I recently went to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The views were magnificent as the mountains, sky, and wildlife put on a show. At one point the temperature drastically changed due to the elevation and my glasses fogged up. It was a no-brainer for me to pause and clean my glasses so I could see the world around me clearly.
Podcast editing is the equivalent of removing the fog and distractions from your podcast so your listeners can see (or hear) your message clearly. Editing a podcast is one of the most important steps in the post-production process. Editing can be the difference between having a mediocre podcast and a great one.
In nearly 10 years of experience, I’ve seen how confusing and overwhelming this process is to podcasters of all skill levels. In this post I’ll be sharing all the essentials you need to know about podcast editing.
So let’s dive in.
Podcast editing is the process of cleaning up the RAW voice recordings you capture to make it more presentable and engaging for listeners.
People normally mean one of two things when they use the word podcast editing. In a casual sense, podcast editing can be another word for post-production: The process of assembling files, editing, adding music and sound design, mixing and mastering before publishing your podcast episode. On a technical level, podcast editing is the process of making global changes to your audio files (cutting boring content), local changes (cutting filler sounds and long pauses), and pacing out the dialogue to flow smoothly.
Hold these concepts in mind, because we’ll come back to them later in this article. But for now, let’s talk about a few different approaches when it comes to editing your podcast.
If you are reading this post I probably don’t need to convince you why you need to edit your podcast but here are a few benefits that you can share with your friends that don’t edit their show.
Removing distractions serves your listeners. On average, an episode can be shortened by 10-20% with simple podcast editing. For example, one of our team members recently edited a 74 minute podcast and shaved off 3 mins (4%) just by removing the umms and ahhs in our app Resound. Those 3 minutes save 50 hours for every 1000 people who listen to the episode.
Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. Respect your listeners time and they will thank you in the long run by more-and-more of your episodes.
When I started editing podcasts in 2014, podcasting was the wild west. Not many established practices on podcasting and signifantly more demand than supply. As the industry has matured there are now over 6m podcasts and its now harder to get the audience's attention or come close to breaking the top charts. If you want to compete you must edit your podcast. If you think listeners can’t find another show that is similar to yours you are simply wrong. On several occasions I’ve stopped listening to shows due to bad audio quality and had no problem finding a similar show that sounded better.
Editing your show will allow you to communicate your message with clarity and efficiency. The beauty of podcasting is that you are not live so take advantage of that by making yourself communicate clearly with some simple editing.
Have you ever been listening to a podcast and all of a sudden it was silent for more than 5 seconds? When this happens to me, I wonder if my podcast player is having technical issues, did the show end, etc. Save your listener's frustrations by editing out parts like this that may leave them hanging. Additional uneven audio levels between speakers can be one of the most frustrating things. Don’t make your listeners try to auto-level your episode by keeping their hands on the volume knob.
When we look at how to edit a podcast there are different philosophies and approaches. I am certainly not saying there is a one size fits all. When deciding which approach may be best for you, it's important to consider your personal preference and style, target audience, and podcast format.
Some shows want to remove every single mess up, false start, long pause, cough, etc. Shows that typically benefit from this style of editing are usually more narrative-style podcasts that may have a lot of sound design and sound effects, internal business podcasts, and interview-style podcasts with a more formal approach. In this style you may want to edit out all or most of the filler words, false starts, crosstalk, or anything that is said off script (ex: “I gotta go to the bathroom”).
Some shows that a more laid back approach to editing. You may not remove every single umm or ahhh your guest says but just reduce them so your audience isn’t fixated on or distracted by those things. This approach is often best for interview-style podcasts that are less scripted and more conversational where the episode flows more like friends having a conversation. You may leave in the long pause to bring your listeners in on how much time it took for the guest to ponder the question asked.
Like everything in life there is usually a middle ground when two dicotomys are presented. The hybrid approach (or the find-your-own approach) fits somewhere inbetween the perfectionist and authentic approach. There is certainly not a one-sizefits-all approach but understanding the perfectionist (aggressive editing) and authentic (modest editing) should help you find the middle ground that fits your needs. This is where we pull back the curtin and tell you that podcast editing is not just a science but also an art. Find your groove and do what works best for you (or your client) and roll with it.
Before we go further it’s important to mention video podcasts. Video podcasts are booming. A study from Veritonic published in July 2023 says that 47% of podcast listeners in the United States watch a podcast on YouTube every week. We know how valuable video podcasts are and see this trend growing, but we’re going to stay focused on audio editing for the remainder of this article.
