Editing is often the most intimidating part of the production podcast for new podcast hosts. But even if you’ve never edited before, I’m here to reassure you that the tools and options you have for editing a podcast today are much simpler and user-friendly than ever before.
That’s why in this guide, I want to share my favorite podcast editing platforms, podcast editing tips, and then we’ll talk a little bit about the pros and cons when it comes to editing your own podcast vs. outsourcing.
Understand the Basics of Editing a Podcast
Even if your podcast is 100% for fun, you still want people to be able to follow the conversation and hear the speakers clearly. Otherwise, why bother creating content?
Editing a podcast has a few key steps. You’ll clean up any background noises, remove mistakes or slower parts of the conversation, add different audio elements, and ultimately export a finished file. It helps your podcast sound polished and professional!
Different podcasts are going to utilize different levels of editing. So an audio drama or highly produced podcast for a major network is going to have a lot of editing — probably adding sounds, intro music, commercial breaks, etc.
But if your podcast is just you talking into a mic with minimal background noise, then you might need less editing as long as your audience can hear you. (That seems like an obvious tip, but trust me, it’s crucial!)
Here’s what the whole process of editing a podcast includes:
Editing a podcast is your chance to fine-tune the episode, reduce or eliminate any background noise, and create a sense of flow. Mostly, editing involves taking things out of the podcast like repetitive parts of the story and audible distractions. What’s left is a distilled, succinct podcast that’s easier to listen to.
During editing, you may add in any intro music, sound effects, and/or pre-recorded advertisements that will be included in the podcast as well.
Mixing looks at individual tracks to balance levels and tone to ensure the podcast sounds appropriate. For example, sometimes an entire segment is cut out of a podcast during editing, but that might leave two sections next to each other with entirely different noise levels. It would be super odd for your listeners to all of a sudden HEAR SOMEONE SPEAKING LIKE THIS.
Mixing fixes those changes in tone and noise levels and makes sure there are natural (or adds in natural-sounding) transitions. This is when editors use audio processing tools like compression and equalization.
Compressing refers to reducing or amplifying sound to make the whole episode within the same range. Equalization refers to correcting the response of mics and other equipment to lower or raise frequencies. This can help make your voice more prominent or the low hum of a speaker less noticeable.
You may start with several clips of audio, sounds, music, and commercials, but after mixing you will have a single stereo track.
Mastering is the final step before it’s ready to air to the public. Mixing looks at individual moments in the audio to raise/lower frequency or amplify/reduce volume. Mastering takes a holistic view of the entire episode to make sure it can play across various platforms and with various technologies.
Since many podcasts are played on streaming services that compress your podcast even further, it’s helpful to ensure the highest quality before releasing your audio file.
Decide Between Editing Yourself or Outsourcing
Now that I’ve gone over the basic building blocks of getting a podcast ready for distribution, you may be feeling slightly overwhelmed. If you’ve got no interest in editing a podcast or figuring out digital audio workstations (DAWs) and other editing software, that’s OK! But it does mean you’ll have to outsource this skill.
Hiring a Podcast Editor
Editing can not only feel like a foreign skill, but it also takes up valuable time. And for some podcasters, outsourcing your editing will be the best way to create an amazing finished product without sacrificing your time or sanity.
If you’re looking to outsource your editing or hire a podcast producer, click here to learn more about our podcast production services.
Although it might feel daunting at first, editing your own podcast is something that many slightly tech-savvy creators can manage. In fact, I bet you’re more capable of it than you think!
Without question, my favorite DAW (Digital Audio Workspace) is the Hindenburg Journalist program. Not only is the user interface very clean and beginner-friendly, but Hindenburg also has some smart tools, like automatic sound leveling, that make the process even easier.
If you’re looking for a free option, Audacity is another popular choice. Although it’s not quite as user-friendly as Hindenburg, in my opinion, it has everything you’ll need to create a professional-sounding podcast.
How To Edit a Podcast on Audacity
1. Import the Raw Audio
The first step is importing the audio into Audacity. Track Two should be the main track of your podcast. If you have multiple audio files such as an intro narration, an interview with a guest, and an outgoing message, put them in order so all the main audio is on Track Two.
Leave Track One empty for editing so you can use it to temporarily hold any tracks you want to move around. You’ll include any sound effects or music later in the process.
2. Re-listen to Your Audio
Once the audio is in the system, relisten to the entire thing. Even though you recorded this podcast, it’s important to listen to it from your audience’s point of view. This is when you’ll discover jarring background noises (that maybe you didn’t even notice during taping), repetitive sections, or disjointed thoughts.
