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How to make your show sound professional when recording with Skype

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Skype app on smart phone

This follows on from last week’s article ‘How to record a podcast with people in different locations’

How to make sure you get the best audio possible…

If you’re new to podcasting, it’s easy to think recording a professional show is out of your reach because you don’t have fancy equipment or audio experience.

Often, people trip up when they compare themselves to big podcasts like This American Life.

While a lot of people know of these shows as podcasts, they’re actually professional radio shows put together by full-time staff.  And when you’re recording in your lounge room, comparing yourself to shows like this can be paralysing.

The good news is, to have a successful show you don’t need to record in a professional studio.  Some of the most popular independent podcasters record interviews for their show via Skype.

And while it’s not perfect there are some really simple things you can do to improve the audio quality so your podcast sounds the best it possibly can…

Buy good microphones

This will make all the difference, particularly to the audio of your guest if they’re coming down the line via Skype.

As always, how high-tech you go will depend on budget and whether you’re just starting out but you really don’t need to spend a lot.  I go into more detail about the different microphone options in my podcasting guide, but a simple entry level mic for your guests is a Logitech USB Headset.

My advice, if possible, is to do your briefing chat via Skype so you can test what their microphone sounds like.  Record the audio and if it’s terrible (and they’re really keen to get on your show), there’s nothing wrong with asking them to purchase a decent but cheap microphone, like the one above, before the chat.

If you’re still in the early stages of your podcast and you need your guests more than they need you, it might be worth purchasing a guest mic or two and covering courier costs to drop them off to interview subjects who need better audio.

Not only will this help the sound of your show but it’ll make you look like a serious professional who cares about the quality of what you’re putting out into the world.  At the end of the day, if your guest is providing great value for your audience, it will be worth the cost of shipping.

If the idea of organising couriers seems like too much work, don’t worry, because sometimes you’d be surprised what you can achieve with a pair of Apple earbuds.

What’s most important (if your guest doesn’t have a proper mic) is to test the audio before the chat.   I’ve recorded a couple of podcasts using Apple earbuds and while they’re not ideal, as a one-off, they can get you out of a bind.  Just don’t make a habit of it because it will affect the overall quality of your show.  And even though you may be recording in your lounge room, a podcast is part of your brand so the more professional it sounds, the better.

Best podcast microphones

Read

Think about where you’re going to record

Your microphone is always going to be the one thing you have the most control over in terms of sound quality but even the best microphone will suck if you’re recording your interview in the backyard with a gale blowing.

Avoiding rooms that are tiled and echoey will also help because you won’t have bits of reverb jumping in everywhere, making it hard to edit cleanly.

It’s also important to make sure you and your guest don’t have your microphone too close to your mouth or, if you have a good microphone, that you use a pop guard.

Popping is the harsh sound that occurs with words starting with hard consonants like ‘p’ or ‘b.’  It often happens when you’re too close to the microphone and can be incredibly annoying to listen to and an absolute pain in the butt to fix in post.

You want the microphone to be close enough for clear audio but not so close that it sounds like a machine gun’s going off if someone says “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

How to record high-quality audio at home

Read

Watch out for overtalk

Overtalk is a wanky way of saying more than one person is talking at once.

It’s a big no-no in radio and podcasting for obvious reasons – you can’t hear a damn word anyone is saying when everyone is yabbering at once.

When you’re in the same room together it’s much easier to reign yourself in if you talk over the top of someone.  But on Skype it actually cuts out the audio of the person who’s being talked over.

That means if you get excited and want to chime in while your guest is saying something important your audience might not hear it at all.  Then you get stuck in that awkward minefield of apologising, getting your guest to repeat themselves, them being unsure of what you missed and then losing your rhythm entirely.

When you have a guest on Skype, it’s important to get good at the silent nod as you wait until they’ve stopped speaking to throw in your two cents.

While this is do-able in an interview show where the conversation follows the ‘you speak, then I speak’ formula, it’s a terrible way to work with co-hosts.

Recording your show via Skype with a co-host can make it really difficult to replicate the chemistry and ease of conversation that you’re able to get when you’re in the same room together.

Since chemistry is a huge part of why people listen to your show, Skype should really be an option of last resort when you have a co-host.

How to be a kick-arse podcast co-host

Read

Turn off everything else on your computer when you’re recording

There’s nothing worse than listening to an interview where someone’s email notifications are going off every two seconds, so turn everything off and ask your guest to as well.

As a habit, I’d suggest Skype should be the only program you have open when recording.

That way there’s no chance anything will go beep halfway through the interview and your internet connection can be solely dedicated to keeping your interview alive.

How to make editing easier when you’re recording

Read

Make sure you’re somewhere with a good internet connection

You want to avoid anything that interrupts the flow of conversation and nothing is more jarring than someone’s audio breaking up mid-sentence, except perhaps, losing them completely.

A crappy internet connection is not your fault but when you’re in the middle of a chat and have to keep stopping and starting your guest, it’s you who ends up looking unprofessional.

If you’re going to be recording at home, make sure you’ve got a decent download limit.

You don’t want your interview cutting out because your roommate used everything up streaming the latest season of Game of Thrones (even if it was excellent).

Why you need to wear headphones

Read

Use headphones

Whenever you record anything, no matter where you are you must, must, MUST wear headphones.

