Looking to record a podcast for your business? Great idea! Podcasts have been seeing a surge in popularity lately, growing from 550k shows in 2018 to an estimated 850k in Jan 2020!
No matter what gear you’re using or where you’re recording, whether you’ve just started, or even celebrating your thousandth subscriber – the following are some practical steps you can take to up your podcast game.
– Decent. It doesn’t have to be top of the line or expensive. But avoid cheap, nasty stuff, like gaming headsets or phones. Try to go for something made for recording vocals or dialogue. There is a world to choose from and what you select will depend on your budget and other gear you have, such as an outboard audio interface, portable recorder, mixing desk etc.
Image from Rode
– Do not use in-ear Apple earbuds. Every time you do, you make a sound engineer cry.
– Get yourself a pair of over-ear isolating monitor headphones. Again, you don’t need to spend big, but read some reviews and get something that’s purpose is for mixing and listening to things as they are. Many commercial headphones are made to make music sound ‘better’ by applying a little extra low-end (bass), pulling back on mids and tapering off the high-end (treble). Many also do a pretty poor job of keeping outside noise from getting in. Don’t get noise-cancelling headphones, you want to hear the noise.
– If possible, you want to listen to yourself while you record, which means one separate pair of headphones for each person.
Image from beyerdynamic
– Probably the most obvious tip, but also the most important. Reducing hiss, hum and other constant noises isn’t too hard to do, but removing birds, traffic noise, people talking in the background or removing reverb is a far harder task.
– Remove noisy things from the room and turn off any things that tick, ring, click, whir or wail. This includes phones and laptops.
– Find a room that doesn’t have obvious reverb or echo. I’m not talking about a church or car park (although obviously avoid those) but even small rooms can have troublesome reverb (think singing in the shower). You want a room with carpet on the floor, sound tiles on the ceiling, soft furnishings or anything that will help absorb and diffuse sound waves.
– Plug in – Grab your gear and head into space. Set up your mic(s) where you think you’ll be using them and pop on your headphones. Then start listening to the space through your headphones (press record or your monitor button).
– Listen – Spend a solid 30 secs listening to the room noise and ambience of the space. You’re listening for things you could possibly avoid by moving, closing a door, or asking if the people in the room across the hall would mind having their ‘discussion’ elsewhere.
– Clap – then listen to the sound being reflected. Can you hear the reflection? Think about how loud it was and how complex in comparison to the sound of you actually clapping. If the reflection was loud, you might need to get some absorbency and diffusion in the room. Couches work well. So do these.
– Look – Take a look at your set-up in comparison to where you’re sitting, ensure you’re not going to accidentally bump your mic or knock the surface it’s sitting on.
– After you find a good place to record and a good place for your mic(s), it’s time to find a good place for yourself. The mic should be pointed toward you and ideally less than 30cm away from your mouth, but if you’re sharing one mic between multiple people this can be difficult, so just ensure its an equal distance between the two of you and as close as possible to you both.
– Don’t get too close – you’ll get ‘mouth’ noise and if you don’t have a pop filter you risk big ‘pops’ on words that use plosive consonants such as ‘p’ ‘t’ and ‘k’.
– Set your gain (recording/input volume) to match your natural speaking voice volume – don’t adjust the volume of your voice or move the mic further away. Try taking the headphones off for a bit during this task (otherwise you will naturally adjust your voice to the volume in the headphones) and set the gain visually by watching the levels, try to get them sitting up between -3db and -6db. Try talking louder, try an excited laugh or similar and make sure the levels never ‘clip’ (hit the red). If it’s too loud in your headphones, turn down your headphone output volume, not the recording/input volume.
– Record yourself talking then listen back.
– Record 30 seconds of room tone i.e. silence in the room you are recording in. Room tone allows you or your sound engineer to smooth over edits and analyse background noise to help reduce it.
– Press record, put on your headphones and spend a minute or so just talking and getting comfortable with the sound of your voice through the headphones.
– Get started on the right foot. If you feel you mumbled over your intro or didn’t give it enough ‘oomph’, just do it again.
– Remember your podcast can be edited and you can re-record parts, but try to push through the little stuff ups – it’s supposed to sound like a natural conversation.
If you’re not doing the final mix yourself but you are doing the edit, the following are some great tips for keeping your sound engineer happy and getting the best sounding podcast you can.
– If it was recorded separately, put it on a separate track and name it accordingly.
– Provide handles.
– Avoid edit ‘clicks’.
– Provide 30+ seconds of room tone.
– Import and export at the same bit depth and sample rate you recorded at.
– Export without effects or compression.
And that’s it. It might sound like a lot to remember, but once you get the basics down you’ll find yourself doing them without thinking and soon enough you’ll be analysing the room tone during your daily meetings.
If you have any questions or need a hand, get in touch with us at Green Hat. We can help out with every step of your podcast journey from set-up to publishing and of course, promotion.
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