Podcasting is an art, but it is not an art you need to master before you can practice. This document contains suggestions and advice for first time podcasters which, if we’ve done our job properly, should fully prepare you to start practicing the art of podcasting. Good luck and if you have any questions, reach out to us directly by emailing us.
There is no mic so good it can cure a hard room. No room so soft it can cure a bad mic. Your environment and your microphone should always complement each other. Let’s start with the environment, the room you record in.
Sound waves bounce off hard surfaces and travel back to their source. This is what creates echo. The more bouncing, the worse the echo. The harder the room, the worse the bouncing. The take away here is: the softer the room the better. Depending on your budget your ideal room is either one full of furniture and things or a room with nothing in it – a blank canvas. A room full of stuff, especially soft stuff like carpets, couches, lounge chairs, etc, has a lot of material to absorb sound waves and prevent them from bouncing around. This is the kind of room you want to choose if you have a low budget because there’s nothing you need to do to it.
If you have a higher budget, let’s say $3000 or so, to spend on acoustic treatment, an empty room can become a great studio if you’re willing to put in the work. A room with tiled floors needs rugs. A room with baron walls needs acoustic foam. A room with a glass windows needs black out curtains. A room with all these things requires all those things. Here are links to these items.
- Acoustic Foam: https://www.amazon.com/Mybecca-Acoustic-Panels-Studio-Wedges/dp/B00UK6AVBC
- Rugs: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mainstays-Olefin-Shag-Area-Rug-Collection/306219963
- Curtains: http://a.co/4RJeisb
Hanging foam can be a very risky process if you live in an apartment and would like to get your security deposit back. Adhesive spray is the best way to hang foam, but if you are patient sticky putty does a pretty good job and causes absolutely no damage to your walls. Simply put a small amount of this sticky putty on each corner of a foam panels and press all four corners firmly on to the wall. Here is a link to the sticky putty we use.
Here’s a video that explains how to install these acoustic panels. The man in the video uses spray adhesive, but your Sticky Putty will do the trick!
Foam panels should be hung in alternating patterns in groups of four or more. By “alternating patterns” I mean that no foam square should appear next to a foam square in the same position. If the ridges of your first foam square run up and down, the foam square you place next to it should have ridges which run side to side. The foam square you place beneath that one should have ridges which run up-and-down, and so on.
Microphones come in different shapes and sizes and different types of connection – not to mention with different kinds of pick ups. There are USB microphones and XLR microphones. USB microphones generally cost less money and requires no additional equipment other than the computer you intend to plug it into. XLR microphones are generally more expensive, produce better sound quality, and require additional equipment purchases. If you are podcasting on your own without a cohost and you do not intend to have in-studio guests, a USB microphone is a great way to start. If you do have a cohost, or you intend to have people in person appear on your podcast, you will need (rather, you should have) at least two XLR microphones as utilizing two USB microphones on the same computer (even if there are available USB ports) can prove problematic. If XLR is the way you are going to go, you will also need to purchase an audio interface device, XLR cables, and probably separate microphone stands.
USB Microphone Suggestions
- Good: The Yeti by Blue Microphone – http://a.co/cccUm0T
- Better: The RODE NT USB – https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/NTUSB–rode-nt-usb-usb-condenser-microphone
- Best: The RODE Podcaster – https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Podcaster–rode-podcaster
XLR Microphone Suggestions
- Good: The CAD GXL2200 – http://a.co/6B0EVnt
- Best: The AKG C214 – https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/C214–akg-c214-large-diaphragm-condenser-microphone
- Best: The Shure SM7B – https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SM7B–shure-sm7b-dynamic-vocal-microphone
Why are there two labeled best? Because the AKG C214 delivers a more airy talk radio sound and the SM7B delivers a more deep broadcast radio sound and they both do what they do very well. It depends which sound you want. We’ve used each of these microphones and can vouch for their quality.
Audio Interface Devices Suggestion
- Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 – https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlet2i2G2–focusrite-scarlett-2i2
- Zoom H5 – https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/H5–zoom-h5-handy-recorder
Both of these are great, the focusrite is more affordable. The Zoom H5 is what we urge you to pick up because you can take it with you and it runs on two AA batteries – which means you can be mobile without difficulty. Great if you’re going to be recording podcasts in hotel rooms, restaurants, public spaces, or somewhere out there in the big wide world and you don’t want to drag your entire workstation around with you.
Many people will tell you to use a piece of software called Audacity. Audacity is a free digital audio workstation, also referred to as a DAW. There are many DAWs out there and I will list a few below – Audacity is a fine DAW if you are just going to record your audio and then hand it off to someone else to edit and master it (like us!). If you are going to edit and master your own podcast. Audacity lacks many of the features and creature comforts of premium and professional DAWs. If you are going to edit and master your own podcast we suggest Avid’s ProTools. ProTools is, in our opinion, the best digital audio workstation on the market and it is an industry standard. Audacity is free and if you are limited by budget it is an acceptable solution, but if you can afford it we suggest subscribing to ProTools. Remember: if you are giving your podcast audio to someone else to edit and master for you, audacity is the right choice because audacity is free and you do not need audacity is free and if you are limited by budget it is an acceptable solution, but if you can afford it we suggest ProTools. Remember: if you are giving your podcast audio to someone else to edit and master for you, audacity is the right choice because audacity is free and you do not need more than what it offers.
- Audacity – https://www.audacityteam.org/download/
- Pro Tools – http://www.avid.com/pro-tools
- Reaper – https://www.reaper.fm
- Cubase – https://www.steinberg.net/en/products/cubase/start.html
- Hindenburg – https://hindenburg.com
- Ableton Live – https://www.ableton.com/en/
- Logic Pro (Mac) – https://www.apple.com/logic-pro/
If you chose a Zoom H-series audio interface device, and you are giving your podcast audio to someone else to edit and master, you do not need a DAW. Simply take the audio from the Zoom device and send it to your editor. They will do the rest.
