, grab more water, and stretch to stay loose for your entire recording session.  

Breaks are also good opportunities to discuss what’s next with your co-host or guest. You can plan your conversation, review notes, and even rehearse. 

19. Maximize your internet bandwidth

If you’re conducting an interview or conversation over the internet, it’s vital that you boost your connection as much as possible. This will improve the quality of the audio your recording software captures. 

How do you increase your bandwidth? Well, other than upgrading with your internet provider, all you can do is plug directly into your router (instead of connecting wirelessly) and close any application that uses the web that you don’t absolutely need. 

Make sure to instruct your guests to sit in a place with a strong connection and plug directly into their router if possible too. 

Run a speed test for your internet connection to check the bandwidth using this free resource. Generally, a good internet speed is at or above 25 Mbps.

20. Trust your ears and take notes

The bottom line is trust your ears and don’t over think it. Although just about everyone hates the sound of their own voice initially, it’s important to listen to everything you record. When you playback the audio files, follow your instincts when something sounds off. As you produce more episodes and start liking the final cut, take notes of the recording setup and work to mimic it each time you get behind the mic.

21. Don’t forget about the content

The cleanest, most professional sounding recording is all for nothing it doesn’t contain engaging content. In addition to focusing on your technique, don’t forget to spend time on understanding what makes a podcast episode interesting. While an unpolished recording can turn off new listeners, a podcast that isn’t compelling will deter even the most loyal fan.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Hello, and welcome back to the audience podcast. I'm your host Craig Hewitt from Casos. I hope everyone out there is doing well and staying safe and relatively sane in these trying times. I know this is a difficult time for many of us with the COVID pandemic, continuing and in some places getting worse. Uh, I do hope that everybody out there is staying safe and healthy and is prospering as much as we can. In these times, a question we get asked a lot about both in our cast dos productions and our podcast motor brand is how to optimize the sound that people are recording, how to record great sounding audio every time and how to do it without really kind of breaking the bank or kind of breaking ourselves emotionally. Because a lot of us look at recording podcast content as a difficult thing to do, and while it certainly can be, it doesn't have to be. And so in the sub soda, we're gonna walk through a bunch of tips about how to record great sounding audio consistently and easily. All right, so let's dive in Speaker 1 00:01:09 The first one should be pretty self evident and it is to have the right equipment. Uh, we have a whole blog post that we'll link to in the show notes for this episode that goes through the equipment that we recommend and that we use, but suffice it to say, you need a good podcasting microphone. You need a pop filter or a foam cover to go over your microphone to kind of mute those plosive P and T sounds, uh, you should have a boom arm or some kind of way to get the podcast up to the vertical level of your mouth. We talked about this in a previous episode, and so I won't go through it all here, but really get a good sounding microphone. And if you're doing an interview type show, prepare your guest and enable them as much as you can for them to have a good microphone to at the very least, they should have the earbuds that come with their mobile phone. Speaker 1 00:01:53 You know, the Apple ear buds, if they have an Apple or an Android phone, kind of whatever kind of earbuds they have that have a inline microphone with them, those actually sound pretty good. And one of our previous guests on this show used that as their only microphone. So I won't tell you which one, but I hope you can't tell because the sound was actually pretty good. The next one is talking about the environment that you record your podcast in. Uh, hopefully you're able to get a nice kind of small dedicated space for recording your podcasts. A lot of us these days are recording at home or in our home office. And that's great. Typically you want a smaller room if possible, and, and something with a lot of, uh, stuff in it. A lot of things on the walls, a lot of soft services. Speaker 1 00:02:35 If you look at like a recording studio that, that an artist might use, it's a small room and has the foam panels on the walls. And it has going to irregularly shaped walls and ceilings. Maybe all of these things reduce the vibration and echo and dampen that sound that's bouncing around the room. And so as much as you can emulate that kind of same setup where you are the better you'll be. Um, I think about kind of the best possible thing being to record and a closet, um, because there's clothes hanging all over the walls and it's a small space. So I don't think many of us will record in a closet, but if you talk to any professional voiceover artists, many, many, many of them record in something like a closet, just because it's a great space. So as close as you can get to that, uh, and a place that's comfortable and easy for you, the better. The other thing to do, especially Speaker 2 00:03:25 Actually, as we look to the post-processing Speaker 1 00:03:27 Aspect of things is to have kind of a baseline noise profile. So before you start recording the actual content of your episode, just pause for a couple of seconds and let the recording software pick up a couple of seconds of, of kind of the background noise and the ambient sound profile in the room. You'll be able to use this to sample and filter against later using a tool like audacity or Adobe audition