How to Podcast
05.22.18 | Podcasting Basics | By: Jon Street
If you’ve been tracking with us in our journey through our Basics of Podcasting series, then you know our aim in this series has been to offer some basic pointers to help new & seasoned podcasters alike get what they need to have success in their podcasting journey. We’ve already covered some of the most basic elements, such as Why podcast, Who should podcast & What to podcast about. Last week we even reviewed Where to record your podcast. Spoiler alert-you don’t have to rent a professional studio. But now that we’ve covered these things it’s time to start winding down this Basics of Podcasting series. As we do that, it’s essential we cover some other practicals of recording. How to Podcast, meaning how you record your podcast (the equipment & programs you use) is a necessary point to address to help you get things started on the right foot. Now there is a lot that can be said. We will not be able to cover it all in one short blog. In fact, we’ve already written some helpful resources on the topic. We’ve also offered some thoughts on some great accessories we feel are beneficial for you to capture unsullied recordings. We’re also working on some additional resources that will be a help in covering some of the basic things we hear all the time about related questions. Our goal is to enable you as a podcaster to better learn the ins-and-outs of how to get the most out of your podcasting. While there is a lot to consider, we hope to at least review some of the basic ideas here that will be useful to you.
The Great Debate
I’m going to be honest, we are asked all the time about the best recording setup. What mic? What recording platform? Do I use my computer? Should I invest in another tool? What about recording my guest across the country? There is no shortage of input about these things & everyone’s opinion is…strong. What makes these questions hard to answer is that there is so much information out there. A quick Google search or window-shopping session on Amazon will give you a whole lot of results, with “expert” opinions on the right equipment & tools to use. And honestly, rightfully so. The reality is, it’s vitally important to get these things right in order to have a high quality recording that’s worth listening to. It’s important to spend a little time & be intentional about these things to give you the results you’re looking for. One thing to consider is the source of the reviews you’re reading. Are these people who really know what they’re talking about? Now, don’t storm off before you hear me out. People who aren’t involved in the post-production process (the “behind the scenes”, after the recording stops process of making a podcast, well, a podcast) can be limited in understating what is required to capture great quality recordings. What sounds good in your headphones on the computer isn’t always what you get on the back-end. So we hope to give you some input from that perspective, the audio engineer perspective, since we deal with this on a daily basis.
How to Set Expectations
As I mentioned, from the outset we have to be realistic. What’s right for you might not be right for the next podcaster. While we would love the opportunity to review your specific needs & give you a tailored consultation, we will only cover some basic elements here, which would be applicable to a broader audience. The reality is, you can spend a lot of money on a highly professional set up. But even if you don’t have deep pockets, you can get great quality recordings with a simple set-up. For our purposes here we will offer some common recommendations which are suitable for the average podcaster. If you would like to cover some specific nuance of your set-up or an out-of-the-ordinary recording situation you have, we’re just an email or phone call away! Just because you’re a novice on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. And just because you’re a corporation with a marketing budget to blow doesn’t mean your fancy setup has done its job. Trust me. We’ve heard some very poor recordings from some very expensive hardware. It all comes down to nailing a few of the basics.
How do I Choose the Right Mic for Podcasting?
This is by far the most common question we receive when it comes to hardware. It’s critical you get a good mic, otherwise all your other efforts are in vain. But building on what I’ve already said, what makes covering this topic so great is also what makes it so challenging. The internet has given us a world of content & reviews at our fingertips. The problem is a few snazzy pictures & moderate reviews makes every mic seem about the same. There are some very popular & big name manufacturers out there that just aren’t making high quality mics which perform well for podcasting. Spoiler alert: The name of the mic does not actually affect the sound or quality! There are also some under-appreciated mics out there that are knocking it out of the park. The point here is not to point fingers but merely give you some feedback based off of our experience. You don’t always get what you pay for. An entry level mic can be a superior product even if it’s at a cheaper price tag. More expensive doesn’t always mean a better quality. While our recommendations below might not be the household name or the hottest ticket in town, they are consistent, they are reliable & they do what they’re designed to do: capture great quality audio. There are many great microphones out there but these are 4 of our favorites & most highly recommended!
- Audio-Technica AT 2005 – $79 (Works as USB & XLR microphone – a GREAT mic for the price)
- Shure SM58 — $99 (A legendary vocal mic & one of the most popular mics in the world)
- ElectroVoice RE320 – $329 (Broadcast standard mic & one of our favorites for podcasting)
- Neumann KSM 105 – $699 (If you want to spend a little more for a top of the line voiceover mic, this is it!)
What do you look for in a mic? Something well-made & designed for capturing speech & dialogue, not just something that captures sound. This is where recording pattern comes in to play. Not too get too lost in the weeds here, but many popular mics look cool, but their recording pattern & design are hyper sensitive & pick up everything in the room. Something with a closer or tighter (cardioid) pattern is more ideal for capturing voices without the background noise.
How to Get the Best Mic Technique?
