How To Make My Voice Sound Good on My Podcast8 min read
A good microphone can make you sound pretty sexy. However, that’s not the whole story. Most of you will be using Audacity for editing your podcast, which is a feature packed audio editing software. With Audacity and a semi-decent microphone you can easily take your voice sound to another level.
In the days I used to work in radio and I was as naive to audio technology, there used to be a little box next to the main microphone. When a new presenter rocked up, they would sometimes do their first “link” which is the bit of talking between songs, and then they’d mess with this little box.
Many moons later I discovered this was a post-processing box, it would add certain audio adjustments in real-time to the presenters voice. Much in the same way you mess with the EQ of your hi-fi system. (Man, I’m sounding old).
What I’m about to show you is the equivalent of having that little box next to you when recording your podcast.
When to Start Making Your Voice Sound Good
The great thing about this process is it can be done completely in post production once all the recording has been done. It doesn’t particularly matter if you are doing it before or after cutting out your mess ups and ‘ums’ and ‘errs’.
However, that being said you want to work with just your voice audio, don’t try to apply these processing stages to audio which includes your production like your intro music as that will dampen the quality of them.
I’ve taken some of these steps from a blog that I found when I was trying to my own post-processing.
Step 1: Remove Noise
Depending on your microphone and where you are, you will pick up a certain amount of background noise, unless you are in some kind of professional booth. In order to get the clearest audio you can we will need to remove all that background noise, like traffic or a PC fan.
Fortunately, Audacity has a brilliant feature in which to do this “Noise Removal”.
To use noise removal, you need to first select a sample of the ambient noise, this is the noise of the room when you are not speaking, this way Audacity knows what the baseline is to remove.
As a tip, before I start speaking I tend to record just a few moments of this “dead air” before I crack on. The dead air flat line then always reminds me to go through the vocal post-processing.
Once I’ve selected the dead air, I go to “Effects” and select “Noise Reduction”.
Once the next window appears we want to select “Get Noise Profile”.
Once, we’ve collected that Noise Profile of dead air, when when need to apply it to the entire vocal track. So go back now and select the whole track and return to the “Noise Reduction” menu.
You may notice that your waveform changes slightly as it removes all of that excess background noise.
Once you’ve done this you can now get rid of that dead air, as we don’t need it anymore.
Step 2: The Compressor
Contray to it’s name audio compression doesn’t actually compress your audio in terms of size. Which is how I’m used to compression. To be honest, I don’t 100% understand what it does exactly, except I know when I apply it makes me sounds really good.
Applying compression is really easy. Select your whole vocal audio track again and find “Compressor” in the Effects menu.
You can preview how the compressor is going to sound if you like and you might want to change a few settings, but typically I stick to the defaults and apply them.
Again, you may notice that your waveform changes a little bit after compression.
Step 3: Equalisation
Not being an audio experts, I’m not 100% scientifically, what equalisation does. Other than it makes my voice sound better. I equate it to the same way that you used to change EQ on a Hi-Fi; you can add bass or treble depending on your preference.
To apply equalisation, make sure you select your entire vocal audio track again.
Find “Graphic EQ” in the Effects menu.
Now we are going to use some pre-sets here, however we need to apply them one by one.
We will start by adding some Bass; select “Manage” and go to “Factory Presets” then select “Bass Boost”.
This will change the EQ levels and then you will want to select OK to apply.
Once done, go back into “Graphic EQ” and this time select the factory preset of “Treble Boost” and apply.
You may have noticed now some quite sizeable changes to your waveform, you may even see that your waveform is falling outside the viewport.
That’s okay, because we are going to deal with this in the next and final step.
Step 4: Normalisation
Normalising your audio will keep a nice, consistent volume throughout the whole audio track.
This is particular good for me, as I’m a physical speaker. Regardless if I’m alone I will move around and move my hands about, which in turn, makes me move away and towards the microphone. This causes slightly erratic levels.
Normalisation helps all of that, so let’s apply it. Make sure you have your whole vocal audio track selected.
Then go and find “Normalize” in the Effects menu.
I personally keep all the default settings here as it normalises the audio back to it’s default state, however you can also play around with these settings if you wish.
Click Ok to apply, you will now see the waveform dramatically reduce.
That’s is, that’s your post processing completed. Take a listen to you vocal track again and hear the difference.
Final Thoughts: Microphone Choice
Audacity is a great tool, however it’s not a miracle worker.
If you are working with a low quality microphone, you are not going to be able to pick up the same amount of audio quality needed for these tricks to work.
I’ll always recommend getting a a semi-decent microphone before trying to apply some of these.
There are some fantastic starter microphone options out there that won’t break the bank, my personal favourite for beginners is the Blue Microphone Yeti series.
It’s a microphone that I still use to this day as I don’t find the need, yet to upgrade it.
Take a look at the two good Blue Yeti options here from Amazon. If you are not sure about going for the full Blue Yeti, then the Nano is a great starter microphone for slightly less.
You won’t find a better quality set of microphones for the price.