By now, you should have a sense of some recording and audio basics. This module will be a short primer that will cover some suggested techniques and practices that you can incorporate into your recording and editing workflows that will help as you develop your podcast production.
You may find that P sounds are popping or S sounds are hissing in your recording, or perhaps too much environmental noise is being picked up by your microphone. A common strategy to fix this issue is to move the microphone 6 to 12 inches from the person speaking. Unless you have a pop-filter or windscreen on your microphone, you may also want to speak over or across the microphone. Most mics are not designed to capture direct sound so every pop, hiss, click, or breath will be picked up.
A good way to check whether your microphone placement sounds good is to actually record a little bit of audio before you begin the "real" recording. This will help you build a practice of monitoring your recordings and becoming situationally aware of your environment. Some rooms have loud HVAC systems or appliances that will pick up humming. Other rooms may be situated in areas with lots of foot traffic or other environmental noise. You should really make some practice recordings to become familiar with your equipment. You may think it's a set and forget process to just turn on the recording function of your smartphone and go, but you may be forgetting about small but impactful aspects that could ruin your recording. An example would be holding your phone for an interview, but capturing "hand noise" as your fingers brush against the microphone.
But you should know that additional noise isn't always that bad! Commonly referred to as "b-roll", this type of environmental noise can be used intentionally such as recording footsteps crunching through leaves or children playing in a school yard. It can be helpful to record about 10 seconds of room noise (aka "silence") so you have a way to fill in gaps of silence without the track being complete dead air. Always be intentional when recording!
If at all possible, you want to record in a room that doesn't let sound bounce off of walls and other objects. This can potentially cause an unpleasant "tinny" characteristic to your recording or introduce echo. One thing we always recommend to workshop participants is to seriously consider recording in a closet. Your clothes act as sound dampeners, it's usually a small and quiet room with little ambient noise, and it can be a good location to project your voice. Try it out!
Even the best possible pre-planning can't account for some unexpected events to happen during your recording. Perhaps you forgot to check for an audible hum from an appliance, or a power cable was drapped over a recording wire and there is additional sibilance in the audio file. Selective editing and using a low music track can help mask these issues. Just be warned that you will usually want to fine-tune the audio levels incorporating music since it can become difficult to hear a voice recording over some sounds (especially if your music tracks have lyrics)!
When using music in your work, make sure to check the copyright rights and licenses to determine if you are allowed to use the piece in your podcast. We advise you to use Creative Commons licensed works if at all possible. Better yet, if you can create musical pieces or record environmental sounds on your own you will be free and in the clear as the content creator. You can read the Podcasting Legal Guide for more information.
While editing, you can easily see the waveforms that exist within your recording or music. Use this to your advantage by quickling scrubbing through your recordings and marking key points for easy transitions. For example, you may find that there is a period of low or no frequencies after each interview question you ask or after every answer a subject provides. Instead of keeping these sections in the recording, identify them and edit them out (or replace them with music clips). Another suggestion is to use each question and answer as its own snippet of audio in a separate track. Either way, natural transitions occur in conversation so be aware and make a note of these during editing.
It can be frustrating to listen to the same thing over and over again. Audacity allows you to change the speed of the playback using its play-at-speed toolbar.
There is a high probability that one of your recordings needs to adjust its overall volume level. While you can use the Envelope tool to pintpoint areas to increase or decrease the volume, a quicker solution is to use the Amplify effect. This will change the entire track's levels quickly and easily. Go to Effect --> Amplify and enter a amplification number (in dB) or click and drag to adjust the volume.
We can't emphasize this enough. Save your work early and save it often. Changes you make are irreversible so you will want to save copies of your master audio files AND your Audacity project in the event of a crash or accidental editing of a key resource. Save and duplicate!