How to Record a Podcast
Podcasting is quickly becoming a maintream everyday activity for many around the world who feel they have something to say. It has also never been easier to access the equipment needed to run your own podcast from the comfort of your own home. In order to help you, we’re going to run through how to record a podcast in various situations.
There are many different ways to record the audio for a podcast with many elements to consider. Such as room tone, microphone quality, polar patterns, recording devices and many more.
The two main factors that you can control are your enviroment and your equipment.
Table of Contents
How does sound work?
Before being able to make dercisions around how to record a podcast, you need and understanding how sound works will help you understand why choosing an enviroment affects sound in order to make educated dercisions on your recording space.
Sound travels around as waves, and can bouce off surfaces. These waves bounce more the harder the surface, such as wooden floors and tiled walls, which then creates an echo. Waves are absorbed by softer surfaces, such as curtains, thick carpets and cushined furniture.
Sound waves also get wider the more distance they have to travel, and larger sound waves create more of an echo. This is why you hear an echo large echo in canyons or caves, where you usually have a lot of distance and very hard surfaces.
If the room has many hard surfaces and does not absorb enough sound, you will notice a distance in your voice as you speak, as if you’re in a big church or hall. If it’s really bad, you will hear an actual echo.
When you’re recording your podcast, you’re looking for the least amount of echo possible. Now you understand what affects sound, it’ll be far easier for you to understand how to record a podcast.
How to choose your podcast recording space?
Your podcast recording space plays a huge role in the overall sound quality of your podcast. Planning your podcast recording space and testing the sound before hand is always advisable, esspecially if you’re not hosting in a regular location. Knowing how to choose your podcast recording space is key to knowing how how to record a podcast.
What should you be listening for?
This might be an obvious one, but having a soundproof, quiet podcast recording space to record is always the best way of getting the best clean audio recording. If you’re not in a studio, this can be more difficult of course!
Noise distruption happening during the podcast can distract the listners, and the podcast should only be about listening to you. We’re talking about sound that are loud and obvious to the recording, such as doors slaming, someone shouting or phones ringing.
Make sure you spend some time in your podcast recording space before hand to listen out for some of these distruptions. If you notice a few and they happen often, then you may need to move to another recording space.
Of course, you should always try and choose a space that has minimal distruption, but some things are inevitable and distruption may happen during the recording. If something happens during a podcast recording that you know will be difficult to ignore, simply stop and start that segment again. If you are with a guest, you should do the same.
Background noises are different to distruptive noises as they are more constant and consistent. We’re talking about thing such as people chatting, traffic outside and rain falling on the roof. If anything, they can be worse than distruptive noises as these will run all the way through you podcast and you might not be able to avoid them or edit them out in the edit. The whole podcast recording could be ruined if you’re not wary of background noise.
A clean background will not only give you no distractions, but it also allow you to edit your podcast recording with ease. For example, if you can clearly hear cars going past in the background and you need to chop bits up in th edit, the car noises will all be chopped up and obvious to the listener that you’ve edited things.
If you hear anything, make a judgement call on how distruptive those sounds are to the recording during your test run. You might need to remove the problematic item, or even move locations if you can’t continue with the distruption in your podcast recording.
If it’s very subtle in the background, it might be ok to leave it and edit it out later through your software.
Of course, it’s sometimes inevitable that you will have background noise to compete with, such as if you’re recording in a coffee shop. You can reduce the noise by making smart dercisions with your microphone and limiting the amound of background noise it picks up.
Don’t only listen out for the noises that your ears can hear. Whislt using your headphones and microphone, make sure you listen very carefully to the very quiet noises happening around you. You don’t always hear these things initially until you start listening through your headphones.
You should listen for sounds such as hums, hisses or rattling made by things such as airconditioning units, ticking clocks or even your own equipment acting up.
If you can hear something through your headphones, there’s a chance it could come out on the podcast if you haven’t been able to edit it out completely. Make a judgement call on your choice of recording space – it might be nothing, but it might annoying be everything.