3. Remove Unwanted Noises
Use the noise reduction tool to get rid of unwanted noises in the audio. When you’ve relistened to the material, you might find computer hums, a hiss from the mic, or other background noises. Remove these to make a cleaner sound.
4. Delete Unwanted Material
After listening to the audio, you probably noticed parts of the podcast where you or the guest went off track. If you find some parts where you are rambling in the audio, take this step to delete sections that are repetitive or unrelated to the podcast topic. At this point, you don’t have to worry about every little cough, but just the big chunks.
When deleting content, the easiest approach is to go to the edge of the unnecessary audio and make a cut to delete it. Next, use the grab tool to drag the two clips together (the clip of audio before the cut and the clip of audio after the cut). This closes the gap between the two sections.
5. Move Everything into the Right Order (Optional)
This step is why you start with an empty track below Track One. Use the empty track as a holding place while you move different sections of audio around. This is really helpful if you find that you jumped ahead or referred back to other sections during the podcast — it might make more sense for your listeners to have those sections in order instead.
6. Fix All Unwanted Noises
At this step, take a break. If you only listen to yourself talking for several hours, you might start to go crazy and hate the sound of your own voice. So get up, stretch your legs, and come back to your computer refreshed. Then relisten to your audio again.
After moving around content, you may find that there are painfully long pauses between speaking that need to be fixed. Or you may find the opposite. If there are no pauses between audio, it can sound unnatural. In the case that you want to insert a pause between speaking, copy a part of your recording where no one is speaking (like at the very start of the podcast) and paste it in the section.
To retain the natural cadence of speech, you can use that empty audio clip to cover unwanted noises, like coughing, as well. Delete all stray noises that come up in the audio. If you have a guest on the podcast, it’s helpful to listen through and decide what interjections you want to keep and which ones you’ll want to delete. For example, laughter can make a podcast seem lighthearted and natural while hearing “uh-huh” every thirty seconds for an hour can be annoying. Listen from your audience’s perspective and delete unneeded noise.
Although it might be tempting, try to stop yourself from being a perfectionist when you’re hearing “ums” and other filler words. People aren’t expecting you to sound perfectly rehearsed, so focus more on what the overall conversation flow sounds like instead of getting bogged down removing every tiny “imperfection.”
7. Improve the Audio Quality
This is an optional step, but I find it can really help your podcast sound professional. You can always skip this step for the first podcast and play around with it as you have time to improve your editing skills. As I’ve said, your first podcast will be cringe-y and not perfect, but you just gotta do it! You’ll get better as time goes on and soon you’ll be using these tools like a pro.
The compressor tool can make certain sections louder, or more pronounced, or softer, or fade into the background. The equalization tool can manipulate frequencies, which can be used to make your voice sound deeper or less nasally.
8. Add Music or Sound Effects
Import your music or sound effects into Audacity onto Track One (which should be empty). Trim the audio to make it as long as you want. For example, if you only need a certain section of a song or the first in a series of audio effects, trim it down to your desired length.
Put the music where you want it in the episode. If you have an intro song, insert it into the beginning of the podcast. You now have two tracks with audio. If you choose to paste music or sound effects onto Track Two with your podcast narration, be aware that it will move everything after it on the track.
You can use the envelope tool on Audacity to change the volume of the music in a clip so that you can fade in or fade out, talk over the music, and have background music or sound effects.
9. Make the Volume Consistent
Earlier, I mentioned that listeners will find it odd if the volume goes up and down throughout the podcast. A wide range of audio that is too quiet can make it difficult for your audience. For example, how frustrating is it when your TV show is too quiet but the commercials are super loud?
Don’t let that happen on your podcast. Normalize all the levels and choose -2.0 for your peak amplitude. If there are any areas that are still too quiet, be sure to amplify them so each speaker is heard.
10. Export your Finished Podcast!
You’re done editing, mixing, and mastering your podcast. Congratulations, you did it! When you export the mp3, Audacity will automatically merge both tracks into a single stereo track. Then, you can upload that track into your podcast hosting platform for distribution. You’re ready to go!
Melissa Guller is the founder of Wit & Wire, where we help everyday experts become profitable course creators. She previously worked full-time for Ramit Sethi, Teachable, and General Assembly. Today, she shares simplified tech tutorials and modern marketing strategies through our blog, YouTube, and Wit & Wire Weekly newsletter