Below you’ll find information on the basics of capturing and editing audio, including:
- Software (and how to use it)
- Recording good audio
- Sound effects & soundscaping
- Other resources (including troubleshooting bad audio, advancing in your editing and mixing skills, etc.)
- Audacity is free and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
- GarageBand is free and available for Mac
- RX Elements is a noise-reducing tool, which is normally fairly expensive ($130), but goes on sale frequently – keep an eye out!
- A list of other free & cheap software resources for audio drama podcasts, created by Arthur T. Audio
Tutorials to get started:
- Audacity Tutorial: 17 Essential Podcast Recording & Editing Tips
- The Complete Guide to Creating and Editing Podcasts with Audacity
- How to Create Podcasts in GarageBand
- 10 Tips for Editing a Podcast in GarageBand
- Jeff Stormer’s Down-Home Podcast Editing Recipe walks you through his process (a little advanced if you’re opening Audacity for the first time, but good to play with later!)
If you’ll be recording one voice/one person at a time, a USB mic can do the trick. Blue has a lot of great entry-level microphones, ranging from the $45-50 range (the Snowball iCE) to the $100-125 range (the Yeti). The Samson C01U also comes highly recommended and is in between those two prices, at ~$75.
If you’ll be recording multiple people at a time, in the same location (for example, an actual-play podcast with everyone in the same room), you’ll ideally want to be able to record everyone on their own track. This is important for getting cleaner audio in the editing process – it makes it easier to reduce cross-talk. For this, you’ll need:
- A USB interface that records as many tracks as people you have (this one can record onto four separate tracks)
- A mic for each person (these mics are a good quality for the price )
- A stand for each mic (table stands, or tall stands – I don’t recommend these, they noisily weeble-wobble all over the place unless clamped onto metal)
Whether you’re recording solo or with multiple people, you’ll also want to get a pop filter for each mic. Pop filters are crucial for reducing noises associated with plosives, which are very difficult to remove after recording. They’re usually cheap on Amazon, but you can also DIY a basic one. Here’s how to set them up.
Recording good audio
- You will probably need to get closer to the mic than you realize, especially at first. Almost everyone wants to be 10-12″ away from the mic (especially when recording actual plays together in person), but you need to be 4-6″ away to get clear audio. It’s also important to avoid hitting the mic or the pop filter as you talk and move, because that makes noise.
- Podcast Problem: Terrible Mouth Noises (including, of course, tips on how to fix it)
- This video playlist is targeted at audiobook creators, but has a lot of useful tips for podcasters
- How to create a silent home studio & improve your podcast audio
- How to Build a Podcast Studio on Any Budget
- How to Make a DIY Podcast Recording Booth
Sound effects, soundscaping, etc.
Depending on what kind of show you’re making, you might want to add soundscaping, sound effects, music, or some combination of all three. Sound effects and music probably don’t need a ton of explanation, but you might not be familiar with soundscaping.
Soundscaping is the combination of audio cues (both subtle and obvious) that help contribute to a specific sense of place and mood in a piece of audio. It might be wind in the trees, birdsong, an echo on what the protagonist is saying, etc. For more on soundscaping and getting started with it, head here: The Sound of Adventure: A Guide to Soundscaping.
Finding sound effects and music to use:
In general, you’re looking for things that are creative commons licensed (or you’ll be paying licensing fees). Here’s a quick primer on CC licenses, another primer on how licensing works, and here are some popular resources for finding sound/music:
- List of where to find CC-licensed music
- The Free Music Archive
- Free to Use Sounds
- The Freesound database
- A Sound Effect (not free)
- BattleBards is also not free, but has a lot of fantasy and sci-fi themed sound effects for cheap individual licenses ($1-5)
Other resources & reading
Mixing & editing:
- How to mix: 8 steps to master the art of mixing audio stories
- The producer’s handbook to mixing audio stories
- How I podcast: Editing
- Stop! What’s That Sound: Troubleshooting Audio Issues
Soundscaping and sound design: