How to Podcast: Recording an Episode

HowtoPodcast-RecordinganEpisode-2

This is Part 2 of  my How-to-Podcast series. Have you read Part 1? It’s called How to Podcast: What You Need.

Have you got all your podcasting equipment? Are you ready to make your first episode? Let’s go!

1. Plan the episode

Without a plan, you might end up rambling, or maybe you’ll forget certain things you want to talk about. Don’t write down word-by-word what you intend to say, because you’ll end up reading it and you won’t sound natural. I write down a list of headings and add some bullet points underneath each one. If I get stuck for words while I’m recording, a quick glance at my plan usually gets me back on track.

2. Choose a quiet place to record

Set up your computer in a quiet place, and then tell your family you’re going to be recording a podcast.  Hopefully, because they’ve been warned, they won’t interrupt you or drop heavy things right outside your door.

3. Select the microphone and other basic settings

I’m assuming you are using Windows, Audacity and a USB mic (like I do!)

 

Plug your mic into your computer BEFORE you open Audacity. Check that your computer recognises your mic.
Open Audacity.

 

 

 

There are 5 settings you need to check before you start recording. I’m going to share what I use, but if my instructions don’t work for you, you could try experimenting with your available options (which might be different to mine).

1. Windows DirectSound

 

If you want to know more about the various  audio interfaces, you could read this article.

2. Speakers HP (IDT High Definition) (I have an HP computer)

 

3. Microphone – choose the option for  your USB mic. If you can’t see it, you’ll need to check that your computer is recognising this USB device. Also, as I said earlier, you need to have the mic plugged in BEFORE opening Audacity. If you didn’t, close Audacity, plug in your mic and try again.

4. You can choose to record in mono or stereo. Mono is fine for speech, but because I add music to my podcasts, I choose the stereo option. A stereo file is much bigger than a mono file, but as I have an unlimited uploads podcasting plan with Podbean, this isn’t a problem.

5. The project rate needs to be set to 44100 Hz

 

I am certainly no expert when it comes to settings so I can’t give you much help here. But there is a good section at the beginning of the following video about choosing settings for Audacity.The presenter recommends a good set of audio headphones for listening to playback. He chooses the speaker option that corresponds to his headphones. I don’t bother with proper headphones. I record without them, and then afterwards, I listen to my recordings through my iPod earbuds. This works fine!

The video also includes a good tour guide of the basic Audacity features. There is a lot of editing and other info too. If it sounds too complicated, don’t worry. Just watch the beginning of the video. We’ll talk about editing after we’ve tackled recording.

 

3. Adjust the recording volume

 

Next, you should make a test recording to see whether you need to adjust the recording volume. You want your sound waves to be well formed, but they shouldn’t be so big they reach 1.0 or -1.0, otherwise your sounds will be clipped. Adjust your wave size with the recording volume slider.

 

4. Record the podcast

We are ready to begin recording!

 

A. Record a segment of background noise.

Even if you’re recording in a quiet room, there will be a certain level of background noise. You need to record a few seconds of this, so you can remove it from your recording during the editing process. Press the red ‘record’ button. Onscreen you’ll see a small background noise wave. Wait a few seconds. Don’t press ‘stop’. You want to keep recording because it’s time for your podcast introduction.

B. Record the introduction

Yes, it’s now time to speak. What do you say first? You need to introduce yourself and your podcast, tell the listeners what number episode you’re recording and what you’ll be talking about.

 

This sounds easy, but I usually mess up my introduction a few times before I get something I’m happy with. I don’t know why the beginning is so difficult. Maybe I’m just not warmed up. Once I’ve said a few sentences, I feel more relaxed and the rest is relatively easy.

 

There are 11 elements you could include in your introduction. If you want to know more, read  How to Have an Effective Podcast Intro/Opening.

 

C. Record the main body of the podcast

So you’ve got past the tricky intro and you’re talking about all those things in your episode plan. Work through them one by one.