Another obvious one for many. Although you can’t hear wind with your own ears, you will certainly hear it through your microphone. You should always try and avoid recording a podcast outside for this exact reason.
If you do have an issue with wind, make sure that you have a wind breaker on your mic to try and reduce the wind noise. Also try protecting the microphone from the wind with your body positioning.
An echo is created by sound waves bouncing off hard surfaces and not being absorbed. The harder the surfaces, the more sound waves will bounce, creating an echo. You will have heard this in places such as churches or village halls, where your voice sounds distant and echo-y.
If your room makes your voice seem distant, cold and echo-y, there are little things you can do to improve this without having to move location. Such as, closing any curtains, recording under blankets and covering wooden floors or walls with bedding.
If you address the echo in the room, you’ll find your podcast natrually sounding warmer.
Does room size matter?
Yes, room size affects the distance that sound waves travel.
A larger room usually means more echo or more distance in your voice, making your recroding sound cold. Of course, a sound-proofed large room would mitigate any waves bouncing everywhere, avoiding an echo. But it’s unlikely you’ll have access to a large soundproofed room.
Also, if you’re using a microphone with a smaller pickup area, you might not hear any other sound appart from yours no matter how large the echo is.
The other consideration is when you havea guest on the show. When you have a guest (or guests) recording with you in the same room, then a comfortable space might be more advisable than using a soundproofed broom closet with room for 1.
There are things you can do to any room to assist with soundproofing and making your podcast sound warmer, we’ll cover some in the next section.
How to improve your recording space?
Unless you are recording in a studio that’s been set up for the sole purpurse of recording sound, you’re probably recording in your office or at home. Wherever you are, there are little things you can do to improve your recording space.
Here are our how to record a podcast guide tips on improving you recording space.
1. Avoid large rooms
The larger the room, the more distance sound waves have to travel, expand, bounce and create and echo. Therefore, avoid larger rooms if at all possible so that you give yourself the best audio possible.
2. Cover hard surfaces
Covering up some of the harder elements of your room can help you absorbe sound waves. You should be covering anything that’s reasonable such as your desk, walls and floor.
On a basic level, use blankets, towels, sheets, clothes, carpets, rugs – anything that could be used to absorb sound waves. As well as this, don’t forget to close your curtains, they’re great sound absorbers!
3. Sound proof your home
A very simple solution is buying some sound proofing acoustic foam for your room. Constrary to what many think, little foam squares are not too expensive and can be placed wherever needed.
Rather than using your own bedding sheets, you could also invest in some fabric blankets (packing blankets) that do a great job of absorbing sound. Saves you from running out of bed sheets!
4. Try a dynamic, cardioid microphone
If you’re struggling with distruption, noise or echo try using a dynamic, cardioid microphone that will only pick up the noise that’s right infront of it.
Dynamic microphones are less sensitive than condenser microphones and might be just the thing to avoid picking up any other noises or echos going on around you.
Set up the mic very close to your mouth and set the levels there. That way, you’re giving youself the best chance of only picking up your voice.
Of course, remember to avoid directly speaking into the microhpone to avoid any popping (hard sounds such as Ps or Bs). Stay close, but speak to the side of the microphone.
5. Use a mini sound booth
Another thing your could do is get yourself a sound booth for you microphone.
You can build yourself a mini sound booth using sound absorbing materials.The materials could be as basic as a few pillows around the microphone. Or you could use a few acoustic foam squares and create a box around the microphone. You then place the microphone inside, and speak into the space.
The other option of course if buying one and they’re available online.
6. Don't be afraid of using small spaces
Esspecially if you’re recording a solo podcast, you have full control of your recording enviroment. If you’re general enviroment is unavoidibly large with hard surfaces, where the echo is terrible, there are things your could try:
Record in your closet or cupboard – yes, it’s going to be cosey (unless you have a large walk in wardrobe) but the clothes in your closet will act as perfect sound absorbers.
