How to perfect your podcast recording — tips for getting started
Since many podcasters start out from a place of passion and curiosity, it’s often the case that a podcast’s production quality improves over time, as the podcasters slowly get more skilled and invest in better quality gear.
If you’re right at the beginning of your podcasting journey, simply investing in the best quality gear you can afford is a great start. There is an absolute abundance of microphones, headphones and attachments on the market. So what should you consider when buying podcasting gear?
Choosing a microphone
The most important thing about your podcasting microphone is that it needs to be able to pick up your voice from a single direction and not all the other sounds around you. The most common type of microphone for this situation is a condenser mic, which is the same type used by voiceover artists.
Popular alternatives are directional or shotgun mics, although these tend to be a little less forgiving, so if you move your mouth or head away from the microphone briefly, the sound could be quite uneven.
If you’re working with multiple voices, it’s best to give each person their own microphone, because when it comes to editing, you’re going to want to separate each audio track. Having each voice on its own mic will make this much easier.
Perfecting your microphone technique
Probably more important than which microphone you choose is how you use it. Improving your technique will take time, but here are two tips to start off with:
- Condenser mics get the most out of your voice when you’re close to them, ie. not more than a fist away from the microphone. If you rest your nose on the plastic edge of the pop filter (see below) for the entire recording session, you can expect a very consistent audio quality, which will mean less work when it comes time to edit.
- When you know you’re going to laugh, pull away from the microphone to avoid audio distortion and, again, maintain audio consistency.
More podcasting gear worth investing in
Thanks to the rise of indie podcasting, audiences are increasingly comfortable with — and can even appreciate — imperfect, slightly homemade “in your closet” sound quality. But if you’re ready to level up, here’s what to invest in:
A pop filter shields the microphone to help prevent crackles in the audio caused by movement, giving it a smoother sound. The pop filter should be set about a fist away from the microphone itself.
Mounting your microphone on a tripod will ensure you don’t need to touch it during recording, reducing the risk of mic bumps. A shock mount is a little safety net for your microphone to sit in that attaches to the tripod.
You’ll also need headphones for each speaker, so you can hear yourselves and each other.
And an audio mixer to control and balance the various sound inputs. If you’re expecting to have guests on your podcast, then make sure you choose a mixer that can also cope with recording guests who aren’t present in your studio, in case you ever need to do phone interviews.
Managing phone interviews for podcasts
Many podcasts involve interviews with guests who aren’t in the same room as the hosts. This is easy to do with a little planning.
First, make sure everyone on the call is aware there may be a small delay between speakers, and ask them to avoid interruptions. That will make it easier to piece the conversation together in the edit.
Set up a mix-minus on your audio mixer — this will ensure the person on the phone doesn’t hear their own voice fed back to them, because no one enjoys that.
You might like to use a tool like Zencastr that records each person’s audio locally and saves it to the cloud, minimizing interruptions. Note that this option requires that your guest has a decent microphone, too.
Where to record your podcast
If you’re a regular podcast listener, you may have noticed a number of podcasters mentioning that they record from inside their closets. They do so for a very good reason.
When you’re recording your voice, you’re trying to reduce how far your sound waves can bounce and echo. The smaller the space, the better. But it’s not just the small size inside most wardrobes that makes them great recording spaces — the surrounding clothes help to absorb any reverb. That means there’s no need to empty out your closet each time you’re ready to record!
If you’re recording multiple people, though, you’re unlikely to all fit inside a closet. In that case, the smaller the room, the better.
Carpets and curtains can help to absorb excess sound, as does fabric if you’re able to hang it on the walls around you. The most important places to cover up are the walls directly in front of and behind each speaker, in line with the height of their mouth.
Once you find your groove and get to know what works in your space, you can even make editing presets for specific locations to help speed up your editing process.
Selecting editing software
The most popular editing software options include Audition from Adobe, Pro Tools from Avid, Hindenburg and Audacity, which is a particularly good option for those just starting out, as it is free to use. Some of the other programs also offer free trials.
The great thing about learning to edit audio is that you aren’t alone: due to the meteoric rise in the popularity of podcasts, there is a plethora of support for newbies available online. YouTube is packed with audio editing tutorials, where you can search for whatever specific skills you are wanting to learn or the problem you need to troubleshoot.
Before you know it, you’ll have your first episode ready to broadcast to the world.