Ever wanted to start your own podcast but don’t know where to begin? Need to know more about what podcast equipment to use? Well, this guide has been put together to help you find out everything you need to know to get started!
Here at PMT it’s not always about music… OK, it is but we do have some other interests and podcasts are one of them so we’re going to go through some tips on how to create a podcast, getting started and the kind of equipment you’re going to need along the way.
Step 1: Planning Your Podcast
First of all, you have to think about what kind of podcast you want to make. There are tonnes of podcasts out there covering all sorts of subjects ranging from serious documentary-style podcasts such as the insanely popular Serial podcast (a spin-off of top podcast This American Life) all the way to humorous podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience and The Ricky Gervais Show, the latter of which later got picked up by HBO and made into a hit TV series, so there’s pretty much no genre that is off-limits.
Once you’ve decided on the subject of your podcast it’s time to think of a name. There’s different ways you can approach coming up with a name for your podcast but we find it’s best to include a short description of what your podcast is going to be about. For example; if your podcast is going to involve reviewing local gigs in Manchester you could title your podcast something along the lines of “Manchester Music Scene Reviews” so your potential audience know what they’re getting.
Next, it might be a good idea to think about the format of your podcast episodes and maybe even start a little scripting. It’s good to sound natural on a podcast so your audience feels like you’re talking to them rather than reading to them, but having a script prepared as a good backbone goes a long way to helping you put out a professional sounding podcast.
Also, it’s worth planning how often you’re going to be putting out your podcasts. Regular, weekly podcasting works well as your audience can easily follow your show and knows exactly when to expect new episodes. If your release pattern is too irregular people will find it hard to follow your show and you don’t want gaps between releases to be too long lest people forget your podcast exists!
Step 2: Recording Your Podcast
This is where the real fun begins. The most important bit of gear you’re going to need to start recording is a microphone. Now, there is a huge number of microphones out there to choose from for all sorts of different recording requirements and it can be confusing, and even intimidating, when you’re just starting out and wondering what kind of microphone you’re going to need; this is where PMT comes in.
We’ve put together a list of our top 5 microphones that we believe are all excellent choices when it comes to recording your own podcast and we’re going to go into a little about each of them to inform you of the benefits they provide when it comes to podcasting.
Top 5 Microphones for Podcast Recordings
5) Marantz MPM-1000
Here we have the Marantz MPM-1000; a very affordable, large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. For the price, not only is it a great microphone but it also comes with a windshield to place over the microphone, a tripod stand that’s perfect for sitting the MPM-1000 on your desktop, a shock mount to keep the microphone stable and cut down on unwanted noise and an XLR cable for you to be able to plug the microphone into any standard audio interface device. The Marantz MPM-1000 requires phantom power so picking up an audio interface that provides this is a must, and for this we would recommend the MVi digital audio interface which we’ll go into a little more detail about later in the article.
4) Shure SM58
Of course, when talking about microphones made for picking up vocals we would be remiss not to mention the Shure SM58 – the world’s best-selling dynamic microphone. The SM58 is great for picking up vocals and its hardy design means it’s nearly indestructible, however if you’re just starting out and on a budget then you may want to consider the Shure PGA58.
The PGA58 microphone from Shure has been designed to serve the same purpose as its bigger brother (the SM58) but at a more affordable price. Now, the PGA58 isn’t a desktop microphone like the others mentioned in this list so you may want to look at the PGA58BTS edition; it’s the same microphone but it comes packaged with a tripod boom stand at a great price.
3) Samson Go USB Microphone
If you’re on a really tight budget, then you might want to take a look at the Samson Go USB Microphone. Thanks to the tiny, compact design of the Samson Go you can easily fit it in your pocket and take it with you wherever you like. It comes with a clip so you can even attach it to your laptop or MacBook or set it down nicely on your desk; just plug in with the included USB cable and you’re away.
Another nice feature of the Samson Go is its switchable cardioid and omnidirectional pickup patterns; if you’re just recording one voice for your podcast you can switch it to the more directed cardioid polar pattern; focusing on one area and cutting down on unwanted background noise but if you have guests on your show or multiple hosts then switching to the more open omnidirectional polar pattern will capture everyone.