or pro tools, whatever your editing software is, but having a good kind of representative sample of what this baseline sound in the room looks like will go a long way towards reducing and filtering out that background noise. Later on in the editing process, we talked about getting the microphone up to the kind of vertical level of your mouth earlier. And I want to just kind of harp on this a little bit more. Speaker 1 00:04:12 So you want to be pretty close to the mic, depending on the mic you use, you might be closer, further away. I use the audio Technica ATR 2100, which is a pretty quiet microphone. So I have to be pretty close. I'm about a fist width away from the microphone. Uh, if you're using a more powerful mic or using some like a preamp, you can stand to be a little bit further away. The risk you run there is the further away you are. And the more sensitive your microphone is, the more things that will pick up in the room that are not your voice. So ambient noise people coming and going outside your office, things like that. Uh, so that's just something to keep in mind there. The next thing is, is to use headphones. So if you don't use headphones and you're doing something like a remote interview where someone else is speaking and the sound would be coming out of your computer, there is a chance that that sound would be picked up by your podcasting microphone. Speaker 1 00:05:03 And we certainly don't want this. So wear headphones, I use just the, your buds that come with my, my iPhone, uh, and they're perfectly fine. I usually just have one ear bud in, and one kind of listening to the background noise in the room and things that might be happening so that if a loud car is going by or something, I hear that I can stop and restate what I just said, whether I'm in an interview or doing a monologue like this, uh, it's just easier for me to go and restate something. If there's a loud sound that's happening in my environment than it is to try and cut that out in pre and post processing. The next one is something that I actually honestly have a hard time with it. It's watch my breathing. Uh, we all are talking a lot, obviously on podcasts and to, to kind of watch your breathing and try not to breathe into the microphone too much is a really important thing. Speaker 1 00:05:50 I think this is hard, but, uh, as much as you can kind of be conscious of this without making yourself pass out, as you're recording, you'll just find that your life and post-processing is easier. The sound that you create for your podcast sounds better. Uh, and, and the whole kind of process of, of creating great sounding. Audio goes a lot smoother talking about doing interviews. Uh, something that is, is a bit of a pet peeve of mine is people that talk over their guests, um, during an interview. And this is just, um, one, I think it's kind of rude. I do it some, and I try to catch myself as much as possible, but, uh, I very much tried to let my guests talk. Um, they really are the reason that you have a podcast. If, if you have an interview type show or if it's just an interview format episode, um, your guest is the spotlight and should be the reason that people are listening and should be the main kind of focus of content for the episode. Speaker 1 00:06:43 So let them be that focus, let them shine. Don't add your 2 cents over everything they say or clarify everything that they're they're, they're touching on. Um, but really just ask great questions and let your guests run with it. I think you'll find the content is much better if you're able to do that. And in the flow of the episode will be much smoother not to mention your life and post-processing and editing will be so much easier cause you don't have to cut out all those rude interruptions that you've made. Similarly talking about post production is we really like to leave audio cues during a recording? If there are things that we want to touch on in post-processing, this is a, a suggestion we give all of our customers at podcast motor and Costas productions is to leave audio cues. So if you're recording something and you, you kind of fumble over a word to say, Hey, can we please take that last part out audio editor, and just say that and leave it right in the end, the recording, the audio editor will be listening and they'll say, Oh, that's a cue for me. Speaker 1 00:07:39 I need to go take that last part out. Uh, and you can leave this for an editor if you're having someone else take care of the editing of your show or for yourself, say, you know, Hey Craig, go take that last part out. That wasn't how I want to say it. I'm going to start now and, and restate that and pause and take a second and then restate that whole kind of idea or phrase. And you'll find that that editing is lot easier. He used to take out these huge chunks of content instead of trying to splice together, weird words that are intonated differently and have different kind of vocal care characteristics. If you aren't in an environment that's not a particularly high quality or there's a lot of background noise or something, that's kind of just imperfect about where you recording. It's a great idea to mute yourself when you're not speaking and when your guest or your cohost is speaking, particularly if you're using a tool like squad cast, or if you're on zoom is muting is really easy. Speaker 1 00:08:28 And it just makes that post-processing a little easier later on not to mention, especially if you have a guest on your show, they might get distracted by hearing things on your end that kind of take them off topic or make them lose their train of thought. So mute yourself. If you're not speaking, a lot of tools have like a keyboard shortcut for muting yourself like a space bar. And that's a great way to kind of keep yourself muted unless you're speaking. Um, it's kind of a great way to do that on autopilot all the time. Uh, the next one's kind of funny, it's a personal thing is to stay hydrated. I always have a glass