Sound Like a Pro: Tips for Recording Top-Notch Audio

You may have absolutely no desire to start a podcast — and that’s fine. But chances are very, very good that at some point, you’re going to want to record some audio.

These days, you can’t get away with sub-par audio quality. People expect a crystal-clear, crisp recording.

If you haven’t done a lot of audio recording in the past, the process can seem daunting. There’s hardware to buy, and software to learn. And then there’s not sounding robotic and stiff on the recording itself!

This week on Hit Publish, I’ve invited three Copyblogger experts to share their best advice on capturing great-quality, compelling audio recordings.

Tune in to hear from Robert Bruce, Kelton Reid, and Sonia Simone as we discuss:

  • The #1 mistake new podcasters make, why it’s easy to fix, and how to avoid it
  • Our recommendations for a minimal podcasting setup, and what you can buy if you decide to invest some money in your setup
  • How your body position affects the sound of your voice, and Sonia Simone’s favorite way to record

The Show Notes

Sound Like a Pro: Tips for Recording Top-Notch Audio

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Pamela Wilson: Hi, it’s Pamela Wilson, and you’re listening to Hit Publish, where I cover simple ways to get better results with your online business.

Today’s episode of Hit Publish is the most meta one yet.

We’re talking about podcasting.

Don’t worry — even if you have absolutely no intention of starting a podcast, you’re going to get a lot out of this episode. A big chunk of what we’re going to talk about is just how to record good quality audio.

This is information that almost all online business owners can use. Even if you never plan to host a podcast, at some point, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to want to record audio — either for a course you put together, an interview someone asks you to do, or even just to offer your content in a different medium.

In today’s post, you’ll hear the number one mistake that new podcasters make, why it’s easy to fix, and how to avoid it completely.

This information applies to all of us — even people who aren’t podcasters.

You’ll also hear our recommendations for a minimal audio recording setup and what you can buy if you decide to invest some money in your setup.

Finally, you’ll hear how your body position affects the sound of your voice and Sonia Simone’s favorite way to record.

Are you ready to record some high-quality audio content?

Let’s Hit Publish.

Hit Publish is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, which handles all the technical elements of good online business practices, including design, content, traffic, and conversion. To check it out, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Platform and get started building your online business.

The #1 Mistake New Podcasters Make, Why It’s Easy to Fix, and How to Avoid It

We’re starting today with Mr. Robert Bruce.

Robert heads the entire Rainmaker.FM platform, which is not a small job. A big part of Robert’s job, especially lately, is helping to bring new podcasts into our network. He’s like the podcast midwife.

Anyway, some of the podcasts on Rainmaker.FM are hosted by experienced podcasters, but the great majority of them are hosted by first-time podcasters.

So I asked Robert, “What do you think is the number one mistake new podcasters make?”

Robert Bruce: I’m going to say something that might seem a bit counterintuitive to what we teach day in and day out around here. I’m going to say that bad audio quality has to be at the top of the list here.

You might wonder, “What the heck are you talking about? It’s got to be content, content, content.”

Yes, Pamela, if you would allow me to have two that are at the top, I would take content and audio quality, but if you force me to choose one, let me say this, good audio quality covers a multitude of sins here.

Even if your content, your media content that you’re producing, the shows that you’re putting out there are great shows — the best in terms of content, the best on your topic in the world even — you’re going to have a very, very difficult time building an audience and keeping an audience if the audio quality is bad.

You look to Hollywood, in film, so much attention is put on audio in any movie that’s made of course, but it’s almost as important as the film itself. There’s something about how we respond as human beings that the audio, if it’s bad, if we’re having trouble hearing, if the quality is just not there, we tune it out.

Even if your content or your format is the best in the world, you’ve got to have the quality of the audio. You’ve lost the game if that’s the case, if it’s not good enough.

Pamela Wilson: It’s funny that you say that because one of the things that I talk about a lot is, on a website, if what you are communicating is written content, your design is also that first-level impression that people get of your information. If the design is terrible and your content looks like it’s not going to be easy to read, people will not dive into it.

It sounds like you’re saying the same thing about podcasting. We’re communicating via audio, and if the audio quality is terrible, people will not even spend the time to try to understand what you’re trying to communicate through your podcast.

Robert Bruce: Absolutely correct. Thing is, too, Pamela, is that these days, there’s no excuse to not have good audio quality. For just a few bucks up to whatever really you want to spend — I’m going to go ahead and throw out A guy named Dan Benjamin over there has a great list of resources for beginner, intermediate, and expert level, from microphones to all the different equipment you could have, but from simple to advanced.

