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This week I’m sharing my pre-show checklist: 10 Steps to Recording Great Audio. This show is going to be an introduction to recording an audio track for your podcast.

As I was planning today’s show, I was thinking about all the steps I take before I hit record. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into recording a show and making sure everything goes smoothly. I came up with a list of 10 things to do to get a great sounding recording.

Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:

  • Raw audio recordings are fairly large, so make sure you have plenty of space on your hard drive before you start a long recording.
  • Always wear headphones when recording.
  • Notifications will distract your listeners from your content and your message. Turn them off.
  • Don’t scramble to set everything up last minute. Be prepared in advance.

Show Notes

  • 1:11 1. Find or create a quiet recording environment.
  • 1:17 Turn off fans, AC, heaters, etc. Try to record in a room with minimal echo. You can also use couch cushion or pillows to reduce sound reflections.
  • 1:36 2. Make sure your mic is plugged in and everything is switched on.
  • 1:56 If you are using a XLR mic and interface, make sure phantom power (or 48v) is turned on if you’re using a condenser mic, or turned off if you’re using a dynamic mic.
  • 2:40 3. If you’re using a laptop, make sure you’re plugged in and you have enough disk space to record.
  • 2:55 This morning, I started setting up for this podcast, and I wondered how much disk space I had left on my hard drive. It had been a week or two since I checked, and I had been working on a bunch of video and podcast project. I’m glad I checked, because I only had 4gb of free space left on my 250gb hard drive.

Raw audio recordings are fairly large, so make sure you have plenty of space on your hard drive before you start a long recording.

  • 3:56 4. Wear headphones while you’re recording.
  • 4:10 If you don’t wear headphones, any audio coming from your speakers will be picked up by your microphone which cause an echo on your track that can’t be removed in post. You should also be monitoring yourself while recording so you can hear what you sound like, which will help with mic technique.

Always wear headphones when recording.

  • 4:40 5. Set your phone and computer notifications to silent.

Notifications will distract your listeners from your content and your message. Turn them off.

  • 7:40 6. Open recording software, choose mic input, arm track for recording (if necessary).
  • 8:34 If you’re going to record with Garageband, check to make sure that there aren’t any plugins enabled. Certain templates have echo and reverb plugins turned on by default, so make sure to disable those before you record. To check, open smart controls (B), hit the little "i" button just left of Master, and scroll down till you see plugins. This is also where you can set input gain levels if your mic doesn’t have a gain knob.
  • 13:23 7. Check input gain levels and set them right.
  • 13:29 Set input gain levels so that the loudest peaks of your comfortable speaking voice don’t go higher than -12db on the meter. For most recording programs or audio meters, this is where green turns into yellow, or about 80% of maximum. The red area of a meter is the danger zone. If your gain is hitting those red areas or getting close to 0, you need to turn down your gain knob or recording volume slider.
  • 19:15 8. Make a test recording to see how you sound and check for any problems or audio issues. Do this before it’s time to record or stream.

Don’t scramble to set everything up last minute. Be prepared in advance.

  • 20:33 9. Have an outline prepared for your show. Bullet points are fine. Decide how you are going to start and end your show before you begin.
  • 21:36 10. Record in 24bit audio, 44,100Hz is fine. Choose to record uncompressed .wav or .aiff files, or the highest quality option available. After recording, you should export your recording as an uncompressed .wav or .aif (if you’re going to do any additional editing or adding music). These raw recordings are just for editing – after you edit a podcast, the final file should be exported as an MP3 file, either 64, 96, or 128kbps.

Double Enders and Backup Recordings

  • 25:31 If you are going to be doing a podcast with a co-host, or interviewing a guest, you’ll want to do a double-ender and record the audio from the Skype call using a program like Ecamm Call Recorder (Mac, $29) or Audio Hijack (Mac, $50).
  • 26:03 I don’t recommend using Skype recordings for your podcast. Skype often introduces artifacts and will drop parts of the audio, but a Skype recording can be a lifesaver if something goes wrong with the local recordings. People make mistakes, sometimes choosing the wrong mic source or forgetting to hit record. It’s nice to have the peace of mind that a backup gives you.
  • 27:23 If you are going to be talking to a co-host or guest over stripe, or streaming live, make sure to turn off any cloud or backup services (like Dropbox or Google Drive) that might hog your internet bandwidth. You’ll get a higher quality Skype connection if you do.

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