of water with me when I'm podcasting and especially in an interview show where you have nice breaks, you can take, it's nice to take a sip of water. Uh, keep yourself hydrated, uh, doing this changes and kind of keeps consistent the vocal characteristics of your voice. Speaker 1 00:09:14 Uh, and so, you know, just to have a glass of water nearby, I would give a tip on that is that if you're using kind of a hard desk as the place of your podcasting from, to put a book down or something that's kind of soft so that when you place your glass back down on the desk, it doesn't reverberate back and is picked up by the microphone is kind of a hard mechanical sound. Uh, so I have just a kind of a planner that I keep on my desk that I put my drink on. And so it doesn't make any kind of mechanical sounds that the microphone picks back up because those would be hard to filter out later in post-processing, uh, I can't believe we're waiting to this late in the episode, talk about this, but this is really a, one of the absolute things you have to do to record great sounding audio is to have a separate channel for each person participating in the episode. Speaker 1 00:09:59 So whether using zoom, they have a setting for this, or if you're using squad cast or Zencaster, this has done automatically each person, whether it's you and a cohost or a guest, or you're on a panel and there's four or five people, each person needs to have their own channel. The reason for this, uh, it should be kind of obvious is that the volume levels are different. The background noise is different on each channel. There might be an interruption on one person's side. And if that person isn't speaking, you can just cut that whole part out and let the other person or people that are speaking at that time, kind of continue through with what they're doing. Whereas if everybody's audio was compressed into one channel and there was a dog barking or a baby crying, or the garbage truck outside, you would have to try to filter that out wild keeping what someone else was saying, uh, in the recording at the same time, that is very difficult to do. Speaker 1 00:10:51 Having this on multiple channels makes us so much easier. So we have a quick video in the show notes for this episode on how to do this in zoom, especially since a lot of us are using zoom these days. Uh, and so definitely kind of check that box if you haven't already, especially if you're using zoom and the last one is maybe a little counterintuitive and it is to take a break. If you need to, you know, whether you're doing a monologue type episode or you're doing an interview with a guest, it's okay to take a break. I almost always do this, you know, somewhere around two thirds or three quarters through the interview, I'll stop and kind of off air say, okay, you know, Hey Bob, how do you think things are going? Is there anything that you definitely do or don't want to talk about in the time remaining? Speaker 1 00:11:33 Uh, did you want to go back and touch on any points we discussed already? You know, anything like that? It's great. Just to have like a pulse check with your guests to say, Hey, every, you know, thumbs up, everything good, anything you do or don't want to do here going forward, we still have another 10 or 20 minutes, whatever it is. And that's super easy to cut out afterwards. And then you, you know, assuming everything is good or give you some feedback you can take and continue the direction of the show from there. But this kind of pulse check partway through the interview is a great way to kind of make sure that your guest is happy with what's going on and that you all get what you're wanting out of the episode. And the last thing here is kind of a content piece of advice. Speaker 1 00:12:12 And that is to have some sort of idea of where you want the episode to go. Even for these solo episodes, I have an outline of a handful of things I want to talk about, and they're really just bullet points and I kind of riff from there. But as we heard from the interview with the folks from buffer, they script out the entire episode, kind of a, to Z pretty much everywhere. They're going to say. And I know a lot of people that do that, and that's perfectly fine if that's your style and how you want the show to go. I think the more highly produced you want the podcast to be the more I would tend to go in that direction. But if you want the episode to be a little more kind of spontaneous, I think it certainly is okay to just leave it as bullet points and just say, Hey, I wanted to really make sure I touch on these five or 10 points through the course of recording this episode, whether it's a monologue like this or an interview or a cohost type show, uh, just have some sort of idea of where you want to go. Speaker 1 00:13:05 And whether you want to kind of let the conversation take its natural course from there, that's fine. Or if you really want to script out, okay, within this one bullet point, I want to touch on these four things, or I'm going to script out exactly what I'm going to say, having an idea of, of really what you want to get out of the episode from a content perspective goes a long way towards maximizing kind of the utility of the time that you put in for the show. Okay. So I hope that helps give an idea of some of the things that we do here and some of the best practices that we've seen working with customers at podcast motor, and it cost us productions to, to really optimize the podcast, recording time that we're putting in, because this is all valuable time. We're all busy people, especially these days and have a lot of other things going on in our lives. Following a lot of these best practices should help us get higher quality audio more consistently, and with less effort, every episode, any questions, shoot us a comment in the post for this episode or in our Facebook group podcast, hackers. Thanks so much. And we'll see you next time.

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