Record under some sheets – grab yourself some sheets or bedding and make yourself a tent. You cant reduce the size of your house, but you can certainly control your imediate surroundings. Sheets act as perfect sound absorbers, esspecially duvets.
7. Microphone direction
On a more practical side of things. If noise is an issue, try pointing your mic away from any noise sources in order to avoid any sound waves going directly into the mic.
This won’t always make a difference but it’s certainly worth remembering if you’re in a tight spot without much to work with.
8. Record during quieter periods
If all else has failed and you can’t control the distruptions and noises around you, try literaly avoiding them altogether and recording when no one else is around.
Try recording your podcast at night or early in the morning when everyones still asleep. Or, wait until nobodys home or for everyone to leave the office.
A few less distruptions and possible a bit less background noise to compete with!
How to setup your equipment?
Setting up to record a podcast has never been easier, esspecially with the rise of USB connected devices. There are many different ways of setting up and many different devices you could rig up to work. But we’re only going to cover some of the main podcast setups in this how to record a podcast guide.
How to record a podcast using an USB microphone
If you’re only looking to set up one microphone, then an USB microphone connected with your computer would generally be perfect. All you have to do is buy an USB microphone and connect it to your computer.
How to record a podcast using an XLR microphone
If you want to use an XLR microphone then we recommend you invest a little more in the additional piece, which is an UBS mixer or an USB audio interface. Both will allow you to connect your XLR with the computer.
Make sure that you know what cables you need to plug into your mixer or audio interface. Once you’re ready, you simply plug the XLR into the mixer and plug the mixer into your computer via USB.
How to record a podcast using an audio/digital recorder
Portable audio digital recorders (or digital recorders/sound recorders etc) are super versitile and can give you many different options when setting up to record a podcast.
We’ll cover the more popular ways here, but there are many more.
The first thing you can do is simply use the inbuilt microphone on the audio recorder, and transfer your audio files over to a computer via a cable or an SD card.
The second way is to use an external XLR microphone instead of the inbuilt microphones on the sudio recorder, and transfer the audio files over to your PC.
The third way is to use your audio recorder’s inbuilt microphone as an XLR microphone (same as the XLR microhpone setup), and capture the audio directly on your computer via USB rather than on the audio recorder.
How to record a podcast using multiple microphones
If you have a mixer or an audio interface with more than one XLR input it’s super easy to setup more than one microphone. Simply plug in more! You can even include your audio recorder’s microphone as one of your microphones.
The only thing we’d recommend is that it’s best to use the same XLR microphones for audio consistency. It’ll be easier to get the levels correct if both microphones are the same. But, this is only a recommendation as you could set two different microphones up and still get them sounding great together.
One thing to note, we don’t recommend using more than one USB microphone and plugging them both directly into the same computer. USB microphones tend to confuse computers and might distrupt your audio during the sessions. Of course, there are ways of doing this, such as using a driver with Adobe Audition, or by using two seperate laptops for the different USB microphones. But all in all, it’s far safer and easier to use XLR microphones through a mixer/audio interface that’s connected with your computer.
How to use your microphone?
Your microphone is the most important piece of your kit, but could be completely useless if you don’t use it correctly. Many differemt things, such as your choice of microphone, can have an affect of the techniques you need.
Even so, regadless of microphone choice, there are a few things we would recommend in this how to record a podcast guide.
Microphone placement & proximity
Your microphone placement can be a great help to your audio quality. Being close to the microphone will give you voice a deaper, fuller and more intimate sound to the audience. Being further away will make your voice sound more distant, empty and echo-y.
We’d always recommend trying to aim for the full, intimate sound.
So, if you’re recording a solo podcast, keep the microphone at a comfortable distance from your mouth. We recommend this to be about a hands length, but you can set the sound levels to whetever sounds best for your needs and whatever works best with the microphone.
