If you want to start a podcast then one of the first things you will have to master is the recording process. There are dozens of different ways to record a podcast and thousands of pieces of equipment. It’s honestly a bit overwhelming at first!
We’re here to help take away that stress. We’ll break down the process into five simple steps.
In this article you’ll learn:
- How to prepare for your recording (by choosing a topic and writing a script)
- Where you should record
- 7 ways to record your podcast + the equipment and software required
- 6 Pro tips for during your recording
- What happens after you export your recording
1. Choose a Topic and Create Your Outline
Before you can record a podcast episode, you need to have something to say.
Duh, right? But it is very easy to show up unprepared after casually deciding “we’re going to talk about this cool topic we love, what could go wrong?”
Don’t show up without a plan!
Even if you have a very laid-back show, you should be thinking ahead to what you want to say, what opinions you have on the topic at hand, stories from your life that are relevant, etc.
My process for this is pretty simple:
- Pick a topic for the episode, like “Kendrick Announces album Mr. Morales and the Big Steppers”
- Grab a pen and paper or your favorite notes app
- Make a rough outline of what you want to talk about. The outline should at least include an intro, body content, and outro. Be as specific or vague as you prefer.
- Jot down any questions, ideas, quotes, stories, etc that come to mind about the topic.
That’s it. You don’t need to write a manuscript of every single word you plan to say. But if you show up with 3-5 conversation starters, then you will connect to your audience with a clear message and be more confident.
Last note: I personally recommend that you script out the intro and outro of your show, to build brand awareness and familarity with your audience. There is something comforting when you hear the intro of your favorite podcast start to play.
Your intro should include:
- What your show is about
- Your show format. Ex: “The latest in crime today, then 1 short crime story from this date in history.” - This Day in Crime
- Who you and your co-hosts/guests are
- What the current episode is about
Your outro should include:
- Thanks for listening! Thank your audience for making it to the end of the episode :)
- Call to action: Subscribe to the show, share it with a friend, write a review and leave a 5-star rating on Apple or Spotify, subscribe to our newsletter at example.com, follow us on social media, etc.
- What’s coming up next? Share when people will hear from you again, tease the topic of your next episode, etc.
Every show will have a unique intro and outro, but this framework is just designed to give you a bit of inspiration and clarity on what you could include.
2. Pick a Quiet Place to Record
Ok, so you’ve got something to say. Step two is to find the right place to say it.
We recommend considering a few simple things:
Pick a Quiet Room with Noise-Dampening Materials
If you’re recording at home, pick a room with lots of sound-absorbing materials like carpets, couches, curtains, blankets, and pillows. A guest bedroom may fit this description well.
Walk-in closets are actually an excellent place to record because the clothes absorb much of the reverb and they are fairly small so they don’t have a lot of echo from reflective surfaces.
Reduce background noises
Air conditioners, fridges, and mini-fridges, ceiling fans, dogs, children crying, people talking, your roommate who plays violin… Are you getting the picture yet?
Background noises are the worst. Make sure you find a quiet room, at a quiet time, and turn off or get as far away from these common background noises as possible.
💡 Pro Tip: Wear headphones when you record so you can listen to yourself as you record. We often don’t notice annoying background sounds in person, even though they sound terrible in a professional recording. The Samson Q2U lets you plug headphones straight into the mic so you can hear how it goes.
Silence your phones
Need I say more? Put your phone on do not disturb before you record so that your brilliant thought isn’t interrupted by that call from your mom!
3. Choose How to Record Your Audio
You’ve selected your topic and picked a quiet room away from the violin practice. Great! Now you need some gear and software. Let’s pick your tools.
If you don’t have a mic or headphones yet, check out our podcast starter kit blog to find an affordable setup that works for you. You can definitely get started with just your smartphone or laptop’s built-in mic and a pair of earbuds, but even just $100-200 can take you to the next level very quickly.
There are dozens of different ways to record a podcast, but there are two big buckets all these different methods fit into:
- Recording in-person (locally)
- Recording remotely (online)
Let’s dive into the best ways to record, both locally 🤜🤛 and remotely 🌎.
Methods for Recording In-Person 🤜🤛
Mobile Recording Apps
Recording your podcast on a smartphone is incredibly easy today. You can use Apple’s Voice Memos on iOS, Dolby On on Android or iOS, or Spreaker on iOS and Android to easily capture a monologue podcast.
You can record straight into your smartphone mic (free), through the microphone on your headphones (like these Apple earpods for $19), or by connecting a USB mic like the Samson Q2U (you’ll also need this $38 audio interface).
Recommended Reading: The Best Podcast Starter Kits (For Every Situation)
No matter how you record into your phone, make sure you pick a quiet place and follow the rest of the tips we share below in step #5 below.
A little preparation can make even your smartphone sound a LOT better.
Podcast Recording Software
The easiest and fastest way to record an in-person podcast is using podcast recording software like Garageband (Mac) or Audacity (Windows, Mac). These free programs are digital audio workstations (DAWs) that allow you to record dozens of tracks, and add effects like EQ and compression to get a professional sound.
