This is a highly-detailed yet logical ‘how to’ guide that walks you through every step of recording a podcast – what’s needed, what isn’t and everything in between.
It’s not particularly difficult nor technical, but it does require a certain amount of insight to make the right choices for your needs.
So, if you want to:
- Learn how to plan your recordings;
- Work out what gear you need, and what you don’t;
- Understand what software is required;
Then, you’ll love the detailed information and recommendations in this post.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
The first thing I want you to do is ‘put the mic down’ so to speak.
So many people skip over planning because they don’t see the point. They already know what they want to talk about, and a podcast is supposed to be casual, right?
Yes it is, it’s also got to be a great listening experience.
Your show will suffer if it ends up full of ‘umms’ and ‘errs’ because your transitions between points aren’t fluent enough.
A plan is crucial to the quality of your show, and even a small, basic level of planning can make all the difference. This doesn’t need to be a long and tedious task and can be broken down into bite-sized pieces, starting with the topic.
a. What are you going to talk about?
Whilst you’ll have a decent idea on this, you need to break down your topic and work out what your potential listeners are interested in hearing about. Moreover, is the topic in question fit for one episode, two or an entire series.
Either way, the following three questions need to be answered:
- What questions do your listeners want answers to?
- What novel information do you have that might be interesting to them? (This is really important because it drives shares!)
- What is your message/what do you want to tell people?
I recommend doing some keyword research to learn what questions your audience is seeking answers for.
For a higher level look, use Google Trends to see what the most popular search terms are in your topic of choice. It’s highly intuitive like most things ‘Google’ so you should be able to get some reasonable insights.
For a deeper dive, I would suggest reading this article by Neil Patel – it’s about making your podcast rank in Google and thus has a brilliant section on keyword research (i.e. the terms that people search for in your subject area).
This ensures that things you’re talking about are of interest to people, not to mention being searched for online.
Great podcasts typically have an order of questions with a loose idea of how long each segment might take as a minimum. Better still, you could plan where one point move on to the next and list the core content that’s to be covered accordingly.
Recording a bad podcast is awkward, but listening to one is even worse. Having a plan avoids awkward pauses, bad transitions and incoherent themes of conversation, like so:
Your plan shouldn’t be so comprehensive that you have scripted all of your lines. You want to sound natural, not restricted.
Still, some main points should be outlined ahead of time, and key ideas should be written down so there are no awkward pauses in the podcast.
I think it’s important to pick a theme and then expand your topics within that theme. Transitioning from one topic to the next fluently makes the content more engrossing and maximises listener engagement.
Having a plan will help you avoid bad transitions in which you start talking about something new all of a sudden. Your monologue shouldn’t feel planned while still maintaining a direction.
Taking a focused view of your podcast in your plan will help avoid having different themes in the same episode. Don’t mix two totally different themes that aren’t related. I like to think of the plan as the recipe for the podcast, and if you mix too many clashing flavours less people will want to consume it!
Ultimately, it will come down to practice. You’ll probably find yourself a more detailed plan and script to start with, and less of one as time goes by.
In the end, it’s simply about finding that balance between recording style, time taken and quality content.
2. Podcasting Equipment
Like any production, a podcast requires equipment to capture and create your audio.
A professional setup can easily cost thousands and thousands but it’s totally unnecessary when you’re starting out. In fact, it’s possible to start a podcast using nothing more than a smartphone if you really wanted to.
The majority of serious podcasters land somewhere in between.
The first and most obvious technical requirement is a microphone. You need at least one for yourself, but if you’re going to have guests, you should buy a second one (or third, or fourth!).
A USB microphone is the most simplistic option because it will connect to any modern computer and work out of the box. These mics are ideal for anyone who’s going to record on their own and/ or with others on the internet.
Here’s an extensive review of the best podcast microphones, which explains the other, slightly more complicated, option which is XLR. I’d go for the Rode Podcaster, hands down, but be my guest and enjoy a spot of shopping.
Multiple Channel Recording
Whilst USB microphones can be rigged to record multiple audio channels in-person (i.e. multiple people), this is not the optimal method.
For this, you need a digital recorder and XLR microphones, which I also cover in my review of microphones. You’ll not be surprised to learn the XLR route is often more costly, but is worth it to make your show the best it can be.
For the best of both worlds, there is such a thing as an USB audio interface. You guessed it, this piece of kit means you can plug XLR mics into your computer and record as if they were USB. Interfaces are decent pieces of equipment but not as portable as digital recorders because your computer needs to be present.
Zoom Podtrak P4
This deserves its own bullet point because – think grand intro music – it does both! Whilst it’ll cost you a little more than a decent recorder or interface, it’s worth it for the extra functionality, features and to keep your options open.
What’s more, the Podtrak P4 can record online and over the phone as well as add music and other audio effects. Add it all up and it would be my pick because with this in your bag, you’ll never need to worry about recording setups again.
Being completely honest, any old computer can be used to record a podcast providing it has an internet connection.
As I explain in the next section, you can actually record a show using web-based software that requires virtually no processing power whatsoever to operate. If buying a brand new computer is not an option, you can still get your show going.
