Audio Workshop




Story-driven podcasts

This American Life: Rest stop

Simple sound.  This revolves mainly on simple interview tape and a host. No tricks.

Radiolab: Gravitational Anarchy

Put your headphones on. 
Complex sound, very produced. This podcast uses sound design - noise, effects, and woven interview tape - to tell a story. Notice how different this sounds from the first podcast we listened to.

Scaling back the complexity:

99% Invisible: The Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators

Complex sound design, but more understated than Radiolab. 99% Invisible, and their network Radiotopia, is sort of the big-leagues right now of story-driven audio production.

A familiar format: Interview show.

WTF Podcast

Longer format - very simple sound, little-to-no editing.

Ok now shut up.



And Listen.



What do you hear?



Technique + Mic Types

There are a lot of ways to record audio.

A good way to think of this is to think in depth about what you want to record, the same way a photographer thinks about what they want in their picture.

For instance: You want an interview.

What is the tone you're going for?  You want to imitate real-life conversations.

Intimate talk will generally happen in a studio or in a quiet place in a house.

More public talk will happen in public. If you're asking a band about the themes of a recent record, it will probably happen in a quiet place. However, if you're asking a fan about why they liked that band's show - you probably want them to tell you At the show.

This goes for narration, too.



First rule of fight club, wear your goddamn headphones.

If you are recording, you need to be listening through your headphones. You will look like a nerd, but it's the only way to ensure you are recording what you want to record. 

Before we even get to mics though, you will need a recorder.  -

  •  If you are recording a talk show, you are most likely using a computer to record. (Either through your laptop or here in the studios.) 
  • If you're doing a story-based podcast, you are either recording on a computer or with a Portable recording device.


You want to be recording WAV files at a sample rate of 44.1 khz. This is technical stuff that we can just leave there for now. The big goal when recording audio (and video) is to do consistent file types. Test it out, see if it works - then stick with it.

Once you have your recorder set up, you'll need a microphone.

The studios here are fully equipped with rad mics.

  • Sources: +


For field recording, you basically will have 3 types of mics.


  1. Stick mic.  This mic is the work horse. 80% of your field interviews are going to be with the stick mic. Tech terms, it's an omni-directional dynamic mic, meaning that it records in all directions.
  2. Shotgun mic. This works when you cannot be very close to the person you are recording. Movies use this type of mic because it can be 5 feet from the speaker's mouth and still get good audio. This is a directional mic so it only gets exactly what it is pointing at. If you point it slightly away from where the noise is coming from, you will get weird, wavering sound.
  3. Lavalier or LAV mic. Totally rare for radio -  maybe 1% of the time. This is the microphone people clip to their shirts. It can be a convenient mic to get okay audio. This is basically only useful for radio folks when the interviewee is doing something  far away from you, in which case you need a wireless lav mic set up.

MIC PLacement

Okay, now you have your mic and your recorder, so you need to start talking to people. This part is uncomfortable, because you need to get your stick mic right up in their grill. You want the top of the mic to be 6 inches from their face. When you see bands playing live, you'll notice that they are right up on the mic. Same kind of mic and the same idea - your cleanest loudest audio will come from right in front of them. 

You want to have it 6 inches in front of their chin and aim it toward their nose. This will help fight the P Pops, which happen if you are pointing the mic right into their mouth. When you talk, you'll want to point the mic at your own face the same way, then quickly return to them. This takes practice.

When to shut up

Most of the time, you will want to say "Mhmm" and "yeah". Don't.  The more you show up on mic, the harder it will be to edit, so try to keep quiet while the interviewee is talking. This is totally uncomfortable at first, but you'll get used to it. Instead, nod your head and use your sweet face acting skills.

Check your levels

You will ask your interviewee to say some stuff to sound check. Usually, I hit record and say "can you please state and spell your name." Then while they spell, you can look at your recording volume to make sure it's somewhere in the middle. Not too low, not too high. If the levels are good, you're ready to sail. Remember, you are wearing your headphones for all of this. What you hear is what is coming through the mic, which means you just keep an ear on it and make sure it sounds right. If you hear a distracting bird or air conditioner or if they are tapping their ring on a table, don't be shy to move or change position. 


Get Ambient Sound For every interview

Once you start editing, you'll find yourself needing to patch holes.


HOWSOUND: on the narration of Criminal


Try to speak clearly, but normally. All of the podcasts we listened to were incredibly natural and conversational. People tend to put on an announcing voice. Most of the time, this sounds super stale.

However, you need to think about how to make points without visual communication. This will mean you have to punch words that you would normally exaggerate with your face or hands.  So basically, you need to be formally informal.

If you are too informal, you'll come across either monotone or confusing. If you are too formal, you'll come across fake.


Pick some software


Audacity (Free)

Hindenburg ($95 -- my favorite)

Adobe Audition($20/month ish)

Pro Tools ($600)

and of course, whatever audio editing software you already have - like Garageband, logic, whatever.


Everybody builds their project differently.  What I do:

At least 4 tracks.

Narration. This is where you'll introduce the show and explain anything that needs explaining.

Interview. This is all of the tape from your guest/interviewee

Ambience. As mentioned earlier, when you're in the field you want to get natural sound. You'll put it here.

Music. Remember, you shouldn't use songs without permission. There are a lot of places to get royalty free music, and most of us know somebody who makes music - so ask them if you can use it.

Publishing & Hosting


To get your show in iTunes or Stitcher or any podcast app, you need to set up a RSS feed.

Basically, this is an audio blog that only other applications read. So for my RSS feed, I post a new mp3, and then iTunes automatically sees the change in the RSS feed, and then downloads the episode automatically.

 I host on Squarespace (~$100/year), which is pretty solid and easy.

BUT Soundcloud recently started offering free hosting. HOW-TO GUIDE

It's hard to switch, so once you start, you are kind of stuck with whatever service you're using. Keep this in mind when you launch.





MIC INFORMATION (in studio Narration mics)