Note: If you are recording more than one person on your computer, you cannot record two USB microphones like the Samson Q2U at the same time. You will need to buy an audio interface like the Focusrite 2i2 ($179) so that you can record two microphones at the same time in Garageband or Audacity. Quicktime will not support multiple mics at the same time either, so you would need to use Garageband or Audacity for that.
All the options we gave so far are free, but Hindenburg Journalist ($99) for Windows and Mac, Reaper ($60) for Windows and Mac, and Pro Tools for Mac and Windows are also very popular podcast recording and editing tools.
This method is more expensive than using the free software + a USB mic like we’ve already mentioned above. But it’s a great way to record podcasts when you are on the road. You can use the built-in microphone on the Zoom handheld recorders to capture sound effects on the road, do a quick interview with someone at their front door, etc.
Handheld recorders typically record audio onto an SD card which then can be inserted into a laptop or a smartphone adapter like this SD to lightning Apple cable or SD to USB C cable to edit and upload your files.
A podcast mixer like the Rodecaster Pro is a tool that functions similarly to a handheld recorder. It can record up to four microphone simultaneously, recording audio to a micro SD card. It can also be used to trigger sound effects (music, ads, full-length interviews, applause, laugh tracks, air horns), acts as a headphone splitter so that each of your hosts can listen to their voice while recording at their own preferred volume level, and can be used to mix a show live in real-time with built-in effects like EQ, compression, ducking, and volume knobs. It is truly a powerful all-in-one recording tool.
This setup is best for roundtable podcasts with three or more co-hosts/guests on each episode. Additionally, the Rodecaster pro is also excellent for recording 2+ people in person, in addition to 1+ people remotely over the internet. It’s one of the few ways that you can easily record audio for multiple people in person while also recording a guest long-distance.
Methods for Recording Remotely (Online) 🌎
Mobile (Remote) Recording Apps
These apps make the process incredibly easy:
- Download the app
- Create an account
- Schedule or start a new call (just like Zoom)
- Send the link to your co-hosts or guests
- Hit record
You and your guests and cohosts can easily record on your phones, no matter where you are. Just make sure you try to find a quiet room, and wear some headphones so that your mic doesn't record the voice of your guests audio looping back from the speakers on your phone. That can create some bad echo sounds that are very hard to remove in the editing process.
Double-Ender Method (Free)
The double-ender method is a recording technique where two or more people record their own voice locally on their computer or phone using whatever recording software they prefer, and then those separate files are joined together in post-production to create the final audio.
Here’s an example of how this works:
- Call your friend on Zoom
- Record your voice on Quicktime (Mac) or the Voice Memo app (iOS)
- Your friend records their voice on Audacity (Windows) or the Windows Voice Recorder
- You send your recording to your friend
- Your friend edits together the two separate files into one final master recording and uploads it to a podcast hosting platform to share
This is my favorite method to recommend, because it’s free, easy to do, and works as an excellent backup system as well. You can always use the double-ender method in addition to one of the other options below to capture two recordings.
Another benefit of this method is that even if your Zoom recording cuts out momentarily because of poor internet connection, your recording will sound crystal clear! No weird glitches, choppy sound, or the dreaded audio drift where the speakers start to sound like they are talking over each other.
In the digital age, it’s always smart to have a backup. Trust me, I know from experience.
Remote Recording Software
Remote recording software essentially streamlines the double-ender method for you, so you don’t have to work as hard. The best remote software is Zencastr, Riverside, Squadcast, and Zoom. Each of these tools records your audio (and video) locally on your computer so that the recording is not dependent on your internet connection. They upload that local recording to the cloud progressively throughout the call so that you don’t have to wait a long time after the recording for files to upload.
After you record, the host of the call just downloads all of the recordings to their computer so you can edit and mix the episode. It’s that easy to get a high-quality studio sound!
Zencastr is the best free option, letting you record 5+ guests remotely in MP3 format. You can record a higher quality WAV file for $20/mo.
Riverside ($9/mo) is the best software for recording both video (up to 4k) and audio.
Squadcast ($10/mo) is the best option for recording high-quality WAV audio files right out the gate.
Zoom (free to $15/mo) also allows you to record a podcast, both audio and video. While it does not provide as clear of a sound or visual quality as Riverside or Squadcast, it is a great way to get started for free or to simply record a backup of your show. Note: Zoom does limit calls to 45 minutes if you have more than two participants. If you are simply recording on other person you can record forever free, but if you have three or more you’ll need to set up a paid account for $15/mo.
💡 Pro Tip: What’s the difference between a WAV and MP3? A WAV is an audio file format that is uncompressed, offering the clearest possible sound, while an MP3 is a compressed audio file format. What does that mean? WAV files sound clearer and crisper, and preserve more of the data from your audio, while MP3 files sound slightly lower quality and compress or reduce the amount of data in your audio. Zencastr sayts to think of WAVs like a crystal clear image and MP3s as a pixelated version of the same photo.
4. Schedule a Time and Hit Record
So you’ve prepared a topic, chosen a location, and picked a recording method. Next you just need to schedule a time and hit record.
