Want to Start A Podcast?

Gear to Get Started (And Some Advice, Too)

By Gale Straub, Host of She Explores

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One of our most frequently received emails contains this question in one form or another: “I have a great idea for a podcast, but I don’t know how to get started. What recording gear do I need? What is the learning curve like?”

To answer the latter – the learning curve is steep and fast. The beauty of the podcast is that it’s a forgiving medium in many ways. You don’t need to be an audio expert, but you do need to know what you like listening to. So before you make the leap or invest in equipment, it’s important to listen to as many podcasts as you can – in the genre you’re hoping to pursue and outside of it as well.

Once you know what you like, think about the structure of your show. Will it be Radio Lab-style conversational reporting? Is it a hit record-style interview like the Tim Ferris Show? Is it an edited down interview like On Being? Perhaps you are keen to do highly produced, narrative storytelling like shows from Gimlet Media. All formulas take a different amount of time and energy – you’ll have to reverse engineer to figure out how much.

The Gear We Use at She Explores:

Blue Yeti USB Microphone: This mic connects to your laptop and is perfect to use for recording monologues, narration, and the host’s side of the interview. It records in mono, stereo, cardioid, and bi-directional, so you can place it in the middle of a table for an in person interview with a guest. Find the Blue Yeti on Amazon.

Headphones: You can use headphones as simple as an iPhone headset or as professional as Shure SRH940’s. Keep in mind that anyone listening to your podcast will likely not have fancy headphones – they may be listening in their car or on a jog. We use these headphones.

Pop Filter: ‘P’s’ are tough on the ears. A pop filter helps minimize ‘pops’ in dialogue which helps speed up your editing. We use this pop filter.

Zoom H5 Field Recorder: One could forego the Yeti Blue and record a whole podcast using a field recorder like the Zoom H5. It’s great for recording ambient sound like crunching through leaves, wind in the trees, and conversations on the go. It also includes inputs for two external mics and has a built in mic, so you can record interview outside or wherever you’d like. Episode 43 of She Explores, “Tired But Happy, Together” was recorded largely using the Zoom H5. Find the Zoom H5 here.

Note: The Zoom H5 is admittedly pricey. The Zoom H4 is an earlier version that will also do the job.

Call Recorder for Skype: If you plan to do remote interviews, you’ll need a way to record both sides of the conversation. In an ideal world, your interviewee can record their side of the conversation, but often that isn’t the case. Call Recorder for Skype works for Macs and enables you to split the conversation in two for separate editing. It is a one time fee of ~$20 but it’s oh-so-worth it.

Adobe Audition: There are lots of options out there for audio editing: Garageband, Audacity… we chose Adobe Audition because we were already paying the $50/month subscription for Adobe Creative Cloud. There are a lot of online tutorials available through Adobe which makes it easier to learn the software. Google is your best friend when you’re learning how to podcast.

Simplecast: A host for your RSS feed isn’t exactly “gear” but we wouldn’t have a podcast without Simplecast. The host is where you upload the podcast episodes as mp3 files, add a description, and schedule it for release. At the beginning, you submit the feed to places like Apple Podcasts, GooglePlay, and Stitcher, and then the show gets picked up by other podcast apps and radios. We like Simplecast because it’s super easy and all they do is host podcasts so they’re very devoted to maintaining your feed.

Free Music Archive: Again, music isn’t gear but it is essential to a podcast. We like Free Music Archive because the music is free and the license terms are clearly laid out and explained. Do some research on creative commons licenses: they are not all the same. Make sure you have permission to use the music you choose and credit accordingly.

For now, that’s all the gear we use to make She Explores and Women on the Road. We want to leave you with some additional words of advice:

  1. Don’t be afraid to play and experiment with your show. Nothing (and everything) is permanent in content today. There is always room to grow.
  2. A podcast is a lot of work. Make sure the subject you’re tackling is one that you’re passionate about because you’ll be listening to it over and over again.
  3. It takes a while to grow listeners. Stay patient.
  4. You’ll get used to the sound of your voice.
  5. Do “competitive” research. Do your best to create something unique.
  6. Have fun! Enjoy this new kind of expression. It can feel a little scary to put yourself out there but it’s worth it.