At a high level, editing audio is a lot easier than editing video because you have some built in creative constraints. Once you add video you need more equipment and have to consider how every edit you make in your audio not only sounds, but how it looks, if the lighting changes, and much more.
Learn more about video editing in our post on How to make a video podcast: All you need to know.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about why you need to edit your podcast.
We’ve thought deeply about the process of creating a podcast, and break this down into three major sections: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production.
Pre-production is when you come up with an idea for something to record, sketch out a rough script or write down questions, book any relevant guests, and schedule a time to record.
Production is when you set up equipment, hit record, capture your unedited content, and save those files for editing later.
Post-production is when you assemble all the files, edit out mistakes both big and small, add your show’s music and any sound design, then enhance your sound with mixing and mastering.
For the sake of this article, we’re only interested in the post-production process, so we’ll talk about that next. But hopefully, this chart gives you a good lay of the land for where editing falls in the overall process of making a podcast.
If you’re new to podcasting, then you’ve probably been drinking from a fire hydrant of information. But at the end of the day, there is a very straightforward process we recommend every podcast walks through (and no, you don’t have to do every single step here to make a great podcast).
The post-production process you use to turn your RAW audio and turn it into a well-polished episode that listeners will love and share with their friends.
It has four major steps that loosely happen in the order listed below. But the reality is that these steps often blend together and you will find yourself jumping back and forth between them.
Assembly is the process of organizing all of your RAW files to prepare for the upcoming steps in the process. It might include renaming your files to know which is the guest and which is the host.
Editing is the process of making global edits, local fine-tune edits, and pacing the dialogue to fit the shows aesthetic. There are three major steps to editing:
Adding music and sound design is technically optional, but at the minimum most podcasts will have theme music they play at the intro and outro. Narrative-style shows like history or true crime podcasts will often bring the story to life with sound design and music beds under the dialog as well.
The final stage is to mix and master your audio. In music creation mixing and mastering are normally separated into their own steps and done by different specialist Audio Engineers. However, in podcasting the process is much simpler so we think of them as one process with multiple steps.
When it comes to editing a podcast you have three big options for how to get it done: DIY, outsource, or automate. We believe that automating is the best option for many podcasters because it’s fast, cheap, and can still be high-quality. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of each method.
The first and most obvious a pproach is to learn how to edit your podcast on your own. The main benefit is that it’s free to edit your own podcast with downloadable apps like Garageband and Audacity or web-based apps like Podcastle or Alitu. But the cons are that it takes a lot of time (roughly 2x the length of your raw audio files) and you have to learn how to work a bunch of new software.
The next option is to delegate your podcast editing to a professional podcast production company like Resonate Recordings, hire a freelance editor, or outsource to your marketing team or your tech-savvy nephew. The pros of outsourcing are the time you save and the quality of human editing. The cons are the expensive price tag and the turnaround time which can take longer than other options.
The third (and best) option, in our opinion, is to harness the power of automation to speed up your DIY workflow. With recent advances in AI, there are more ways to automate your post-production process than ever before. Let’s break it down even further.
There are three core ways to automate your workflow:
AI editing tools like Resound (that’s us 👋) take the tedious work out of editing using the latest machine learning technologies. With Resound you can find all your umms and ahhs in seconds to clean up your audio. Plus, Resound also detects long silence detection and mixes and masters your audio with AI to remove background noises and enhance the sound of your voice with a few clicks.
In the best-selling book Effortless by Greg McKeown, he talks about the power of automation to help our minds focus on more important things. He says,
“A cheat sheet is one of the most effective, albeit low-tech, tools we have at our disposal to automate almost anything that really matters.”
The cheat sheet is a simple checklist of steps you take every time you edit your podcast. It’s something you can use to quickly recall what your process is, where you store files, and how to go from an unedited episode to a final polished product.
Detailed Cheat Sheet
Templates are a third way to automate your podcast workflow. We recommend having a standard template saved in your podcast editing tool of choice, whether that is Garageband, Audacity, Adobe Audition, etc. Then, every time you start a new episode you should duplicate that template and save yourself the hassle of adding your reusable sections like the intro, outro, and any sound effects or music throughout the episode. Invest a little time up front into your system and you’ll save hours of tedious tasks down the road.
To summarize this section, there are three main approaches you can take to editing your podcast. DIY, outsourcing, or automating. Here at Resound we’re BIG believers in that third option, which is why we’re building Resound in the first place.
Check out the chart below to see a quick summary of why we think Automating your podcast workflow is the best way to go:
If you’re interested in testing out our automation-first DIY approach to editing podcasts, then keep reading. We’ll break down the process step-by-step so you can take your RAW podcast files and turn them into a sonic masterpiece.
