This is part of Libsyn’s blog post series, “How To Start a Podcast — Step By Step for Every Kind of Podcast.” Check out the introduction to the series, including levels of podcasts, and the previous post about planning your podcast.
Now we’re getting into the more technical side of starting your podcast. The good news is that, depending on what you’re trying to do, you can start today, often with minimal adjustments to the space you’re in or have available, and for free!
Let’s get into it.
Where to Record Your Podcast
For many purposes, almost any quiet space can become The Studio.
But there’s quiet and there’s quiet. Listen for white noise that you might not notice normally but that could be audible on a recording.
In fact, start the process of choosing a place to record by recording 1 or 2 minutes of the room sound.
Yep, just the room sound! You’ll be surprised by how much information you gather with just doing that.
The hum of a refrigerator, the whistle of steam heat, and rumbling traffic outside can all interfere with audio quality.
Consider a room without windows, like a walk-in closet or other interior space with lots of fluffy furniture and low ceilings — that would have the added benefit of sound absorbing materials and diffusion naturally present in those spaces.
Carpet or plenty of rugs in a room make for a much better sound than hardwood floors!
Most Level 1 or 2 podcasters might not have access to optimal recording spaces, but nearly every home has bedrooms and closets. Generally speaking, those rooms would be your best bet. At times living rooms can do the job, particularly if there is lots of furniture and nice big, soft, cushy sofas, cushions, and drapes.
Home offices are also good choices for recording, if they have a substantial amount of furniture, carpet, rugs, and curtains.
Offices have the bonus of being used by you, so to make it easy to record in a home office regularly, consider adding some basic sound absorption and diffusion elements to the room.
Kitchens and bathrooms tend to have the most amount of echo, as there is no carpet and the furniture and surroundings are hard. Avoid recording in them if possible.
Acoustic Treatment Tips, Level 1
These tips use items you probably have available or can borrow:
- Surround yourself with pillows
- Put a blanket over your head
- Get in a closet amongst all the clothes
- Record on a bed or a sofa surrounded by cushions
Acoustic Treatment Tips, Level 2
I am going to suggest things that you can buy and use for the best sound possible, but before I do, I want to recommend that before you invest in anything, as mentioned before, first try recording something.
Test using the Level 1 tips first. Test not using anything.
Listen to the room, but also listen to the recording.
You might find that the space that you’re in sounds pretty good. You might find that facing one way or another, or moving to a different part of the space is all you have to change to create good sound.
Or, you might find that the sound is echoey, there’s too much reverb, or it’s simply too loud and you can hear absolutely everything that’s going on outside.
Once you have some test recordings, you can make an informed decision as to what you need to do next, whether it’s finding another place to record or investing in some sound absorption and diffusion solutions.
Sound solutions are dependent on your needs for your own space.
These solutions are akin to your moving into a new house with a small closet or a very big garage: What you should invest in to organize a closet or garage is based on what is going to be stored there, what exists in the space now, and how you’ll be using the space. You don’t need to buy shelving units if your garage already has built-in shelves. You don’t need to buy a giant closet system with lots of extra organization if your closet is going to hold only evening gowns and you only need one large sturdy bar to hold them all.
Also, I want to clarify something: There is a difference between sound absorption and sound blocking.
There is no way to block the sound of everyday life in any of our living spaces. If you record in a regular life place, life will get into your recording. We will address this in upcoming blog posts.
The only way to fully block sound, meaning to soundproof a space, is to go Level 3. Most of us don’t need that. We need only do our best to create the best sound acoustic treatment for podcasting, to the best of our ability, given our circumstances.
80% of the time, choosing the right space and locating properly within that space will serve you well. The gift of podcasting is that it’s a verb, so you get to continue to adjust and re-adjust as you podcast. 😌
For the other 20% of the time, when you really need to improve the sound of your recording and the space, location and situation call for more, here are some tools to help you.
- Acoustic panels: You can find all kinds of DIY tutorials on YouTube to make your own, or you can buy really fancy ones, cute ones, and everything in between.
- Sound shields: Fairly inexpensive, compact, and can be used in a variety of ways.
- Kaotica Eyeball: A super fun product that can be the right tool for the job.
If I were to leave you with ONE thing to do to prepare your studio, whether it is for recording just yourself or with other people, it’s this: test, test, test.
There is no magic piece of audio hardware or acoustics that will solve everything. You are the x-factor in finding the solutions to record the best podcast that you can. Record, adjust, try again, listen, re-adjust, change positions, add something else, take something away and do it again.
Not only will you have clarity in what your problems are but also what really works in your space. Then, you can then invest in the tools that will give you the most bang for your buck.
This is when you check back with why you are creating this podcast. Refer back to our Plan Your Podcast article to refresh yourself. 😎
Multi-person Podcast Recording Space
Everything in the last section also applies to recording more than one person.
But most of us aren’t going to record with someone else under a blanket or in a closet…unless we either know them really well or want to 😜.
In lieu of that, choosing a good location is even more important for getting the best sound for a group: a room with lots of fluffy, cushy furniture, or at a minimum a thick carpet.
Most podcasters do just fine recording in living rooms, hotel rooms, conference rooms, and even inside of cars. (The inside of a car can have pretty awesome acoustics.)
At that point, it’s less about your location and more about your audio technique, which we will get to in an upcoming post!
One thing to note, recording more than one voice inherently changes the game. A space that works well for one voice may not work for more than one voice, so during your testing phase, make sure that you recreate what you will be doing during your episodes as best as you can!
Professional Recording Spaces (Level 3)
It’s sound-proof recording studio time, lucky you!! That’s a real Level 3 podcast setup.
For most of us everyday humans, a sound-proof studio would usually not be in the home. But there are some Level 3 podcasters (like Dan Sullivan from Strategic Podcasts) who have invested quite a bit on creating amazing studios in their homes. And a business that’s investing heavily in podcasting may choose this option within their office building.
A sound-proof set-up merits hiring a sound and design expert who can advise you based on your needs. This is not a one size fits all solution. When you’re investing thousands of dollars, you need someone who is well versed in not only audio engineering and acoustics, but podcasting.
Another option is renting a recording space. In fact, for most Level 3 podcasters, this is the way to go. A lot of cities now have recording spaces that you can use and call home.
Next Up: Choose Your Podcast Equipment
In the next post in this series, we talk about the equipment you need to record and edit your podcast. Sign up to get an email when the next post is published.
You can also email [email protected] with the subject line #AskLibsyn 😊.
While you’re at it, check out our free podcasting quick-start webinars, The Feed: The Official Libsyn Podcast, our award-nominated podcast about podcasting, and our amazing podcasting knowledge base designed specially for people like you.