2) Shure Motiv MV5
As we mentioned previously; USB microphones are a great way to go when recording at home or in the studio and the Shure Motiv MV5 is one such microphone and it delivers great results in all sorts of different situations. It has three built-in recording presets tailored for different recording needs. Firstly, there’s Flat which is suitable for all applications, then there’s Voice which is designed to bring out the natural qualities of speech and singing and lastly there’s Instrument which is ideal for recording live, acoustic instruments.
The Shure MV5 microphone has a great looking, compact design so it’s very portable. The MV5 even comes with a micro USB to lightning cable so if you want to record on location or on the road then you can easily record straight onto your iPhone or other Apple iOS device. You can use the free audio app GarageBand developed by Apple or Shure’s own free app ShurePlus Motiv which has been designed for use with the Shure Motiv series (both of these apps are available for free on the Apple App Store).
Finally, at number one we have the Shure Motiv MV51. The Motiv MV51 is specifically engineered for high fidelity audio capture and it seamlessly integrates with iOS, Android, Mac and PC devices providing studio quality home recording – a perfect microphone for podcasting.
The MV51 comes with an integrated kickstand so it goes perfectly on your desktop when recording speech for your podcast or you can remove the kickstand and the MV51 can be mounted onto any standard 15.9mm thread microphone stand.
To help you get the most out of your recordings, the Motiv MV51 comes with five preset recording modes; the first is a flat setting suitable for all applications and then there are four others, each individually tailored to Speech, Singing, Acoustic Instruments and Loud audio respectively. This versatility gives you all sorts of options in one microphone.
Going back to our “Manchester Music Scene Reviews” podcast idea from earlier, let’s say you wanted to go out and record a live band - you can simply set the recording mode on the MV51 to Loud and you’re sorted! Fancy having a musical guest play some guitar in your home studio? Switch to the Acoustic Instrument preset and you’re golden. With the MV51 you can have all these options and more in one microphone so you don’t have to go out and buy different microphones for each of these situations.
All of these things have made the MV51 our number one choice when it comes to finding a perfect microphone for podcasting… plus it has a great vintage look like an old-timey radio microphone and that’s just cool.
While USB microphones can be very convenient when recording straight onto your computer if you don’t go the USB microphone route and opt for an XLR microphone instead there are options for that too; such as the MVi digital audio interface. The MVi is a great little pocket-sized device that you can plug your XLR source into and output using the included micro USB to USB cable or micro USB to lightning cable which is great for recording directly onto your iPhone or iPad! The MVi comes with a range of recording presets allowing you to get the best results possible, whatever it is you’re recording from speech and singing to acoustic instruments and loud music.
You may also want to consider getting yourself a pop shield to give yourself that extra edge at sounding like a high quality, professional podcast. For those who don’t know; a pop shield (or pop filter) is a physical filter that is placed in front of a microphone to aid in eliminating the popping sounds caused during plosive speech.
Try recording without a pop shield and saying “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and you’ll know what I mean; it’s uncomfortable for your audience to listen to and distracts from the actual content. The simple use of a pop shield eliminates that awful noise!
Step 3: Editing Your Podcast
Editing can make or break a podcast and can definitely mean the difference between your podcast coming across as amateurish or a top-notch professional sounding podcast, fortunately there are a few different programs you can use to edit your podcast and we’re going to mention a few here.
If you’re on a Mac, you could look at using GarageBand – it’s a great bit of software developed by Apple and is really useful for recording and editing your podcasts.
On the PC, you have a few more options. Firstly, many people use the free program Audacity (which also works for Mac OS X). Audacity is a pretty simple and straightforward program that you can use to edit and record your program. If you want to go that extra step though, we would recommend using something like Reason 9 Essentials.
Reason Essentials (a streamlined version of its bigger brother; Reason 9 Music Production Software) is a great, entry level DAW (or Digital Audio Workstation) that not only allows you to record and edit your podcast but it’s great for making professional sounding music too. A great way of creating an identity for your podcast and making it sound like a quality, professional podcast is by adding a theme tune and Reason Essentials is a great way of getting stuck into that. It also has a powerful range of editing options to ensure the overall sound of your podcast is of the highest quality.