A few quick notes
Download your RAW recorded files and store them in an organized system like the image below. Rename files if necessary to see who is host, guest 1, guest 2, etc.
Drag and drop your unedited files into Garageband. After you’ve done a few episodes and gotten comfortable you should save a copy of your template that you can copy and paste each time you start a new episode. Your template can include your intro and outro music and any other assets that stay the same across every episode.
Use Garageband for making high-level edits to your show. You may not need to make all of these changes, but here’s a quick checklist to get started:
Export an uncompressed file format like WAV or FLAC of each individual track from Garageband before importing into Resound. It’s important to keep your tracks separate and NOT merge them together at this point because we still want to mix and master them later.
How to export files form Garageband:
Resound automatically finds ums and ahs (and soon much more) in your audio in minutes with AI. It also automatically mixes and masters your audio, powered by Auphonic.
Simply follow these steps to use Resound:
Align edited tracks with your intro and outro music, voiceover tracks, or baked-in ads back inside of your original Garageband session.
For best performance on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, export an MP3 file at 128 kbps with a sample rate of 44.1khz.
How to export master MP3 from Garageband:
The very last step is to get your beautifully edited, mixed and mastered audio file out into the world! Upload to your favorite hosting platform and let the world hear your masterpiece!
Garageband and Resound are a powerful combination of tools you can use for free to edit your podcast! But if you want to use other tools there are a lot of options, and many of the steps we outline above apply no matter what tool you’re using.
Keep it simple and use as few tools as possible. Try to pick one Digital Audio Workstation for arranging tracks and adding music, and one AI audio editor for enhancing your sound, removing filler sounds, etc. There are dozens of tools to choose from, but here’s a short list of the ones you should know about.
You need a DAW to assemble all your tracks on a robust multitrack timeline and to do some high-level editing.
If you have a Mac, then Garageband is the best free editor to start using today. It offers a simple interface that’s easy to learn, non-destructive editing (meaning you can always undo edits and bring back deleted content), and lets you arrange tracks on a timeline to assemble your entire episode.
If you don’t have a Mac then Audacity is a great open-source alternative that works for Windows and other operating systems. It offers most of the same features that Garageband has, but it unfortunately does not offer non-destructive editing and lacks the same beautiful design that Garageband has.
If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription or are already familiar with any of Adobe’s suite of creative tools then Adobe Audition is a great option for editing audio in a similar interface. It offers many of the same features as Garageband and Audacity but with even more audio enhancement options and a more complex interface. If you’re new to editing we’d recommend keeping it simple and sticking with GarageBand or Audacity. But this is a powerful and well-respected tool for good reason.
Pro Tools has been the industry standard DAW for several decades, and is used for recording and mixing music, scoring and mixing films, live music applications, and so much more. It’s the most powerful DAW and that means it’s one of the most complicated tools to learn.
You need audio editing software like Resound to automatically remove filler sounds, long pauses, and enhance your audio in minutes instead of hours.
Resound is the AI podcast editor for creators. It automatically detects filler sounds like umms and ahhs in your audio in seconds then lets you go through a unique review process to ensure every edit meets your quality standards. This saves you hours of editing time so you don’t have to manually listen to every part of your episode. You can also automatically mix and master audio with Enhance, trim audio manually, detect long silences and more.
Descript has built a powerful tool for editing audio and video just like you edit a word document. They transcribe your audio or video, present it as a word doc, and let you delete audio by deleting a word or even replace what you said with AI voice-cloning technology.
Podcastle has built a web-based podcast app geared towards creators. It lets you record, edit, add some enhancements, and export your podcast all in one app. They also offer transcript-based editing like Descript and a simplified experience, but their main difference is that they are web-based instead of a downloaded app.
You’ve covered a lot of ground here today. Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned to close things out here.
Did we miss anything in this guide or do you have more questions? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mixing is the process of fixing audio problems like background noise and hum, adjusting tone like voices that are too bright or nasally, adjusting dynamics so that all voices audio tracks sound even across the file, and tweaking the balance of tracks to blend well together.
Mastering is the final process that polishes the final track, adjusting it’s loudness to match streaming standards, addressing any final issues like equalization, adds a “brick wall” limiter to ensure nothing distorts across the file, and exports the final master file for sharing.
Editing a podcast takes most podcasters and Audio Engineers 2-3x the length of the unedited audio. A 30 minute recording takes 1-1.5 hours to edit. A 1 hour podcast takes 2-3 hours to edit. However, new software like Resound can help you edit your audio in minutes instead of hours by automatically detecting mistakes like ums and ahs in your audio.