How to Record a Podcast
3 Steps to Master Podcast Recording
05.24.17 | Podcasting | By: Jacob Bozarth
As we continue our series on 10 essential steps to launching a podcast, this week we will look at Step 4: “How to Record a Podcast : 3 Steps to Master Podcast Recording”.
I am an avid podcast listener and am always on the lookout for a great new podcast. I had a new one on my list I was excited to listen to that sounded like it would be killer. Everything from the content to the host to the intro music made me think this podcast would be really good. But sadly enough, I didn’t make it more than 30 seconds into the podcast before I had to turn it off. The quality of the audio was so bad that it was actually painful to listen to.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If your podcast is painful to listen to or the audio quality is bad, no one will listen to it! Thankfully, with the advancements in technology you can surprisingly have a good recording setup wherever you are at an affordable price. Sure you can spend thousands of dollars on the most expensive equipment (and we have) but this will not solve all of your problems. If you don’t know how to use these expensive tools you have you may still be left with a poor sounding recording. What matters most is not what tools you have, but how well you know how to use them.
In this post we will cover some basic techniques and tips for recording your podcast.
How to Record a Podcast Step 1: Environment:
Your recording environment is perhaps the most important element that can make or break the sound of your recording. The majority of podcasts today are self produced, with most not being recorded in a professional studio environment. At best you may have to set up a spare bedroom, office, or walk in closet and that is ok! With some basic setup you can surprisingly have a good recording environment.
Pick a room that has natural sound absorbing materials – Walk in closets are great because they usually have tons of clothes hanging that will naturally dampen sound. The key to finding a good room to record in is one that is “dead” with little room noise. To determine how much room noise your room has, simply clap or snap your fingers and listen for an echo or slapback sound. If you do not hear an echo or slapback, then it might work well. Other great natural sound absorbing materials that may help your room are couches, beds, carpet, rugs, chairs, etc. You can also buy basic studio foam to help dampen a room. Another affordable option is egg crate foam that you can buy at a craft store.
Find a quiet location – You may be surprised at all the sounds you will hear and pick up when you are trying to record, especially what you can hear while monitoring through headphones. For this reason you will want to pick a location that has few natural sounds such as HVAC’s, fans, computers, etc. Be aware that some lights actually put off sounds that can be picked up by your microphones. If possible turn off the A/C, heater, and any other natural sound making devices while you are recording.
How to Record a Podcast Step 2: Mic Technique:
The next most important element when recording your podcast is your microphone and mic technique. We recommend you buy the highest quality microphone that you can afford. However as we mentioned earlier, it’s not about the tools you have but knowing how to use them. You can surprisingly get a good sound out of a $69 microphone. The key is that you must use proper mic technique.
Distance – Most microphones will have what we call a “sweet spot.” This is the distance at which your voice will sound the best on that particular microphone. This will vary from mic to mic and also may vary depending on the type of microphone you use. When recording narration, the distance from your microphone is everything. A good rule of thumb is to stay about 4-6 inches from your microphone. If you have a guest that struggles to maintain a consistent distance from their mic, one way to help them is to put the pop filter at the exact distance you want them to be. We recommend that you do some test recordings and experiment with different distances from your mic in order to find this sweet spot.
Positioning – Getting your mic in the correct position is key. Depending on the type of microphone you are using, the difference between 1-2 inches can make all the difference between clear, warm, and articulate narration and hollow, muddy, or unintelligible narration. Once your have your mic at the correct distance you want to ensure that the front of the microphone capsule points directly towards the source (aka: your mouth). One of the most common issues when recording narration is controlling the plosives and p-pops. This is caused by a burst of air coming from the mouth hitting the mic diaphragm. One way to help fix this problem is to adjust the mic off center from your mouth and then angle the mic at a 45 degree angle so the front of the microphone is still pointing directly towards your mouth.
Accessories – In addition to your microphone, we recommend a few accessories that will help prevent common problems when recording. Another simple way to fix p-pops and plosives is to use a pop filter. A pop filter is an affordable tool that goes between your mouth and your mic that stop bursts of air that may cause a pop sound in your recording. Your microphone is sensitive and can pick up sounds from anything it touches. If you are holding or touching the mic this can include handling noises; if your mic is on a surface, such as a table or desk, any movements from the surface can cause, thuds, bumps, and other low frequency sounds. For this reason, we highly recommend using a mic stand or broadcast arm to help prevent these unwanted sounds in your recording. A stand and boom arm will help get your mic out of they way and enable you to correctly position your mic while also preventing handling noises. The last accessory that also aids to the this problem is a shock mount. While the mic stand or boom arm will prevent many handling noises your mic picks up, there is a chance you could still bump or move the stand/boom arm, and your mic will pick up these sounds. A shock mount holds your mic on the stand and suspends it by mini bungee like cords that will help prevent the mic from moving if the stand or arm is bumped or move. This will further lessen the unwanted sounds that the mic may pick up.
How to Record a Podcast Step 3: Recording Levels & Monitoring:
The last element when recording your podcast is finding the correct recording level. Recording too high levels can cause distortion or clipping, and recording with the gain too low may cause hissing or hollow sounding narration.
Gain – Whether you are using an outboard mic preamp, an interface, a handheld recorder, or a usb mic there should be an adjustable gain setting. (If you need help finding this adjustable gain setting on your device, please contact us.) So now that you have found your adjustable gain setting, what is that magic level you should record your narration? A good rule of thumb is to have your mic peak around -10 to -12 dB. This means at the loudest part of your recording the level should go no higher than -10dB. Most recording devices have these numbers listed on a visual meter. However, if your device does not have these numbers listed, try to stay in the green or about halfway up your meter. If you cannot find a visual meter on your device, well this leads us to our next point…
Monitor – It is important that you have a way to monitor and listen to what you are actually recording. Even if your device has an excellent visual meter to check your recording level, we recommend you be a skeptic and never trust your eyes. In our world you must learn to only trust your ears. For this reason we recommend someone always monitor your recording with high quality, closed back headphones when recording. Monitoring your audio in real time will enable you to quickly recognize and address any issues with your recording. It is not sufficient to use earbuds or other cheap headphones. With these, you may not be able to hear and quickly identify issues with your recording.
As we have mentioned a few times, it is always a good idea to do some test recordings prior to your actual recording time. Review these recordings with high quality studio monitors or headphones and listen for any issues with the recording. If you are unsure if you have a good recording setup or would just like some further tips, feel free to send us your test recording. Doing multiple test recordings will also help you to better learn and become more comfortable with your recording setup. As with anything, practice makes perfect. Follow these simple tips and become a master with the tools you have. Hearing is believing.
You can find the overview post for this series on Starting a Podcast here. If you have any questions or would like help starting your podcast, you can contact us below:
- 10 Essential Steps To Start Podcasting
- Podcast Editing: Part 1 – Tips & Tricks
- Podcast Editing: Part 2 – Tips & Tricks
- Planning Your Podcast
By: Jacob Bozarth
As President & Co-Founder of Resonate Recordings, Jacob leads the team & oversees all sales & marketing initiatives. Jacob can be found recording, producing, & mixing podcasts when he is not spending time with his family in Louisville, KY.