Take a look at a resource like that. There really is no excuse to not do really good audio quality. If you’re going to do it, if you’re going to do a podcast, if you’re going to put out audio content, you might as well do it right.

Pamela Wilson: Robert says that bad quality audio is the biggest mistake that beginners make. You’re going to hear this again. It’s the theme of today’s episode: how to capture and share the best quality audio you possibly can.

By the way, all the resources you hear mentioned can be found in the show notes for this episode. Just go to HitPublish.FM.

Our Recommendations for a Minimal Podcasting Setup, and What You Can Buy If You Decide to Invest Some Money in Your Setup

Next up is Kelton Reid.

Kelton has years of experience producing media, and he heads up our multimedia team at Copyblogger.

Kelton and I chatted a little bit about how intimidating the audio recording process can be if you’ve never done it before. There’s a lot to learn, and one wrong setting can throw the whole thing off.

I went ahead and asked Kelton if he would share with us how we can get the best quality audio recording.

Kelton Reid: It’s a great question. I agree, and I think that it can be intimidating when you’re starting to learn about sound production and/or editing and post production. Then you’re also staring at the laundry list of things that you need to do just to get your podcast out into the world and heard. It can be intimidating.

For starters, you really want to probably invest a little bit of money in a decent microphone. I know we have some suggestions that we like a lot, but I’ll quote Ian Shepard from his interview with Sonia Simone. He’s an audio engineer.

He was saying to get the best quality audio, it does start with the microphone, but also some techniques involving using that microphone are going to help you a lot. As long as that microphone is good enough, that’s a great place to start. You can definitely get a microphone for under $100 online.

We like the Yeti by Blue Microphones, but you can also do a pretty simple USB headset. The USB microphones are the best because they’re plug and play. You don’t have to mess around with anything like a preamp, or a converter, or anything like that, which can really start to get even more intimidating.

Pamela Wilson: Definitely intimidating and more expensive, too.

Kelton Reid: Yeah, I think you can do it for under $100. I always just like to go on Amazon and read reviews of the USB mics. Plantronics has a line of headsets that are honestly good enough as long as you are also taking into consideration some best practices about your speech and also the space that you’re recording in.

Pamela Wilson: Let’s talk about those. Once you have a good piece of equipment, then you have to start controlling the environment a little bit. Talk to me about those elements that we have under our control.

Kelton Reid: You bet. For starters, any sounds that are bouncing around the space you’re recording in are going to interfere with your recording, so cutting down any amount of echo in the space. You could do some very simple soundproofing, which I’ve done in my own office actually.

I bought a soundproof screen from IKEA, of all places. You can also do some pretty simple do-it-yourself soundproofing involving even some insulation and some cloth. You can soften sounds in an office by even using clothes or blankets.

Anything that has a reflective surface or is a smooth surface — like monitors, dry wall even, pictures, or picture frames that are glass — anything that’s going to bounce sound waves around the space you’re recording in is going to be a problem.

There’s some really simple easy do-it-yourself options, and there’s some more advanced like Auralex soundproofing panels that you could get for your space if that was something you want to invest a little more in.

Pamela Wilson: It sounds to me like we should probably start simple, though. If we put all this equipment in front of us that we feel like we have to buy in order to just get started, we might never start. Would you recommend that people start fairly simple with maybe some basic things that they have around?

Kelton Reid: Absolutely.

Pamela Wilson: Then add things as they get more experienced and maybe pickier about their sound, too? Is there any other basic equipment that you can think of that a person should add to their microphone when they’re first starting out?

Kelton Reid: Quickly, if you are using a USB mic, we have the ability to plug a pair of headphones in. That’s helpful. A decent pair of headphones is really going to help you. I don’t think earbuds are the best way to go when you’re doing podcasting. If you can find some decent studio headphones, that’s great.

Also, one thing that has been very helpful to me is a pop filter. I kind of looks like a nylon stretched over a round piece of plastic. You can make one of those yourself in that exact manner, and there are some very inexpensive pop filters that you can find.

Pamela Wilson: Tell us what the pop filter does. What does that do to your sound?

Kelton Reid: Well, it’s really cutting down mostly the air flow that’s coming out. When you’re podcasting straight into that USB microphone, these USB microphones are pretty sensitive typically. A pop filter is just going to cut down the airflow and the sound waves coming straight into the mic from your mouth. Also, it cuts that P sound that can pique your levels.

Pamela Wilson: That can get annoying when you hear too much of it.

Kelton Reid: Definitely.

Pamela Wilson: Okay, I hope you took notes because Kelton just shared a ton of ideas for improving the quality of your audio. Again, links and more details are in the show notes at HitPublish.FM.

