You can plan the perfect podcast down to the finest detail in your head. But if you never actually hit record, that’s where it’s going to remain.
You won’t get many downloads in there.
The thought of having to record, edit, and produce audio is the biggest barrier facing new and aspiring podcasters. Initially, this seems like the area you’re going to have to spend the most of your time on. The truth is, though, that your unique topic, and how well you know your target audience are much more important factors. These things will really determine whether a podcast will be successful or not.
So should we be spending all that time trying to master sound engineering and audio production? For the vast majority of podcasters, the answer is, obviously, no.
At the same time, though, there’s no real excuse for poor audio quality these days. Listeners are less likely to tolerate shows that have sub-par sound.
The good news is that recording, editing, and production don’t need to be complicated, time-consuming, or costly. In this guide, we’ll run through the simplest options for all.
The aim here is to free up space for you to really hone in on what you want to say, without that coming at the expense of your sound and audio quality. Let’s dive in.
We’ll start off with the recording phase. After all, if we don’t hit record, then the editing and production stuff is irrelevant...
It almost goes without saying, but in order to record your podcast, you’ll need a microphone. I recommend getting a USB mic, as you can have one out of the box and set up in less than 60 seconds. Well, that’s assuming you’re good at opening boxes, but let’s face it, after the year that was 2020, who isn’t?
Once you’ve plugged your mic into your computer, you’ll need some software to capture the recording. Your show’s format will matter here, because you might only need to record your own voice (eg; a solo podcast) or you might need to record with others (a co-hosted or interview podcast).
If you’re doing a solo show, you can download and install Audacity, which is totally free. You can also do your editing and production inside Audacity. It’s a pretty powerful and flexible tool. The trade-off is that it can be a steep learning curve, if you’re completely new to audio.
If you’re recording online with others, then Zoom is a free and simple option that most people are familiar with these days.
Many podcasters have great results using Zoom to record interviews, then Audacity to do the editing and production.
With Alitu, however, you can do both.
Alitu’s new call recorder tool is designed in the same way as every other Alitu feature - with simplicity in mind.
You just need to click Record a Call on the left-hand menu, enter the name you’d like to use, select your mic, and copy the invite link to the folks who’ll be joining you on this episode.
With Alitu, your call invite link never changes, which is great if you work with any sort of scheduling tool. With this in mind, you can also ‘lock’ your sessions to guard against the (admittedly, highly unlikely) random appearance of a former guest, mid-conversation.
Once you hit Start, Alitu will begin recording right away, so no more forgetting to hit record. Obviously, you’ll want to chop off this section from the final edit of your episode, as guests arrive and are introduced properly. Again, this is simple, and we’ll cover editing in the next section.
When you hit End Call, the interview will be saved automatically to your Alitu library. Now you can easily build this into your next episode.
Of course, not every podcast has interviews and co-hosts. So if you prefer to fly solo with your content, then you can just as easily record monologues directly into Alitu, too.
Every recording you do with Alitu is stored in your library automatically. This doesn’t mean it’s published. It just means it’s available for you to select, edit, and include in any future episode.
You can also easily upload recordings you’ve done on any other platform, from Audacity or Zoom, to Riverside or Squadcast. The latter two are high-end ‘multitrack’ recording tools. This means they record each participant on their own independent track. Alitu’s call recorder keeps things simpler by recording everything on the same track, but if you’d prefer to go down the multitrack route, then be sure to check out Riverside or Squadcast.
If you are using a multitrack recorder you can sync the files together in Audacity, or Alitu can do it for you automatically.
Continuing with Alitu, there’s an ‘Episode Builder’ feature where you can easily add and edit any audio you’d like to use.
When you click in to edit a segment of audio, you’ll be taken to a page where you can click and drag over the chunks you’d like to cut out. You can even split the track if you like.
Alitu makes it easy to preview edits before you make them. Any highlighted areas that are marked for the chop will be treated as if they’ve already been removed, when you hit the play arrow underneath. If it doesn’t sound quite right, just tweak, re-adjust, and try again.
Alitu isn’t the only way you can edit a podcast, though. I’ve already mentioned Audacity, which is a hugely popular free recording and editing tool.
Editing with Audacity follows the same principles as it does with Alitu. You just need to highlight the areas you don’t want, then chop them out.
Audacity might look a bit more complicated to those new to audio production. Its design and functions assume some prior knowledge on the part of the user. But, for podcasters on a tight budget, spending some time learning the tool is well worth the fact that it can be used free of charge.
To be honest, I’ve always used the terms “editing” and “production” interchangeably, to describe pretty much anything that happens after the recording stage. The correct term for all of this is really “post-production”. To keep things simple, let’s assume that “editing” is the chopping out of unwanted stuff, and that “production” is making the quality of the audio better.
So, what do I mean by “better”? Well, volume levels are a big issue in podcasting. A well-produced episode should have a consistent level of loudness. Podcast listeners shouldn’t have to adjust their volume dials because some parts are far too quiet, and other parts way too loud.
Volume levels don’t begin and end with your own podcast, either. Your episodes should be consistent in volume with other shows, so that there are no wild differences from one to the next.
Volume consistency can be improved through a process known as “compression,” which brings the quieter parts and the louder parts of your audio closer together.
It’s not all about volume, though. Another process, known as Equalization (or, EQ), can optimize certain frequencies to give your voice a crisp, clear “broadcast quality” sound. On top of that, there may be some light hissing or buzzing underneath your vocals, which is basically just the sound of your equipment in action. This can be improved by an obvious-sounding process known as ‘Noise Reduction’.
All of the above processes are at your disposal, free of charge, inside Audacity. They can take a bit of time (as well as some trial and error) to master. But, they will definitely improve the sound of your episodes. Here are some quick guides to Audacity Noise Reduction and Compression, as well as Podcast Loudness and EQ.
If all of this sounds a bit too complicated for your liking, then the good news is that Alitu automates all of it. You don’t need to know the slightest bit about any of the processes I’ve mentioned here, because it all happens under the hood. You just leave Alitu to do its thing with your audio, and focus more of your time and energy on creating great content for your listeners.
It’s important to mention, though, that no podcast production process is magic. There’s no software on earth that’ll turn poorly recorded audio into studio-quality sound. Always do your best to record good clean source material, and let your software optimise it, rather than trying to utilise it for some sort of damage limitation. Here are our full guides to mic technique and recording environment: both are far more important than anything you can do to your audio after it has been recorded.
You can use Audacity free of charge to record, edit, and produce your podcast. If you’d like to record online interview guests or co-hosts, you might also use Zoom. This setup is completely free, though there might be a bit of a learning curve to master Audacity.
For a simple and all-in-one option, though, go for Alitu. You can do your recordings inside Alitu (both solo and calls), and all the production processes we talked about (EQ, Loudness, Compression, Noise Reduction) happens automatically, without you having to know anything about it!
Interested in finding out more about Alitu? Try it free for 7 days and see for yourself.