‘An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.’ – Dale Carnegie
Hosting a podcast is all about the little things.
Any new host can spend a few minutes on the Google machine to figure out their immediate needs: what kind of microphone to buy, how to record a session, or any one of several obvious steps to check off the list.
But it’s the small details that may escape your notice that can make a huge difference in your post-production audio quality.
In the first of a series of tips for hosts kicking off their podcasting journeys, I’d like to share with you some tricks that can have an incredible impact on your show.
First, here are some things that YOU, the host, can control before even hitting the record button.
Avoid Wireless Earphones
Use wired headphones or earbuds when recording. It’s like a hard hat on a construction site - non negotiable.
If you or your guest are using a wireless headset, plug it into your computer with the charging cable. If that’s not possible then, at the bare minimum, make sure the battery is fully charged. The last thing you want is for either of your headsets to die while recording.
NEVER use Bluetooth earbuds or Airpods. The risk that they could lose connection - or worse, connect to a different device altogether and spoil part or all of your recording - is just too great.
‘Hang Loose’ When Speaking Into Your Mic
Apparently this is also known as a 'Shaka'.
No, I don’t mean chiiiiill, bro! Speaking too closely into your microphone can have a few negative side effects, from picking up every breath to blowing out your listeners' eardrums.
Sitting too far away will have everyone turning their volume up to 11.
Make a ‘hang loose’ gesture with your hand (extending your pinky and thumb as far from your fist as possible). Touch the mic with the tip of your pinky and then touch your chin to your thumb.
Your mouth should be roughly 6 to 8 inches from your microphone. This distance should ensure optimum sound quality for your voice.
Pops and Plosives
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or simply a stop, is a pulmonic consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be made with the tongue tip or blade, tongue body, lips, or glottis. (Wikipedia)
Sometimes, our mouths have their own agenda when we’re speaking.
Whether it be lips smacking or those damned plosives, you may need a ‘pop filter’ for your microphone.
Do a few private recording sessions and play them back at a relatively high volume to determine if your equipment is picking up extra sounds while you’re talking.
Depending on the physical dimensions of your mic, it may be difficult to find a filter that fits, but I can assure you that one is out there that will.
Sit Off-Center From Your Microphone
Nobody likes a mouth-breather.
An easy way to keep your breathing from stealing the spotlight is to sit just slightly off-center from your mic.
You don’t have to adjust too much - a few inches to the right or left will suffice.
Don’t forget to ‘hang loose’ afterward!
Leave Your Gold Chains at Home
I get it - you just dropped $80K on some new ice to show off to your crew.
But the last thing you want is for that flashy jewelry to smack into your mic while you’re spitting the truth.
Dangling jewelry is a no-no when recording. If taking it off isn’t an option, then tuck it inside your clothing to avoid that editing headache later.
Background and Foreground Noises
Speaking of unwanted noise, who doesn’t love hearing a lawnmower in the background?
Nobody. The answer is NOBODY!
Unfortunately, some noises you can’t control, whether it be a loud air conditioner or your neighbor’s dog freaking out at the mailman. You’ll have to play with your volume input to drown that stuff out.
However, you and your guest CAN avoid having other sounds sneaking into your show.
For example, a lot of people tend to have a drink next to them while working, be it a glass of water or a travel mug.
How often do you set that container down without a thought about how loud it is?
If you’re using quality audio equipment (I sure hope you are!), then it will pick up every extra noise you or your guest make while recording.
Sure, some of that noise can be edited out later - but some of it can’t.
If your guest loudly sets a glass down while speaking, that sound is now part of the audio track; editing out that sound will be nigh impossible without also cutting out the speaker’s voice at that moment.
So, take care to note possible audio pollutants before hitting record: put a paper towel under your drink, switch out that squeaky chair, or turn off that ceiling fan. You’d be surprised how many opportunities to cut down extra noise might exist.
Accounting for small details can make a huge impact on your show’s post-production quality.
I hope some of these simple audio tips can help elevate your show’s potential.
I plan to cover some other opportunities for excellence in future posts.
Remember - hang loose!