How Your Body Position Affects the Sound of Your Voice, and Sonia Simone’s Favorite Way to Record

Finally today, we have Sonia Simone.

It’s funny. Long before I ever met Sonia in person, I heard Sonia. Hers was the voice that I heard on all the recordings for the Teaching Sells course that I took from Copyblogger way back in 2009.

Sonia’s voice sounds very conversational and friendly. It sounds especially natural on audio, so I asked her if she would share tips on how she sounds so natural.

Sonia Simone: That’s an interesting topic, and it’s funny because I just recorded the first solo audio piece I’d done in a little while. Of course, I think, “Oh this sounds so stiff. This is just a disaster.” The first answer — I don’t think this is going to be a big surprise to anyone — is to just do a lot of it.

The more of it you do, the more relaxed you’re going to get. You have to be relaxed. You have to forget a little bit that you have this funny microphone set up. You have GarageBand making weird shapes on your screen, and you have to just be able to speak.

The first is just get lots of practice. That is the most important thing.

There are a couple of things that I do. One is that I almost always record standing up. It actually frees up your lungs, opens up your diaphragm, gets a little bit better sound quality, and in a funny way, it’s more relaxing to speak standing up than it is sitting down. When you’re sitting down, things get a little bit scrunched. Your neck tends to bend forward a little bit. Standing up will help you just sound natural and confident.

The other thing that I do is I do not normally read from a word-for-word script. If I do read from a word-for-word script, I’m afraid that I go a little off the reservation. I will just take that extra half second to put something in my own words, to interject something, or to change the way something is phrased, so it feels a little more natural.

If you are going to work from a verbatim script — which is okay, some people do really awesome content with a word-for-word script — if you are going to do that, you’ve got to practice it by saying it out loud a couple of times.

Pamela Wilson: Be prepared to modify it I would think. When you say it out loud, that’s when you notice, “Oh this sounded good in writing, but when I say it out loud, it sounds terrible.” If you can learn to write in a way that sounds like how you might say it, then you have a chance at pulling that off.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, exactly. There will always be certain words even if you wrote the script. You wrote it down, looked good, seems like a good sentence, and when you say it, you stumble over it every time. That’s because there’s just something in that word choice that doesn’t work for your speaking voice.

Actors are very familiar with this — where some lines are just a devil to get out, and some aren’t. Definitely, if you are going to go verbatim — and that is totally okay — practice it enough so that it sounds natural. You may need to make a couple of edits so that it reads in a way that feels comfortable.

The final one I would say is slow down. This one is a devil for me sometimes. I get talking really fast, especially if I’m doing something solo. You get hard to understand, you sound a little nervous, and your voice starts to go up in pitch a little bit.

Try and slow down. Let yourself have some nice long pauses. You can always take them out when you edit. Let yourself breathe.

If you keep those couple of little tips in mind, you do want to have a decent mic. You can sound very natural, but if your sound quality is crummy, you might sound teeny or not awesome. That’s really secondary to practicing and just letting yourself relax and flow with it. Try and have fun. Audio is fun. You’re having conversations with people that you think are neat people. Try and keep that in mind.

Pamela Wilson: Visualize your audience it sounds like.

Sonia Simone: Yeah.

Pamela Wilson: I just need to confirm this. You’re telling me that you don’t like the sound of your voice, either?

Sonia Simone: I don’t love the sound of my voice. I have gotten used to it.

Pamela Wilson: That’s the thing that I wanted to tell people is that the more you do it, the more — it’s not that you start loving the sound of your own voice — you just get used to it. You accept it, right?

Sonia Simone: Yeah. I still definitely have my days when I listen to recordings, and I think, “What is it that’s wrong with me that I sound like that?” Everybody has that. It’s okay. Don’t let that worry you.

Pamela Wilson: Robert, Kelton, and Sonia all recommended aiming for the best quality audio that you can.

Robert encouraged us to make that our overarching goal. Both Kelton and Sonia gave us resources and techniques that we can use to make high-quality audio easy to create.

Here are my questions for you this week.

If you haven’t created any kind of audio so far, can you find a way to experiment with it sometime soon?

You don’t have to make an ongoing commitment to audio content like starting a podcast.

You can just do an informal audio recording with your thoughts about a topic or you can record an audio version of a blog post you’ve written.

As I always say, don’t be afraid to Hit Publish on the content you create.

Get your message out there. Everything starts to happen the moment you Hit Publish.

This is Pamela Wilson. I want to thank you for being one of the irresistibly attractive Hit Publish subscribers.

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Bye and until next time, and remember to take action and Hit Publish.