Once you shell out the cash, the work is not done! Buying the right equipment is essential to capturing great sound, but you have to know how to use it. A new convertible wasn’t made to sit in the driveway. You have to know what it can do & how to use it to make it really perform well! A microphone is no different. A great microphone with poor technique is a losing battle. So just some basic pointers on good mic technique to get you the most out of your hardware investment:
- Distance: Your mouth should be approximately 3-5” away from your microphone to capture the ultimate quality. Anything closer may be distorted or boomy sounding, anything further may sound hollow, picking up extra room noise.
- Placement: Each mic has its own unique recording pattern, but typically recording with the microphone pointed directly towards your mouth is ideal. If you do not have a pop filter you may want to angle the mic to the side to prevent excessive plosives & pop sounds.
- Technique: Once set up correctly, make sure you’re input level isn’t peaking in your recording device/program. If it’s too hot it will distort & not capture quality audio. If it’s too low then the quality may be lost once levels are boosted. So talk a bit. See what happens in the normal range of conversation when things are soft & then again when you’re speaking loud. The more you control on the front end, the more can be controlled on the back end.
- Mind your P’s & Q’s: Well more like P’s, T’s & other popping sounds. Sounds that pop when you say them are magnified in a microphone. Be mindful of how you’re talking. And if you’re feeling generous, buy yourself a pop filter. They can be incredibly affordable since you can can buy a pop filter for as cheap as $7 on Amazon. Our team will appreciate your investment too.
How to Know if I Need Headphones?
Well, the answer is-you do! I know you think it looks funny & I know it seems unnecessary, but headphones help you hear what others will hear. Putting on some headphones helps you identify any distractions your listener will hear. If you hear it coming through your headphones, more than likely others will also during playback. But rest assured-you don’t have to break the bank on these, just get something that will be reliable:
- Audio-Technica ATH M20X – $49 (Great entry level, affordable, closed back headphones)
- Sony MDR 7506 – $79 (Middle of the road, closed back headphones. Many reporters & podcaster use & recommend these.)
- Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro – $169 (Comfortable & they sound great! These are our favorite closed back headphones at this price point. Many of our audio editors use these headphones)
Trust us. This is a small investment that will help you troubleshoot some common problems in recordings, which will save you from a headache down the road!
How to Choose a Good Recording Platform?
This is also a popular question for us & with good reason. The mic does no good without something to capture the audio for the listener to listen on! There a number of platforms that people use. Sometimes it’s a computer with a software program & sometimes it’s an all-in-one recorder. We’ve covered this topic more thoroughly here. The reality is that different situations require different things & people’s preferences are also varied. There is no right or wrong way to record. But whatever method you use, make sure you effectively know how to use it, otherwise all will be lost! Perhaps literally. The 2 most common scenarios we see clients use are an all-in-one recorder like this Zoom H6 or a computer with a software program like GarageBand or Audacity. While the all-in-one recorders are forever loved for their simplicity of use & reliability, many people prefer the software option due to cost & the added features they offer. Understandable. If you choose to use a software, make sure you speak with our team before pressing record to review some of the basics. All the bells & whistles they offer can cause headaches & problems. Remember, once you put that fancy reverb or effect on, little can be done!
How to Record my Guest When They’re Not Here?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone ask me this. It’s overwhelming…and confusing. Sure, the ideal scenario would be an in-person discussion with your guest on high quality mics with a carefully crafted recording setup. But that’s not real life! Guests only have a few minutes. They live hours away. Schedules change. So how do we adapt? Technology is amazing. There are some great solutions out there to help out if this is you. At the outset I will say that some of the most popular are not always the best. Programs like Skype & Zoom are phenomenal, for conference phone calls. That is what they were designed for. Yes, they offer the option of letting you record the call, but it’s not intended for high-quality audio capturing. For recording your remote guest with optimal quality, we have had great success with Zencastr. This platform is free! And best of all, it’s designed to record you & your guest as individual tracks, which makes the quality superior & the editing/mixing process a breeze. The program is easy to use, but let us know what questions you have. Worried about your guest not having a high quality mic? Even a headset with a built-in microphone can capture great quality audio in a pinch. Have them snag their iPhone headphones & you’re off to recording! We are also often asked the best way to record phone calls & we plan to cover that in detail in a future post.
How to Podcast | Stay Tuned
I know we’ve covered a lot here. And most of it was not as detailed as you may have liked. But hopefully there is something you were able to walk away with that his helpful lot you. If not, hopefully you see this as an additional resource in your research & one from a refreshing or different perspective you may not have considered. Because we receive questions about these things so frequently we are focusing on providing additional content in the weeks ahead that will answer each of these topics more in-depth, so stay tuned. For more information on the specifics of this topic feel free to review our Equipment Guide or schedule a call with one of our team members to review your setup. Now get to work on your podcast!
More from this series:
- Podcasting Basics: Overview
- Podcasting Basics: Why Podcast?
- Podcasting Basics: Who Should Podcast
- Podcasting Basics: What to Podcast About
- Podcasting Basics: Where to Record a Podcast
By: Jon Street
As the Production Coordinator at Resonate Recordings, Jon leads the production team & ensures that all our podcasters have everything needed to release consistent high-quality episodes. Jon & his family are from West Palm Beach, Florida & now live in Simpsonville, KY.