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Podcasting 101: Sound Editing and Recording Software

Here’s the part that may be intimidating for non-techy podcasters: selecting and using editing software.

As with just about everything in this article, you have a range of options, and your best one depends on what you’re trying to do with your podcast. The simplest option is a single recording track, just you and the microphone, where you make no mistakes and have good enough sound quality for your goals. For that, you can record it and upload it as is.

Unlikely, right? Chances are your podcast involves multiple people, human error, things you’ll want to edit in or out. You may even have something more elaborate in mind, like an audio drama complete with a musical score and sound effects.

The more complex your plans, assuming you don’t have the know-how yourself, the more likely you’ll want to outsource to a professional audio editor. But if you want to do it yourself, and your needs are simple, you can learn the basics pretty easily.

Either way, you’ll need software. The free option that comes up the most is Audacity. It’s free! The problem, according to our own audio experts, is that when you edit with Audacity, you’re permanently changing the sound file itself. So if you do it wrong, or for any other reason want to re-access the original version of a recording, it’s too late once you’ve edited it. It’s also fairly limited in what you can do with it. But if all you’re doing is cutting out mistakes or dead space, adjusting volume, and other basics, and if you’re ready to be careful with your destructive editing, Audacity may be all you need.

We at FN use ProTools, the industry standard. It’s non-destructive, and the choice of professionals, but it’s pretty expensive to get the full version.

Whatever you choose, you’ll need to make sure your software is connected to the fancy microphone you’re using (not the built-in computer mic), and double check that it’s recording periodically throughout your recording sessions. Then you’ll need to get the recordings themselves to whoever’s doing the editing--that generally means exporting a .wav file and sending it via Google Drive or Dropbox, or however you prefer to share large files.

We won’t get deep into the technical side of how to use the different kinds of software, because every option is going to be different and have its own tutorials out there. But let’s talk a bit about what you’ll want to do in editing.

Again, this will depend on what kind of podcast you’re making. If you’re looking for an audio drama with sound effects etc., you’ll be doing sound design along with editing. Any time you’re editing together different parts and adjusting the volumes to sound like an even conversation, you’re mixing/mastering--most podcasters need to know how to do this. And then there’s editing, cutting out things you don’t like, choosing which take to keep, cutting out obnoxious background sounds, etc.

Always keep in mind, what is your goal? If you’re doing interviews, or talking with your friends about something you find exciting, don’t cut out every breath and filler word. Let it sound natural, conversational. Human. If you’re doing an audio drama, figure out what does and doesn’t fit the world and the character. A podcast set in a medieval fantasy world will definitely want traffic sounds cut out, but an actor’s cough may fit right in.

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