Here’s a short list of tips to keep in mind when you go to record:
Record a Test Clip Before Starting
Always record a 1-2 minute test clip, stop it, then go back and listen to make sure all systems are operational, all microphones sound good, no distortion is happening, etc.
You don’t want to record a 60-minute interview with your dream guest and then realize “my mic wasn’t on” or “their voice was distorting the entire time because they were too close to the microphone! Three minutes of testing can save you hours of editing or re-recording later, so skip this step at your own risk.
Record a Backup Copy
“$&%#. We forgot to hit record. ” – Anonymous
Are you getting the idea yet? Many of the greatest podcasts that have EVER been recorded will never be heard, because the recording was lost, deleted, corrupted, etc. That’s why you should ALWAYS record a backup copy of your episode.
Record on two apps on your computer at the same time, or set a second phone on your desk and use the Voice Memo app to record. Whatever you do, just don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Make sure you record a backup copy of each episode so that you have a safety net in place if you lose or accidentally delete the files.
Use Proper Mic Technique
Speak into the correct part of your microphone. It may sound obvious, but many people incorrectly assume they know where to speak into a mic but end up getting a muffled and distant sound because they were speaking into the wrong part. The Blue Yeti microphone is especially common for causing confusion.
Position the microphone about one fist’s length away from your mouth. Each mic will have its own unique sweet spot, but we generally recommend recording with your mouth about three to five inches away from the mic, which is roughly one fist’s distance from the mic.
Don’t sway left and right or back and forth in front of your mic. The recording will sound very uneven, suddenly loud then quiet then loud again, and your listeners who are using headphones may get dizzy.
Wear Headphones While You Record
What we hear and notice in everyday life is very different from what we hear and notice when we are listening back to an audio recording. It’s easy to record a podcast and not notice the loud hum of your fridge, or your neighbor’s dog barking. But when your audience hears the episode they will immediately notice and be distracted.
Wear headphones so that you can monitor what your voice sounds like in realtime. Not sure how to do that? You can monitor your voice by plugging headphones straight into a USB mic like the Samson Q2U ($69) or by connecting it to an Audio Interface like the Focusrite 2i2 ($179).
One more note, If you are recording a podcast remotely with another guest or co-host you’ll want to wear headphones so that your mic doesn’t pick up the sound of the other person coming through your computer or phone speakers.
Take Notes While You Record
Maybe your mom walked in asking you to take out the trash around 15 minutes in, or your dog barked nonstop for 3 minutes at the 25-minute mark. Or maybe your co-host dropped an absolute pearl of wisdom halfway through the episode, and it would be the perfect clip to create an audiogram and post on TikTok.
Take short notes on a piece of paper or on your phone while you record. It will save you the time of having to listen through the full episode. You can thank me later. :)
Take Care of Your Voice
Don’t record first thing in the morning. Our voices tend to sound deeper and different than normal in the mornings. Don’t eat foods or drink carbonated drinks that will make you burp during the recording.
Drink a warm tea or coffee right before you record and warm up your voice with some light conversation before you get started.
5. Save Your Recording for Editing and Mixing
Congrats! If you’ve made it this far then you’ve recorded your first episode. So what happens next?
First, export your files from whatever app or tool you are using. We won’t go into detail here, because there are countless resources on how to do this already. Google it.
Second, import those files into a podcast editing app like Garageband (Mac), Audacity (Windows, Mac), or Resound (coming soon). You’ll use this time to edit out any content mistakes, umms and other filler words and mistakes, add your podcast intro/outro music, etc. We’ll write more about this process later.
Third, export the final master recording of your podcast as an MP3 file. This is the preferred file format for most podcast hosting platforms.
Fourth, upload your audio file to a podcast hosting platform like Buzzsprout, Anchor, Podbean, or Transistor. The hosting platform will create an RSS feed that you can submit one time to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Pandora, and as many other podcast directories. Once you submit the RSS feed one time those platforms will pull in each future episode automatically.
Fifth, tell your friends, family, and followers about the new podcast! Rinse and repeat.
We’re blessed to live in an age where you can start a podcast for free, as long as you have a smartphone or laptop and an internet connection. There are countless different ways to record a podcast, but the main process boils down to five simple steps:
- Choose a Topic and Write A Script
- Pick a Quiet Place to Record
- Choose How to Record Your Podcast
- Schedule a Time and Hit Record
- Save Your Recording for Editing and Mixing
What is your recording workflow? Let me know by replying to the Tweet below!
FAQs About How to Record a Podcast
What do you need to record a podcast?
All you need to start recording a podcast is a smartphone or laptop, recording software, and a microphone (optional).
Can I record a podcast for free?
Yes. You can record a podcast for free by simply using your smartphone or laptop and a tool like Garageband (Mac), Audacity (Windows, Mac), or Resound (coming soon). If you pick a quiet room with little echo and few background noises, and speak closely to your microphone, you can actually get a pretty high-quality sound.
But if you spend as little as $69 to buy a Samson Q2U USB mic that hooks up straight into your laptop you will sound about 10x more professional than if you record straight into your device. We recommend buying a USB mic if you can afford it.