Audio Hosting Solutions
Without a doubt, for many people, the most confusing part of podcasting is knowing where to upload your audio, how to send your audio to various platforms like iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher, and how to put together a website for your podcast.
We suggest starting simply and modestly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a feature rich solution! We advise all podcasters to host their podcast with Simplecast.fm. Simplecast provides you a place to store your audio, a website for your podcast, a beautiful embeddable player for sharing on social media, the ability to create audiograms, the best listener statistics in the business, and they will submit your podcast to all the relevant platforms for you. Importantly, they only charged $12 a month and they limit you in no way in regards to length of episode or size of episode (in megabytes). They also allow up to a 128kbps bit rate.
Since simplecast.fm provides you with a website, there’s nothing left for you to do; you now have a place on the web to showcase your podcast and all your audio files are now everywhere they need to be for podcast listeners around the world to find them.
Full disclosure: We have no relationship with Simplecast.fm beyond customer – we use them, we love them. We love them so much we will not recommend anyone but them because we truly believe they are the best and you’re wasting your time going with any other solution.
If you’re planning on building an interview-style podcast but all your guests are remote, you’ll need a way to capture their audio along with yours. It is infinitely better that these types of podcasts (in fact all types of podcasts with more than one speaker) result in an individual WAV file for each speaker. The host is recorded ot host-audio.wav (for example) and the guest is recorded to guest-audio.wav (for example). There are a lot of call recorders out there but very few good ones which also create separate wav files for each audio source.
If you’re on a Mac, the solution for you is, hands down no competition, Call Recorder for Skype. It’s a one-time $40 and you’ll be glad you made the investment. Don’t cheap out on your call recorder! Get it here: http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/
If you’re on a PC, Pamela is your girl. Again, do not cheap out on your call recorder! You will regret it if you do. Pamela Pro is also a one-time $40. Get it here: http://www.pamela.biz/en/
Important: If you’re recording using ecamm or pamela you do not need any other recording software because these pieces of software record your voice (and your guest’s voice) for you. If all you’re doing is interviews or a co-hosted-over-skype podcast, Call Recorder or Pamela are all you need.
Tips for Podcasting
OK, so you’ve got your room, you’ve got your microphone, you’ve got your DAW, your audio interface device, your audio hosting platform, your website, and a way to get your podcast out to the world, now it’s time to start recording!
The important thing is to start, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put time into planning exactly how you’re going to start and what your podcast is going to look like. Here’s what we suggest:
- Create a format. A format is an outline of what your podcast episodes will look like in broad strokes. As an example: you’ll spend three minutes introducing yourself and talking about what you’re going to talk about in the episode. Then you’ll spend 10 minutes on one topic, 10 minutes another topic, and 10 minutes on another topic. Then you’ll spend five minutes wrapping up and two minutes saying goodbye and telling your audience how to connect with you on various social media platforms. A format is also the kind of podcast you’re going to be. Is your podcast a monologue? Are you interviewing people? Do you have a cohost? Do you have a guests? All of these things are your framework or format.
- Remember this is not live. Many people feel the need to fill silent spaces with umms, ahs, likes, yannows, and uhs. This is because they don’t want to sound stupid, they don’t want their listeners to think they are boring, or they think they need to be on all the time. In reality it doesn’t matter if you pause for one minute between every single word, it doesn’t matter if you screw up 600 times, and it doesn’t matter if your dog barks or your parakeet squawks while you’re in the middle of some important sentence. None of these things matter because you can stop, take a breath, and start over. Every mistake, every awkward silence, every unplanned noise, it can all be taken out during the editing process, so breathe easy and don’t be so hard on yourself.
- Get a dog clicker. A dog clicker, which makes this sound a lot like a Snapple poptop, creates a very distinct shape in a waveform. When you screw up click the dog clicker and try again. When you (or your editor) go to edit the audio, you will be able to clearly see the places where you messed up and this will make editing faster and easier.
- Position your microphone. Don’t speak directly into your microphone, as every hard consonant, like the letter P and the letter T, will create puffs of air that are very abrasive to a listeners ears. Instead, position your microphone so that your breath and your voice is traveling across the surface of the microphone instead of directly into the microphone. This can be achieved by putting the microphone at a 45° angle instead of a 90° angle (relevant to your mouth).
- Get ahead. You should be in no hurry to launch a podcast. Spend the first month recording as many episodes as you can and do not launch your podcast until the second month. Feel free to throw in a couple of practice episodes as well. By having a number of episodes recorded ahead of time, you will never find yourself under the gun to release an episode that you do not yet have recorded. All of our clients are four episodes ahead of their production schedules, we cannot express how easy this will make your life.
Eventually you will want to make money podcasting, because podcasting is a hobby which costs money and at the very least you want to be able to recover your costs. The biggest platform, and some would say the best, for earning money as a podcaster is Patreon.com. But please keep this in mind: allowing your subscribers to support you financially in trade for extra stuff (which is Patreon’s model) will require you to make that extra stuff. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, don’t feel like you have to monetize your podcast right off the bat, this is something you may want to warm up to as you become more comfortable. Monetization is a step above podcasting 101, so we will not go into depth concerning it here.
We answer questions for free, so email us your questions. We also do this for a living so, you know, think about hiring us if you’d rather have someone around helping you step by step during the setup process. Then maybe hire us to do the editing! At $200 a month, you can bet the saved frustration will be worth every penny. Let us stress so you can focus on creating.
Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you found this helpful. Good luck out there and happy podcasting!