After you have made the first recording and saved it safely (make a back up too!) you can start editing and mixing the podcast. You don’t necessarily have to take these steps, but it can make your podcast sound more professional. DAW applications allow you to perform operations such as cutting, pasting, or moving audio clips and adding music or sound effects and adjusting volumes and balance. Often you can also use it to fix certain imperfections in your recording. Especially at first, editing and mixing a podcast can be challenging, but practice makes perfect. Here are a few pointers to get you started on editing and mixing your podcast.
Getting started with editing
When you start editing it’s a good idea to listen to your recording again. This will give you an overall picture of the quality and flow of your recording, and it will give you the opportunity to make (time) notes of moments or aspects you want to change. Then you can start cutting and arranging the recording. If there are long silences in your recording, it might be useful to cut them out and/or replace them with a recording of the room tone. You may also want to remove any hiccups, distracting sounds, or repetitive phrases from the recording. Before you do this, always consider whether it will benefit (and not detract) from the listening experience and the content. Silences or hiccups can also be significant and express unspoken feelings or emotions. In the end you want it to be a well-flowing and natural sounding whole. Therefore, make sure that sentences are not suddenly interrupted and that the various audio fragments flow smoothly into each other. You can do this for example by using (cross) fades.
A point for attention when cutting interviews
Too much careless cutting and pasting can not only disrupt the flow of an interview, it can also give a wrong, incomplete and/or unwanted impression of what was said and how it was done. This can be very annoying for guests and other interviewees, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects. Sometimes, however, you might decide to cut out controversial, awkward or unintentional statements. If you do so, run your edit past the person(s) with whom you conducted the interview, they may feel strongly about some of these issues and it’s imperative that they do not feel misrepresented.
Adding music and sound effects
Earlier we talked about adding a jingle. Depending on the type of podcast it can be of value to add other music (e.g. background music or transitional music) and/or sound effects, for example to attract attention, to create an atmosphere or to connect different parts of your podcast with each other. Again, if the material is not your own, always check if and how you can use it.
Credit:Stijn Sieckelinck 2021
Checking the structure and arrangement
Before you start mixing, it’s a good idea to go over the structure of your episode again. Are all the fragments in the right order? Have you put the different speakers on different tracks? This is useful because it enables you to make adjustments for each speaker and/or section. It can also help to keep the overview. Many DAW applications also allow you to assign different colours to audio tracks. This can make it even easier to distinguish.
Working on your mix
During the mixing process, you bring all the components of your podcast recording together and turn them into a balanced, consistent and good sounding whole. The mixing process often starts with matching the volumes of audio clips and tracks. Next, the focus is often on fixing imperfections and improving the listening experience. There are different types of tools you can use for this, such as level controls, equalizers, filters, compressors and effects. In almost all DAW applications you will find (some) tools, including in free DAW applications. Online you can find a lot of information about the different types of tools there are and how to use them, including in this guide from NPR.
Listening on different devices and speakers
When you have completed the mixing process you can export it to one audio file. Hopefully you will have a mix that sounds good on your headphones and/or speakers. This does not necessarily mean that it will sound good in other situations. That’s why it’s a good idea to test the mix of your podcast on different types of playback systems and speakers. Listen for example through stereo, computer and laptop speakers, earbuds and headphones, and/or through the car radio. If necessary, you can further refine the mix to optimize it for different situations. This can be seen as part of a mastering process. This is the final step in the post-production process and is aimed at perfecting your final mix and making it ready for release.
Ask for feedback
Finally, it can be valuable for the development of your podcast to regularly ask for feedback during the editing and mixing process. For example, ask guests or people from your target audience what they think of the editing and content: Does it appeal to them? Are they intrigued by it? Are they satisfied with it? What effect does it have on them? They may also be able to point out things that could stir up unwanted controversy. Ask others for their opinion about your episode. How does it sound to them and do they hear any imperfections?