When it comes to actually sitting down and editing you must be your own harshest critic. Listen through your recordings carefully as this is your chance to fix any flaws before putting your podcast out there for the world to hear.
You’ll want to do things such as cut out any coughs, sneezes and other noises like cars honking – these are all sounds that detract from the enjoyment of your content. Think about when you listen to the radio; it’s not often you’re distracted from the breakfast show by a dog suddenly barking in the background… unless it’s your dog, of course.
You may even find that some aspects of your podcast just don’t fit in; maybe you went off on a tangent or improvised a little and in retrospect it doesn’t work as well. It’s best to fix these things in the editing stage before publishing your podcast.
Speaking of publishing…
Step 4: Publishing Your Podcast
Publishing is when you actually get your podcast online and make it available for all your soon-to-be devoted listeners. To publish your podcast, you need to look at hosting services, of which there are a few; some free and some charged so we’re going to go to look at a couple of the more popular ones so you can get an idea of what’s out there and make an informed decision on which is the best podcasting service for you.
If you’re a musician or like listening to a lot of unsigned music then you’re probably already familiar with SoundCloud, but did you know they also offer podcast hosting services? When you’re starting out you can make use of SoundCloud’s free service but should your podcast become more popular you can use their paid services to get more out of it and open up your podcast hosting options.
Podomatic is another podcast hosting service that offers a free option. On the free service with Podomatic you can get 500MB of storage and 15GB worth of bandwidth which should be more than enough for your podcast when you’re starting out.
Next there’s Libsyn; a dedicated podcast hosting service that has been around for years and while they don’t have a free option they do offer unlimited bandwidth and their package options can be very cheap so they’re well worth a look.
Once you’ve decided on a podcast hosting service and you’ve got your files online you need a way to reach your audience and the best way of doing this is by having your podcast listed on a podcast directory.
Your podcast hosting service should have an option to set up an RSS feed, an RSS feed is a method of delivering regularly updating web content and you’re going to need one when getting your podcast listed on a podcast directory. Once you’ve set up your RSS feed you need to look at which podcast directories you’re interested in.
There are many great, free options out there and they’re all worth trying. Libsyn, the podcast hosting service we mentioned earlier, have their own podcast directory so if you decide to go for them as your hosting service then you might find it quite easy to go ahead and get listed on their directory service (this is free by the way).
Another popular and free service is Blubrry. The Blubrry podcast directory has a few cool tools to help you with your podcasting and a nice set of statistics to help you review the results of your podcast and how things are going.
Then we have probably the biggest podcast directory and the one you really want to get on; iTunes. Even if you know nothing about podcast directories you’ve likely heard of iTunes. The Podcasts app for iOS is potentially the best podcast software out there and once you have your podcast published to iTunes you’ve potentially worked your way into the lives of every iPhone user, everyone with an iPad and anyone on an Apple Mac… not to mention all the millions of iTunes users out there on PCs.
Other Equipment You Might Need
The Black Rat Desktop Boom Stand comes in handy if you have a microphone without an integrated stand or a handheld microphone. The Desktop Boom stand allows you to conveniently situate your microphone right there where you want it while you’re sat down recording your podcasts.
You can also pick up an XLR to USB cable like the Alesis Miclink XLR to USB cable. Having an XLR to USB cable streamlines the whole podcasting process when you opt for a standard XLR microphone. It’s important to note however that this is only really an option for dynamic microphones that don’t need an external power source unlike some condensers which will require some form of additional phantom power.
If you want to record from multiple sources, such as two microphones at once then it’s worth investing in a mixing desk. One that we would recommend is the Yamaha MG06X. The MG06X delivers great quality audio in a tiny, highly portable compact design. Measuring six by eight inches it can fit into any home studio and weighing in at under 1kg you can just pick it up in one hand if you need to take it with you.
When it comes to editing, a good pair of headphones such as the SRH440 studio headphones will work wonders in helping you monitor every aspect of the audio.
So, we hope tutorial on how to make a podcast has helped you get your podcasting aspirations off to a great start and if you have any hints or tips you'd like to add feel free to post them in the comments below!