The purpose of this post is not to give you step-by-step instructions on how to record, because that ultimately has to do with your equipment. Audio engineering is a very specific process that depends on a great deal of factors, including hardware and software.
Instead, we’ll focus on some simple podcast recording tips and techniques to ensure that you end up with raw audio that can be easily edited and mixed down into a podcast worth listening to.
Getting Ready to Record
Once you’ve invested your time and money in creating a good recording environment and selecting your podcast microphone and recording device, you’ll want to take the time to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment. No matter what kind of environment you’re in or gear you’re using, there are a few rules to follow every time you hit record:
- Turn off all phones
Vibrating ringers can cause interference with your recorded audio, and will still be picked up by the mic. So unless you need your phone for your podcast, turn it off. While you’re at it, quit any unnecessary apps running on your computer and mute any speakers.
- Turn off the HVAC in the room.
Turn off any heat, A/C or fans in the room. You may not notice them, but your microphone will.
- Put on headphones.
Everyone who is involved in the podcast should wear headphones, so you can hear what’s being recorded and react accordingly. If you like, you can wear one side only and tuck the other side behind your ear. That can make it feel more natural when talking to someone in the room.
- Make sure everyone has water.
Even if they decline your offer, make sure to have water available for anyone who will be on mic. Vocal cords dry out fast.
- Enable high/low pass filters.
Your recording software should include the ability to use high-pass and low-pass filters, which will cause your recording to ignore sounds that fall below or above certain frequencies, respectively. We typically recommend a high-pass filter at 80hz and a low-pass filter at 16kHz.
Mic placement is, in our opinion, something that is overlooked (or perhaps not totally understood) among many podcasters. You can invest in the best mic you can afford, and it’ll still sound bad if you simply put it in the wrong spot. Keeping just a couple tips in mind, however, you can easily make the personality of your mic come alive, reduce extraneous noise and avoid the need to crank up the levels on your final recorded audio.
We’ve touched on location when discussing how to set up a good recording environment, but it bears repeating here.
You and your mic should be away from the walls and as close to the middle of the room as possible, to reduce sound wave reflections.
Your mic should be in a stand, not hand-held. We highly recommend using a swivel-mount boom (or tripod) to keep the mic off the table and close to your mouth. If you must use a table stand, put some foam or other absorbent material between it and the table. Otherwise, every time you even tap the table, it will vibrate the mic and you’ll hear it in the audio.
Keep in mind that how to position the mic with respect to your mouth does vary a bit, depending on the directional pattern of your mic and whether you have a dynamic or condenser microphone. (For more on all of this, see our post on choosing your podcast microphone.)
Generally speaking (particularly if you have a cardioid mic), you want the mic to be slightly off to the side of your face, about half way between your nose and your ear, pointed right at your mouth. With this proper setup, the mic is pointed at your mouth, but your mouth is NOT pointed at the mic. This keeps the mic focused on your voice, while reducing the chances of you blowing or spitting into the mic, laughing into it, or otherwise peaking the audio and blowing out your eardrums. If you position the mic slightly above the mouth, pointing down, that gives the user a little leeway to turn their head slightly back and forth, while still remaining properly on mic.
Depending on your microphone choice, you might need to be fairly close to it, to ensure proper recording levels. With a dynamic mic, for example, your lips may be close to touching it. A condenser mic, on the other hand, might be a couple feet away from your mouth.
Experiment with you microphone placement and recording levels until you find the right position and settings that allow you to record at the desired levels using your natural speaking volume.
We generally recommend an average level around -20dB with peaks no higher than -12dB. (This is a little quiet but allows for more room during editing.)
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