Whatever the final distance, the most important thing is that you keep the same distance between your mouth and the microphone as much as you can whislt recroding.Also, keep the same head position and speak into the mic at all times.
The same is true for guests if possible. Although it might be more unpractical to expect others to keep distance and head positions if they’re not used to it. If so, make sure that you set up the microphone or microphones in nutral positions that will allow you to capture a consistent sound.
Doing these things will give you a more consistent and rich sounding audio recording.
Popping Ps & Bs
Popping noises from hard consenants such as Ps and Bs can be a nightmare when recording, esspecially if you’re mouth is really close to the microphone.
The good news is, this is easily avoidable by using pop shields or foam filters between your mouth and the microphone. Some microphones even come with inbuild pop shields. We recommend getting an additional one regardless.
If you don’t have a pop shield, you could simply avoid talking directly into the microphone. Turn the head of the microphone away slightly so that it doesn’t point directly at your mouth. Make sure you’re talking to the side or over the top of the microphone after doing so. This is refered to as holding the microphone on an off-axis.
By doing this you could change the overall sound quality, so make sure you’re happy with the change in tone. Just remember, having popping noises during your recording is far worse for you podcast.
Or, just get a pop shield or foam filter, they’re both very budget friendly.
The polar pattern of your microphone determines what area around the microphone is picking up sound. It’s important to choose a microphone with the most suitable polar pattern for your pticular use. Some microphones come with interchangable polar patterns and can be very versitile and useful for various things.
We’re going to cover some of the more useful patterns when it comes to prodcasting, but there are others.
Cardioid – The most common microphone pattern used with podcasting is cardioid, where it captures the sound in one directional area to the front. You can also pick up a super-carioid that’s even more directional again.
Bi-directional – Can be useful if you only have one microphone for two people. Would work best with one person either side.
Omidirectional – Another useful pattern that captures all the sound in the surounding area, great for recording if you’re not quite sure where anything’s going to happen. This pattern records all the way around the microphone.
Microphone input level
Setting the input level, or gain, is a very important step you must take before starting to record. This simply means setting the volume your microphone is recording at so that it isn’t too low or too high. If you set it too low you’ll hear a hissing sound on your recording when you evenetually have to turn it up in the edit. Set it too high and you might end up hitting the red zone and clipping your audio meaning that it’ll probably sound distorted.
All you need to do to set everything is turn up/down the input volume until you can barely hear the hissing sound. Once set, you should be ok for the duration of your recording as long as you don’t have any massive changes in volume during the recording. That is, don’t randomly start shouting all of a sudden without setting your levels again ready for the new burst of volume.
Remember to keep an eye on your input levels whilst you’re recording. Spotting the red lights as your getting too loud should be quite easy, but remember there is such a thing as not being loud enough as well.
What do you do as you record?
Record room tone
Room tone, simply put, is the sound of an empty room.
We recommend you take an audio recording (about 10 seconds) of the silence in your recording space just incase you will need to use it to clean up your audio.
This is an easy process called ‘noise reduction’ that comes as standard with most editing software packages.
Monitor sound levels
Make sure that those sound levels don’t go too loud, or to quiet.
If the levels are too loud you will either see the levels hitting the red zone, or you’ll actually hear it sounding distrorted in your headphones. Likewise, if the levels are too quiet, you wont see much activity on the visual level, and won’t hear the audio coming through your headphones very well.
You will need to actively monitor your audio levels as you’re recording.
Don't be afraid to redo parts
Always remmember you’re recording, and you’re in complete control of what’s going on. If you don’t like something, or a slight disctruption happened, simlpy stop and start again.
If you do have to stop, make sure there’s enough silence inbetween takes for you to be able to edit things in.
The same is true for pausing and waiting. Don’t panic if someone turns a drill on, wait for them to finish or go ask them to delay their DIY job for 30 mins. It’s obviously more important to address these issues if you have a guest that has limited time with you.