9 Podcasting Tips – and a Few Good Resources

Now that the warm weather is coming back (at least) here, I’m getting back into podcasting work again, without concern for damaging my throat. (I find that I can’t do much voice work from about October to late March, due to throat problems.) Currently, I’m working on developing a handful of audio and video podcasting series for a number of people, and I’m in “resource collection” mode. So I thought I’d share a few of the resources I’ve come across.

  1. 901am is a SplashPress site that covers new media, which includes podcasting/ vodcasting.
  2. Audio Geek Zine covers gear for home recording, which podcasting could be said to fall into.
  3. Audival is a SplashPress site, run by Stefan “Stiff” Hendgren, brother of Thord Hendgren (who currently runs Devlounge and a number of other SplashPress and personal sites). Audival focuses on podcasting tips and tricks, as well previews and reviews of relevant software and gear. There are also gems such as Podcasting On a Budget, which has a list of various tools you might want to look into, and the Adding Music To Your Podcasts series (part 1, part 2, part 3). As well, have a look at the “Resources and Links” section of Audival’s navigation column. There are some new media-related sites listed, including audio hosting services.
  4. Audacity is a free, multi-platform audio editor reportedly developed by recording industry insiders, and compatible with a few audio plugin architectures. As I’ve said many times in the past, don’t let the free price fool you. You get a lot of bang for no buck.
  5. Podcast Academy is a blog that offers advice and tons of podcasts of industry sessions about podcasting. I’ve spent the last few days listening to hours of incredible advice from workshops and sessions at 2007’s PNME (Podcast and New Media Expo). Because the content is pure audio, you can playback podcasts while working on something else, or download to your computer and offload to an MP3 player. If you are serious about becoming a podcaster, you really should listen to these sessions about legalities, licensing etc.

I know this is a really short list of resources, but I’ll add more in the comments as I find them. You can add some as well, if you’ve found something you like, or are part of a company in the new media industry and have something that’s relevant to podcasting/ vodcasting.

Some tips on podcasting that I’ve picked up over the past few years, as well as from my minimal broadcast experience:

  1. Cost.
    You do not need to spend lots of money to get started in podcasting. I’ve ranged from using dollar store mics on a good sound card, to $1800 professional sound cards, to a whole rack of recording gear and 44-channel hard drive mixers, to my present device of an Zoom H4 portable digital recorder from Samson Tech. It acts as either a stereo or 4-track recorder, or even an audio interface to certain types of recording software. Pricey, but worth it if you need something mid-range in quality. They also have a somewhat less expensive Zoom H2, which is the device recommended by the broadcasting department of regional college.
  2. Effort.
    Don’t strain your voice; speak naturally. If “naturally” is not clear enough, then work on improving your voice and control. You don’t need to have broadcasting lessons, but you should spend time working on inflection, pronunciation, enunciation, rhythm, speed, volume, breathing, etc. Not doing this means potentially having a monotone, boring recording, or something completely unintelligible.
  3. Energy.
    Don’t record when you’re tired. This will strain your vocal chords, and your voice may come across weak or even high-pitched. Being in general good health improves the quality of your voice for broadcasting purposes.
  4. Environment.
    Don’t record in a cold room, or when your body is cold. Warm up your voice before recording, to avoid stress on your vocal chords. Usually you can do this by doing by spending a few minutes chatting first. But if you work at home and only the cat is around, you might feel uncomfortable. If so, try putting on a hoodie or a sweater, or wrap up in blanket, to warm up your torso.
  5. Gear.
    Use a reasonably good microphone, though you don’t have to go overboard. Certain types of mics “warm” up your voice and make you sound better, especially if your voice is “thin”. Even though I use a dollar-store mic on occasion, it makes my voice thin.
  6. Gear, pt 2.
    Certain vowel and consonant sounds are magnified unflatteringly. Using a windshield/ pop screen over the mic can help reduce sibilant, aspirant and popping sounds.
  7. Gear, pt 3.
    If you use a pro mic, you might need an audio interface such as the M-Audio Fast Track USB, which is part of their podcasting kit. On the other hand, if you a good handheld recorder, it’ll have a good directional stereo mic and possible a screen. If it records to SD or Flash cards, you won’t need an audio interface.
  8. Gear, pt 4.
    A quality digital portable recorder is handy not just because it’s portable, but also because it’s then easier to upload your recordings to your computer and then web.
  9. Health.
    Sustained use of alcohol and cigarettes do affect the quality of your voice. I engage in some of the former and none of the latter. Of course, you might sound like the whiskey-soaked voice of Tom Waits, or the smokiness of Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees on his amazing Whiskey For the Holy Ghost album (1993, SubPop). But I’m not sure I’d want to listen to podcasts by either of these great musicians (see videos below).

Like anything creative, podcasting is a learning process. Even with broadcasting lessons and some community radio experience, I’m still learning how to use my voice effectively. I do make the mistake of recording when I’m tired or cold, and that does not always make for a great recording.

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