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Even after you’ve decided on a microphone and recording software, you might be wondering, “How do I make this thing sound good?”
Making your own podcast should be a fun and creative process. It’s an awesome way to share your ideas, have in-depth conversations, laugh with friends and explore topics you love. We work with thousands of podcasters, and we know that sometimes getting started can seem like the biggest hurdle. Even after you’ve decided on a microphone and recording software, you might be wondering, “How do I make this thing sound good?”
When you record your podcast, you’re not just recording your velvety-smooth voice, you’re capturing the room that you’re in, too. Recording in a stairwell, your bathroom, or an empty apartment? Your recording is probably going to sound like you recorded it there. To make a great-sounding podcast, you want to aim for a recording where your voice sounds fairly isolated. A good first step is to find a location that’s comfortable to record in, and also sounds good when you’re speaking normally.
Square rooms with tall ceilings and lots of windows might be easy to come by, but they’re also really reflective. That means that the sound of your voice will bounce all over the room—making your podcast sound kind of echo-ey. For recording, you want to find a spot that has a lot of sound-damping material. This might include pillows, hanging clothes, shag carpet, blankets, cushy furniture, and paintings on the walls.
It’s going to sound better recording in your walk-in closet, or in your bed, or on your couch, than at your kitchen table. If you have a hard time finding a good spot, grab a pile of clothes, or some pillows and arrange them around your microphone. Anything to cut down the sound of the space will improve your recording.
Remember—it’s not about how you look when you’re recording in a pillow fort. It’s how your podcast sounds at the end of the day. And if you’re hard-pressed to find a spot that sounds good, you can pick up a tool that will help you reduce the noise of your space. Just google search “microphone reflection filter” and find one that fits your budget.
OK. So you’ve found a good spot to record. You’re about to set up your microphone and start recording. But before you do anything else, plug in your headphones! Anyone involved in the recording should be wearing headphones. They don’t have to be fancy—they just need to be plugged in. This is especially critical if you’re doing an interview over Skype.
You’ll also want to make sure that the output for your recording software is either set to your “Built-in” audio—the headphone port on your computer—or to your audio interface if you’re using one. Wearing headphones while recording is very important. They’ll improve the clarity of your podcast and your interviews, and reduce the chances of pesky feedback.
For any recording software—Skype, Garage Band, Hindenburg Journalist, or other popular applications—you can choose the input for your recording. The input is the thing that captures the sound of your voice. It might be the mic on an iPhone headset, a USB mic like Yeti, the mic in your laptop, or a professional XLR microphone.
While different microphones will capture your voice differently, most dedicated microphones will work just fine—and sound great—when you’re starting your podcast. What you don’t want is to deliver a sick performance into your expensive microphone, only to find out that you recorded the whole thing with your laptop mic by accident.
After you find a good-sounding space to record, plug in your microphone and make sure to set the correct input source in your software. Most of the time, this can either be found in the Settings for the software under “Audio,” or directly on the audio track in the main window of your software.
Your computer usually already knows what input sources are available, and you’ll be able to tell which input is your desired microphone. To double check that you’ve set the correct input source, lightly scratch the microphone grille and make sure the level meter on your audio track corresponds appropriately.
Check your levels! You don’t want to be too quiet (left), too loud (center), but just right (right).
Once you’ve set your input, you’ll want to set your recording level. The recording level is how loudly your voice gets recorded. Just like when talking to any audience, you don’t want your voice to be too quiet or too loud. You don’t want your listeners to have to crank up the volume, or stop listening because you’re hurting their ears.
Luckily, any audio recording software will have a level meter you can reference. Your meters are a visual indicator of how loud your recording will be. Many of them are even color coded. Green indicates you’re being heard by the software, and red means you’re too loud. Most meters are either horizontal or vertical. The louder you are, the further your meter will read to the right (horizontal), or closer to the top (vertical). When you’re in the red, the track will “clip” and will create an unpleasant, distorted sound.
If the full meter—blown out in the red zone—is 100%, you generally want to set your level so that as you speak normally, you’re in the 70-90% range.
Setting levels takes practice. But once you get it, it’s a walk in the park. First you’ll need to decide where you’ll set your levels. Some microphones, like The Yeti, have a “gain” knob directly on the microphone—more to one side means the microphone is less sensitive, or quieter, and the other side is very sensitive and much louder. You want to find the setting that’s giving you a good level for your normal speaking voice.
If your microphone doesn’t have a volume setting on board, you’ll either set your level on your audio interface (if you’re using one) or within your recording software.
And that’s it!
Just do a quick test recording to make sure everything sounds good. Then, all that’s left to do is press record, and crush your podcast.