Want to record a podcast, but not sure how? Surprisingly, it’s easier than you think! Here’s everything you need to know to start your very first podcast the easy way.
Recording at Home, in Your Office, or Outside?
Home studio or office setups are ideal for recording podcasts. You have control over your environment with fewer distractions and better equipment, something you don’t get when recording outside. Plus, home recordings sound much more professional in a quiet area with everything already setup and ready to use.
There are however, better opportunities when taking your podcast on location For example, recording interviews on your phone adds a bit of variety and new perspective to your shows. Record outside using iPhone’s Voice Memos or Android’s Voice Recorder to capture interesting conversations on location, then send over to your computer for editing.
Software You Need to Record a Podcast
Whether you record at home or outside, you still need editing software to smooth out your podcast’s audio. For this guide, we’re using Audacity. It’s free, easy to use, and works with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. However, if you want to stretch your legs with something different then we recommend the following:
- Audacity: Free and easy to use, Audacity is the most used amateur recording software for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.
- GarageBand: Widely used by musicians and podcasters alike, GarageBand is the defacto recording and editing software on Mac.
- Adobe Audition: Packed with plenty of cool features, this subscription-based service is a must for professionals (although it does come with a steep learning curve!).
Choosing the Best Microphone
More importantly, you can’t record a podcast without a good microphone, but which one is right for you? Personally, you should start off basic and work your way up, starting off with whatever you have available like a built-in microphone.
- Built-in Microphone: Built-in mics were not designed for recording professional audio. Consider them as a temporary solution to record your first couple of episodes before you move on to something better.
- USB Microphone: USB mics, like the Rode Podcaster, are easy to start using from the get go. They connect directly to your computer and just work.
- Dynamic Microphone: Dynamic mics are designed to focus on your voice. Just like the Rode Podcaster, Shure SM7B is dynamic and ideal for spoken word as it ignores far away noises. If you have multiple presenters then a few of these hooked up to a mixer will be the perfect solution.
- Condenser Microphone: Considered the industry standard by professionals, the Rode NT1-A condenser records natural sounds. As a result, it picks up quiet audio, so you can use one of these to record multiple presenters.
Recording Your Podcast
You can’t go wrong with Audacity, the software of choice for this guide. Get started by downloading it here. Once open, it should look something like this...
By default, Audacity uses your built-in microphone to record. Make sure the one you want to use is selected from the drop-down menu next to the microphone symbol (in this case that's the Rode Podcaster).
Is it working correctly? Monitor your microphone’s volume levels by clicking the input level bar.
When you’re ready to start recording your podcast, click the red button. Then, when your show is at an end, click the stop button.
Forgot something you want to add to your podcast? Clicking the red button again starts a new audio track from the beginning. Instead, pause your recorded audio so you can pick up where you left off.
Pausing and Continuing
Recordings don’t always go to plan. Even professionals podcasters fluff what they’re saying and need a breather. Collect your thoughts and save from editing loads of audio using Audacity’s pause feature.
Select the pause symbol to take a break from your podcast. When you’re ready to start back up just click the pause button again.
Once you’re finally finished, click the stop button to end your current audio track.
Exporting Your Podcast
When you’re happy with your recording, package up your podcast by exporting it. Go to File > Export Audio.
Add your podcast episode name and choose your file type. We recommend either M4A (AAC) or MP3 as they are industry standard and the most popular amongst podcast hosting platforms like iTunes.
If you have multiple audio tracks (from stopping and starting), then you will be asked to mix them down into a single mono channel. Confirm to continue. Next, enter your shows information (known as metadata) like artist, title, and year, then continue.
If you chose to export your podcast as MP3 then you need to install an
encoder known as LAME. You can download this from Audacity for either Windows or Mac. The same applies to M4A (AAC) files as you need the FFmpeg library to export. Add it in Audacity > Preferences > Library, then select Locate. Download the file by following the instructions and confirm in Audacity.
Finally, confirm to export your show. It should be available to listen to in your downloaded area.
Editing Your Podcast
Podcasts rarely sound their best without a bit of editing magic. Whether you’re cutting out a misspoken word, trimming dead air, or reducing distant noises in the background, you’re better off cleaning up your audio before publishing it. Import recorded audio into Audacity by selecting File > Import > Audio.
One of the most common problems podcasters have is gaps of silence. Presenters may pause for a few seconds to collect their thoughts, but it doesn’t make for interesting listening. Cut sections out with Truncate Silence.
Highlight your entire recording, then go to Effect > Truncate Silence. Remove dead air by using the following settings:
- Level: -20dB
- Duration: 2
- Truncate to: 0
Your waveform length should be shortened. The settings removed any audio that’s lower than -20dB and longer than 2 seconds.
If you notice audio sounding abrupt or it just doesn’t sound right at all, then try adjusting the settings slightly and previewing the audio.
There’s a bunch of things you can in Audacity to improve your podcast. For example, amplify or normalize audio for consistent audio levels, add fade in/out, and remove background noises. For more Audacity editing tips be sure to check out this complete guide on How to Start a Podcast.