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How to Record a Podcast – Single Person

This is a straight-to-the-point tutorial about how to record your own podcast. This tutorial will assume you only need to record one person speaking (as opposed to an interview or group discussion).

Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:

  • A computer (of course)
  • A microphone
  • A software program to record

You don’t need anything special when it comes to the computer, so we won’t go into much detail about that.  Just about any computer should do the trick.  You’ll just want to make sure your hard drive isn’t too full and you have space for the recording.

Microphone

Many laptops have a built-in microphone, but I wouldn’t recommend using that for recording a podcast.  On the other hand, you also don’t need to go out and buy an expensive studio-quality microphone to get a decent recording.

About the simplest thing is to buy a headset with a built-in microphone.  There are different types.  Some have two plugs, one to plug in to the microphone jack on your computer, and the other to plug in to the headphone jack.  These are OK and would probably do the job.  You can get one pretty cheap, usually around $10.

For instance, here’s one of this type:

Cyber AcousticsStereo Headset/Microphone, Ambidextrous design AC-201

But I’ve had better success with the type that connect by USB.  These have just a single cable that plugs into a USB slot on your computer.

I’ve found the USB-style headsets tend to sound a little better, at least the ones I’ve tried.  If possible, I’d recommend getting one with a little foam wind screen on the microphone to cut down on popping sounds, like when you say words starting with the letter “p”.  These type of headsets may cost a little more, but are still pretty reasonable.  You can usually get one for $30 or less.

For instance, here’s one for under $20 on Amazon.com:
Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 HeadsetComputer Headsets & Microphones)

 

The Software

You’ll need a program to be able to record your audio.  There are lots of programs out there, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars, but there is a free program that works well for most things, and I’d recommend using it.

It’s called Audacity.  It’s open source and free.  Plus it’s pretty easy to use and has some really nice features.  Just download it, install it, and you’re ready to get started.

Download Audacity

There is one other thing related to the software that you’ll probably want.  You’ll probably want to export your recording as an MP3 file.  To do that, you’ll need to follow the instructions on this page to be able to do that.  You just have to install another small program to give you the ability to export as MP3.  It’s also free.

Getting Ready to Record

Check Settings

Now that you’ve got all the equipment you need, it’s time to start recording.

Chances are, you can just open Audacity and click the Record button and start recording.  But it’s not a bad idea to check a few settings first.  For instance, you want to make sure Audacity is using the correct microphone.  There’s not much point in doing this if you’re using one of the type of headsets that has two plugs that plug into the microphone and headphone jacks.  But if you’re using a USB-type headset, you should check it.

Go to Edit -> Preferences

Under “Recording”, you’ll see “Device”.  Make sure your headset microphone is selected.  If not, select it from the drop-down menu and click OK.

Quiet on the set

Before you record, do what you can to make sure you won’t have any interruptions or noise in the background of the recording because this can really decrease the quality.  Try to find a quiet room with no barking dogs, crying children, etc.  Don’t have a fan blowing directly on you because this will cause wind noise on the microphone.  In fact, it’s better not to have anything like a fan running in the room at all if possible because it creates background noise.  Listen carefully for any humming noises or anything that might get picked up in the recording.

Also don’t move around a lot because it’s easy to bump the mic.  And don’t try to multi-task and be typing on the computer or other things because that sound will get picked up.  When you make your recording, give it your complete attention.

Adjust the microphone

Make sure the microphone is close to your mouth.  Not so close that your lips will be hitting it when you talk, but close.  Pay attention to the position of the microphone.  It’s easy to forget this and end up with a quiet recording because the microphone was too far away from your mouth.  Also, if you’re making multiple recordings or if you’re recording your podcast in small chunks, you want to make sure the microphone is always the same distance from your mouth or you’ll end up with variations in the volume and quality of your recording.

Do a Test Recording

Before you jump in and record an hour worth of audio, record just a couple minutes then listen to it and see if anything needs to be adjusted, such as the distance of the mic from your mouth, the microphone volume, something that’s creating background noise, etc.  You’ll be really disappointed if you record what you think is a ‘perfect take’ only to discover there is a problem with the recording and you can’t use it.

Record

Recording is really simple in Audacity.  Just click the button with the big red circle on it and start talking.  When you’re finished, click the Stop button (the button with a square on it).

Save Your File

You obviously don’t want your efforts to be wasted so be sure to save your file.  Click File -> Save Project As.

Find where on your computer you want to save it, give it a name, and click Save.

Keep in mind, the file you just saved is not an MP3 or anything else that you’d normally send to anyone else to let them listen.  This just saves your work.  Audacity has its own type of files for projects that allow you to do lots of editing and even have multiple track of audio, apply labels/notes at different points of the recording, etc., all things that won’t be visible when you finally produce the file in MP3 or other format for other people to listen to.

Export Your Audio

Once you’ve got the recording sounding the way you want, it’s time to export it in a format that other people can listen to, such as MP3.

Go to File -> Export

You can select where on your computer you would like to save the file.

There is a drop-down menu where you can select what type of file you want.  To be able to export to MP3 you have to follow the instructions listed above under “The Software”.

There are lots of formats available, but I’ll use MP3 as an example.  Once selecting MP3, you’ll want to click Options.  This allows you to choose the quality settings.

If your audio needs further editing by a professional (we offer audio editing services), you’ll want to use a fairly high quality setting.  If your recording contains only speech, you can get by with a lower quality setting than if it contains music.  For speech-only, select “Average” for the Bit Rate Mode and select 96kbps.  If it contains music, use 192kbps, or do Variable bit rate and 170-210kbps.

If, on the other hand, your recording is good enough and ready to be posted online, you can use lower settings for your output file.  If your recording contains speech only, you can use “Average” for the Bit Rate Mode and select 64kbps.  If it contains music, either select Average and 128kbps or you can select Variable and 95-135kbps and Joint Stereo.

Click Save and your file will start to be prepared.  Depending on how long your recording is, it will take anywhere from a few seconds to multiple minutes.

Congratulations!  You’ve just recorded your first podcast.

If you need audio editing services, please let us know.  We can help you sound more professional.  We can cut out things you don’t want to be in the recording, mix in music, and more.  Audio Editing Service

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