 

What if you make a mistake or get lost for words? I used to stop my recording and start again. I’d end up with lots of different bits and pieces that needed putting together to make an episode. After a few sessions where I’d cut and paste and get hopelessly lost, I changed my recording method.

 

Now I record everything on one track. After I hit the ‘record’ button, I keep my recording running until the end of the episode. I don’t hit ‘stop’ until I’ve said the final word. When I make a mistake, I leave a gap of several seconds and then say things again. If I get lost, I keep recording while I look at my notes, and then start speaking again when I’m ready. I cut out all the mistakes and sections of silence during the editing process.

 

Of course, there are lots of ways to do things. You might not like my method. Do some experimenting to see what works best for you.

 

D. Record the ending or outro

When you come to the end of what you want to say, you will need to wrap up your podcast. You might like to

 

  •  tell listeners where they can find the show notes (your blog or website)
  • mention your Facebook page and other social media places where you can be found
  • mention any products you sell or offer
  • tell listeners when they can expect the next episode

 

All you have left to do is thank people for listening.

 

Hit ‘stop’ and breathe a sigh of relief: You have recorded your first podcast episode! (Don’t forget to save it.)

 

Now, you need to edit your file, to make it sound good.

 

Some podcasters edit on the go as they record their podcasts. I don’t because I want to get my podcasts recorded as quickly as possible. Quiet times don’t last very long! As long as I finish my recording session with enough material to make a podcast, I’m happy.

 

 So next time, I’ll talk about the editing process. I’ll tell you how to

 

  • make some simple edits to the sound quality
  • eliminate the mistakes
  • add some intro and outro music
  • add bumpers between the different segments of your podcast
  • export your file as an mp3 file ready to upload to your host site.
I hope this post helps. If you have any questions, please ask! And if you podcast, and do things differently to me, please share. The more ideas we have, the better!

Update: The other posts in this series are:
How to Podcast: What You Need
How to Podcast: Editing an Episode

 

You can find my Stories of an Unschooling Family podcast on

 

 

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Comments

  1. Reply

    I'm really awestruck at all the skills you've learnt! No wonder the girls are all so talented. I read every word but I still don't think I could get my head around the technology – the children do all my technical stuff for me. I think Melanie would love this information, though. I could imagine her really enjoying doing podcasts.

    Another idea that just popped into my head is how useful it would be to have even one podcast on a blog. A person's voice is so much more useful in helping to get to know someone than a written bio, don't you think? I love to hear your voice even though we write each other so many emails.

    Your blog is a great resource, Sue. Thanks for sharing xxx

    1. Reply

      Vicky,

      It wasn't until I started writing these posts that I realised that there are quite a few steps in the podcast making process. But they are easy steps to follow. Podcasting isn't as complicated as it seems! I suppose I have learnt a lot of technology type things, but you could learn them as well. Anyone can. I'm glad to hear Melanie might find this series helpful. Let me know if she makes a podcast. Perhaps she'll let me listen!

      Oh yes, I think you're quite right about how podcasts add a personal touch to a blog. Perhaps I could record a short 'about me' podcast. You could too! (Maybe Melanie could help you!) Thank you for the idea.

      Vicky, I appreciate your kind and encouraging words very much. Thank you! xxx

    2. Reply

      Vicky,

      You have a great sounding voice! I think we are too critical about our voices. No one else seems to mind them. I do understand, however, about the problem of having a 'young' voice. Phone callers used to ask me if they could speak to 'mummy'. I solved that problem by never answering the phone. The girls usually rush to answer it so there's no reason why I have to. I'm not going to complain about my voice because at least it's still 'young'. It's the only part of me that is!

      You could resolve your voice 'problem' by doing some clever editing in Audacity. But if you did that, you wouldn't sound like you, and that would be such a shame. xx

    3. Reply

      I would definitely think about podcasting a bio, Sue, if my voice didn't sound so squeaky. I remember the whole class rolling around the floor laughing when we all had to record ourselves reading, in primary school, and people still mistake me for one of the children, over the phone. You'd think modern technology would have resolved the problem but, sadly, I still come across as a gremlin!

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