If you’re creating your own podcast production, I’ll bet you have champagne-quality ideas and a money pocketbook. Here’s some good news: Getting quality audio is now easier and cheaper than ever before—so you can handle that piece of the puzzle, even with the basic tools that won’t break the bank. However, as much as quality audio is essential to podcasting, there are other things you should keep in mind. Employ the following tips when trying to launch a successful podcast—successful, at least, when it comes to podcast sounds quality and consistent deliverables.
Improving the quality of your podcast vocals isn’t rocket science, but it does require attention to some aspects of the recording process that you may be overlooking. After all, sound engineers and producers spend years honing their craft, and voice-over artists and radio personalities are required to at least develop mic techniques.
Recording great audio takes some practice, but you can skip a lot of 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 for capturing clean podcast recordings from the start.
Just as stage acting requires a specialized style of vocal projection compared to acting on camera, speaking into a microphone requires techniques that are far more fundamentally different than you might imagine speaking in your daily life. To understand why this is so, let’s discuss some of the most obvious factors that can affect vocal recording.
Plosives: The P sounds, along with the F sounds and many other consonant combinations, create a varying degree of air movement. The less a speaker perceives, the more their plosives will send an unwanted wind through the microphone. How do you stop plosives from ruining a recording? OK, even pros will let a few pops fly into the mic at once, but the two keys to eliminating plosives are pop filters and better mic technique.
Sibilance: Pop filters will help less with sibilance, which usually results in a lot of EQ in the high-mids and highs. Too little restraint in a recording is going to make it very little understandable to the listener – you need a certain degree of it to understand the language. A pure signal from a mic worth its weight doesn’t add much coziness to the equation and, generally speaking, most people aren’t going to be overly restrained on their own. Of course, there are exceptions, but if things seem too “essay”-heavy, try adjusting the EQ to between 4 kHz-8 kHz. Sibilance is often going to be in that range, but it can vary.
It’s pretty obvious, but where you record is going to have a huge impact on the recording—and I’m not just talking about whether you hear car horns in the background. A room with a lot of glass or tiled surfaces are going to have a very lively, echo-like sound, like most bathrooms or staircases. A room covered in floor-to-ceiling carpets and sound-absorbing materials will have a dead sound, and although this can be beneficial, the most natural sound will probably be somewhere in the middle, leaning toward the dead-sounding end of the spectrum.
EQ and compression:
EQ and compression are best used after recording until you fully understand how they work, which can be a whole textbook in itself, so we won’t go into wild details here. Keep in mind, though, that unless you’re going for a specific sound effect, the use of both EQ and compression should be fairly subtle—heavily boosting the high-mids or crushing peaks with a high compression ratio. The result will be amateur-sounding recordings. For your podcast, you’re probably going for a natural sound that’s fairly transparent and clean. If your mic is lacking in the high-mids, by all means, raise them by a decibel or three. If it’s sounding muddy, you can also try cutting down some of the low-mid or low frequencies a bit.
Watch your volume levels:
As you keep the distance of your microphone consistent, you can monitor volume levels while you record. Most recording software displays your levels as a green, yellow, to the red color scale. Keep your volume in the green section for your normal conversational tone and yellow sections for when you need emphasis. Stay away from the red section otherwise, your voice will be distorted.
Keep your body still:
Moving your body around creates background noise while recording. This happens often if you use earbud headphones. The wire is held close to your chest, allowing the microphone to rub against your shirt and collar. Try to stay stable in your chair with your feet planted. Avoid carrying things around at your desk. If you print your notes on paper, move them around as quietly as possible.