Of course, if you are in the market for a new rig then there literally hundreds of options. My advice is don’t get bogged down in manufacturers (unless you have a preferred computer or laptop brand); instead, focus on the processor (a.k.a. CPU) and memory (a.k.a RAM).
Minimum Computer Specification for Podcasting
I’m not going to go into masses of detail here to keep things simple for you. The following is the minimum spec I would purchase for recording and editing any podcast episode:
- CPU – minimum of 4 cores and 8 threads
- RAM – minimum of 8GB
This specification is good to go now and in the future.
The best processors nowadays are by AMD and you’ll actually find 6-core and even 8-core CPUs for very reasonable prices. You don’t need these, however, more cores equals more power and more future proofing.
If you might get into sound design, or run other resource intensive apps (for video editing and/or gaming) on your computer, you’ll need to up the numbers (6 or 8 cores, and 16 or 32GB).
For example, I have the Asus G14 which is a very powerful yet reasonably priced laptop (AMD doing its stuff as I said). I use it for all kinds of tasks including video and audio editing, and graphic design. Hence, why it has 8 cores and 16GB of RAM 😉
3. Podcast Software
There are two types of software required: recording software and editing software.
Most people use one piece of software that handles both tasks because they’re widely available, convenient and relatively simple to learn (with focus and patience).
f. Recording On A Computer
Let’s have a quick recap.
In theory, to record a podcast episode you need a computer, a microphone, and some software. We also covered other options like using multiple microphones with an audio interface as well.
So, when it comes to recording and editing software there are many options and you need to work out what’s best for you (obviously).
For me, Adobe Audition is the number one choice and which I wholeheartedly recommend. This is because of it’s slick user interface, multi-channel recording and near-limitless feature set making it totally flexible and future proof. Ergo, investing the time and effort in learning it makes total sense.
Alternatively, there is the easiest and most convenient solution, which is a web-based software called Alitu.
Amongst other things (like adding music), Alitu enables you to do direct-to-library solo recording (only), and/ or upload your audio files. The beauty of it is that as soon as a file lands in Alitu, it automatically has its quality polished up ready for publishing on your podcast hosting (and, in turn, the major directories). It’s perfect if you want the most convenient and fast-pace to getting episodes recorded and edited without any fuss or complication.
Lastly, it’s worth noting for clarity purposes that you won’t need recording software if you’re going to use a digital recorder. But, you will still require editing software such as Audition, for example.
g. Online Call Recording
If, for whatever reason, you need to record online there are a few options to consider.
At its most basic, Zoom is video conferencing software where you set up a ‘room’ which people gain entry to using a specific link. Anyone you send the link to can get access.
But, what many people don’t realise is that it can be set up to record the whole thing, sending out the audio and video files afterwards. The great thing about this is that Zoom is so user-friendly and breaks down any technical barriers to recording podcasts with remote parties.
It’s free for recording one person (i.e. the typical face to face video call most of us did a lot of during the pandemic). For more than one, there are costs attached but these are very reasonable which makes it a great choice.
Double-Ender Call Recording
Double-ender is when both sides of an audio call are recorded separately and in situ. Simply put, your computer records your mic, and the speaker on the other end is recorded on their computer.
This defends the audio quality from drops in connection and any other interference. When the call is finished, the software then pulls the two sides together for you to edit accordingly.
You’ll still need a piece of software if you’ve decided to go about podcasting on your Smartphone. What’s more, you might also want a different microphone, as opposed to lugging one around that’s better suited to a studio-type set up (i.e. back at home or in your office).
For both double ender & smartphone recording, I’d recommend Ringr, which you can up on in my podcast software review.
As mics go, I’d highly recommend the Smartlav+, which is low cost, super light-weight (relatively), portable and clips to your clothing (a.k.a. lavalier mics).
Takeaways on Recording A Podcast
Podcasting is really simple to start up but perfecting will take a bit of time, patience and effort.
Check Your Levels
Quality is extremely important for a podcast. The audio quality counts for a lot, and listeners pay attention to the small details.
Once you get to the editing process, make sure there’s no static and no peaking. If someone’s pronouncing their Ps or Ts a little too much, you can cut down the ‘peak’ of those sounds to minimise or cut out the associated distortion.
If you don’t, your listeners might hear a pop in their ear that could make the listening experience less pleasant.
Keep It Simple
Recording a podcast doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need a lot of equipment and software which I hope you now agree with.
You can easily get going with nothing more than: a half-decent mic (Rode Podcaster), software (Adobe Audition) and a reasonably modern computer (ideally 4 cores or more).
Zoom is, without doubt, the easiest and most cost-effective way to record a call, and Ringr is there if you want to boost the audio quality at some point.
That’s a wrap.
If you’re still with me, I hope my ramblings on how to record a podcast was helpful. Whatever set up you choose to go with, there is a chance that recording an episode won’t go to plan the first time round.
When this happens, just remember section A and why you’re podcasting in the first place. Stay focused on that, try to enjoy it and accept it will take some practice.
When you do though, be sure to share your success in the comments below – I’d love to hear what gear you chose and how it’s turning out.