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I listen to many podcasts, audio books and audio blogs by many different people and some just drive me crazy. There are just some things I don’t like and when I hear someone continually do the same things over and over … well … it just gets to me.
Here are some of the things that particularly bother me:
- Pops, cracks and scratchy sounds
- Hums and buzzing sounds
- Background noises that continually cause distractions
- Room ambience. (You know, that ‘echo-y’ sound that comes from a live room, like you’re doing your podcast in the kitchen or bathroom. I know, I know; some of you actually do that, don’t you?)
- Intro music that is much louder than the talking that follows
- Exit music that disrupts the final statements of the person(s) talking
In general, I think it is important to pay at least a little attention to detail. (In fact, I admit I probably sometimes pay a little too close attention to details. Sorry, it’s just the way I’m put together.)
I’m not here to say that everything needs to sound as though it is done in the studio, but, some of the more bothersome distractions can generally be quite simply eliminated, or, at least minimized. When I say that, I mean it doesn’t generally take a degree in rocket science to make a noticeable difference. All it really takes is paying attention to some small details.
Have you ever considered what your listeners may think about your podcast?
Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that most people just tend to put up with little distractions as long as they are interested in what the presenter has to say. That’s just fine but, in my opinion, when something happens on a regular basis and could be quite easily corrected … well … I guess that’s where I begin to disagree with the “who cares, this is only podcasting” mentality.
I mean, why not try something to make a difference? Why not try something to make your podcast just a little bit better on a regular basis. Who knows, you may like the differences, too.
I have a very distinct disagreement with one of the groups I’ve gotten some information from and I told them how I felt about it, also. I simply let them know I was disappointed in the quality of their mp3 downloads. The quality is literally terrible. I know they could do better if they wanted to but it appears they would rather turn out an inferior product.
That’s their choice. However, if it were me, I would do it differently.
In my opinion, their problem is they simply use too low a quality file to turn out a good reproduction (download) and I’m pretty sure I know why they do it. Basically it is because they don’t want to tie up a lot of server space and they are trying to minimize download time. Therefore, the product you have to listen too is of a poor quality and sounds way too compressed. Add to that the fact that they have all kinds of distracting noises in their recordings and it just makes the whole experience aggravating at times. It is unfortunate because much of their information is very worthwhile.
Well enough of that for now. That’s just food for thought. Let’s move on to some of the things I mentioned earlier and how we might go about correcting those problems.
I really think the primary reason people turn out a poor product is just because they don’t pay attention to what it sounds like to those that are listening. It’s either that or they just don’t care what their listeners think. In any event, the listener needs to be considered.
What about those pops, cracks and scratchy sounds?
- Much of the pops and scratchy sounds can be corrected by just changing the way you place the microphone. If you are wearing a headset mic, you may want to experiment with repositioning it to get it away from what are called ‘P-pops’. This could also be why you have ‘scratchy’ sounds because the mic is rubbing your face. If you are using a desktop or stand mic, you may want to try a ‘pop filter’ or moving away from the mic just a little. (Experiment a little and see what makes a difference for the better.
- Another thing you can do to check for some of those distracting pops, cracks and scratches is check your microphone cable for noises. Sometimes just giving it a little shake tells whether or not it is the culprit. I you jiggle it and you hear noises it is good bet you have found at least one of your problems.
What about those hums and buzzes?
- This can be one of the more difficult things to locate as far as the source is concerned. It can be anything from ‘ground loops’ to faulty equipment. The only way to even begin to isolate the problem is to substitute a different mic or mic cable. If the problem goes away you’ve found the problem and it was faulty equipment. If it is still there, you may have your work cut out for you. Ground Loops can be some of the most difficult things to find. Or, you could find it very quickly and still not be able to eliminate it because it is associated with something you can’t eliminate and continue with your recording.
What about those distracting background noises or voices?
- I guess the only thing I will say about this for now is that it is a detail that you need to pay attention to. If you have sounds or talking that distracts your listeners attention away from what you or your guests are saying, then why bother. There is nothing wrong with live interviews in a crowded or busy environment, but, if you or your guest can’t be understood, no one will know what you’re talking about. (Believe me, this happens more than you think.)
How can I get rid of that “echo-y” sound?
- This may be one of the more difficult things to get rid of, also. Room ambience can either be a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes it just makes everything sound better. At other times, it just makes things sound hollow. An easy thing to try is to somehow hang a drape or blanket around your recording area. You may even want to put a throw rug on that hard floor beneath your feet. Anything that can absorb those unwanted sounds in highly reflective areas will make a noticeable difference. If you like the tighter sound without so much room ambience you may want to invest in something more expensive in the future (like sound control panels.) This isn’t a necessary expense because there are often inexpensive ways to counteract the echo-y effect of a room. Some like to use materials and tools made for the job and some like to improvise. Either way is good especially when they work.
Intro music being too loud and the following talking much too soft.
- There is nothing that bothers me quite as much as large differences in volume between segments or intros and talking. I really see no excuse for it. It is as easy as listening to the transition from one to the other in your recordings and simply turning one or the other up or down to match the louder or softer one. In Audacity, this is about as easy as it gets. (I’ll soon discuss this further in a future article.) Trust me when I tell you, this is one of the easiest editing things to do.
Two things about closings and rolling exit music.
- Don’t make the exit music so loud that it covers over what the hosts or guests are saying. Usually what they say last is of importance. To distract or cover those important last lines takes away from any lasting impression they may leave.
- I simply don’t like loud musical exits, especially if the music is much louder than the talking that just took place. To me, it is an aggravation I would rather not have to deal with. At the very least, keep the exit music at the same level as the last words spoken. (If nothing else is accomplished, at least you didn’t aggravate one of your listeners … me.)
Listen to you recordings in such a way as to put yourself in your listeners shoes. Make an effort to listen for those little details that don’t require a lot of effort, but make a world of difference.
See ya next time …