In radio, you never talk without them because having them on means you’re hearing exactly what the listener is hearing.

When you’re recording audio, microphones pick up things your ears would never hear so you want to make sure you’re monitoring every little detail and fixing things on the run.

If you’ve got good quality headphones you’ll be able to pick up if the air conditioning is too loud in your guest’s lounge room or if their dog panting under their desk sounds like someone is making sweet, sweet love next to them.

The goal, when you record, is to get the best possible audio in the moment, so you’re not stuck with something you can’t fix later, or heaven forbid that you have to re-record entirely.

And that’s how you get your show sounding as professional as possible using nothing other than your computer, a couple of mics and an internet connection.

What a time to be alive…and podcasting!

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

15 Comments
  1. Blake says:

    So…what if someone you’re wanting/needing to interview wants you to call their cell phone and just record that. Of course the quality will be lower. But I’m looking at a sports related podcast. I known on sports talk radio you often have people “call in” for interviews. And you can tell they’re on a cell phone. But it’s kinda accepted in that arena I think.

    Are you okay w/ Skype to Cell Phone for interviews?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Blake,
      Thanks so much for the question. You’re absolutely right about phone interviews in radio and to be honest I’ve never thought about doing it on a podcast because my preference (if I can’t have people in the same room) is to use Skype so that I can try and control as much audio quality as possible. The other thing about callers on radio shows is they’re usually a really small portion of the overall show so the decreased audio quality isn’t too much of a problem. Were you thinking of just having a short interview with people on the show or would it be the full podcast? If you were going to be doing a full 30-40minute chat with someone I would advise trying to get them on Skype with a decent microphone. Have you recorded with Skype to cell phone before?

  2. Ryan says:

    Hey Rachel,
    I’m toying with each contributor recording separate Audio Streams for Skype conversations and combining them in the edit to achieve best sound quality. Is this something you have tried or would recommend?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Ryan. Absolutely! I’ve tried that and it works really well but obviously, both you and your guest or co-host have to have eCamm recorder (or the PC equivalent) for it to work. Basically, you’ll both record the call at separate ends then after you’re done go into your individual eCamm recordings and split the tracks. Then you put together the two tracks that have been recorded locally at both ends (the high-quality ones, not the crappy ‘coming through Skype’ ones) and voila! You’re still recording on Skype but you sound like you’re in the same place! Obviously, with interview guests, this probably isn’t going to be an option because they might not be across the tech and you also don’t want to say to people “you can come on my show but you have to download this software, split the tracks and send me the audio etc etc.” If you’re just using it to record you and a co-host remotely, it’s perfect! Just remember to do the ‘clap’ so you can line up the audio because chances are you and your co-host won’t press record at exactly the same moment. Hope this helps!

  3. Eric Smith says:

    Good afternoon, Wonder if you have any advice for me… I am currently trying to record a Facetime interview (but only need to record my guest, and not myself). Generally speaking, my guest are overseas in remote locations. I haven’t had issues with video quality, only audio. Because of where they are at, they do not tend to have mics, and i the quality i am recording over my own computer is low/with feedback. is this because i’m not using a mic? are there any tricks you might be able to give me?
    Thank you in advance
    Eric

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Eric, I’d use Skype and eCamm recorder if I were you. It records you and your guest separately on two tracks but I’m afraid microphones are the quickest way to improve audio quality. Particularly at your end. If you’re just using the built-in mic on your computer that’ll sound pretty bad and if your guest is just talking into their phone that’s not going to sound great either. Rach

  4. Trevor Beckwith says:

    Hi,

    I use Skype and ecam to record my podcast I use audio Technica 2020 XLR with a mixer. Skype won’t allow me to turn my mic down on my Mac so when I speak or my co-host speak we are louder than we want to be and I have to try to fix it in post. Any advice on how to control Skype audio live?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Trevor, if you’re using a mixer you should be able to adjust the volume using that? Rach

  5. Suad says:

    Hi Should your headphones be in your computer headphone jack or in the headphone jack in your microphone?

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Suad, This depends on what you’ve got selected as your output in the “Audio Hardware” section of your Preferences. If that sounds like another language, a quick way to check is just to plug them in and see where you can hear yourself. If you plug your headphones into your mic and you can hear yourself clearly then go with that. All that matters is you can hear your voice as it will be recorded. Hope this helps. Rach

  6. Kathy Rushing says:

    Great info here. I am launching a podcast for entrepreneurial couples. I’m having a heck of a time trying to find a way to have both people on mic if I’m using zoom (or skype, I just prefer zoom). Is there a way to mic BOTH people sitting TOGETHER, as I think that is the best DYNAMIC for my topic (the intersection of business and marriage).
    Do you have thoughts on how to accomplish this?
    Thanks so much.

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Kathy. Doesn’t your Zoom have multiple inputs for microphones? Best thing is for both people to have their own mic.

  7. Lee says:

    Hi. I’m really sorry if this is an stupid question, but what are yo actually recording on? Where do you actually press the record button?? Software?

    1. rcorbett says:

      If you’re recording on Skype you mean? You can record within Skype or use an additional piece of software. I’ve got more info in this article…https://rachelcorbett.com.au/how-to-record-a-podcast-with-people-in-different-locations/

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