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Production Exercises

In order to develop skills in podcast scripting, recording, editing and mixing, you will complete a number of short exercises (making and sharing simple audio files). Brief class time and instructor-designed tutorials will help you master the basics. Planned activities will be due on a weekly basis.

For more detail on podcast recording and editing, have a look at the Ebook version of _Expert Podcast Practices for Dummies_ via the IUP Library link

1. Record and edit (single voice)

This activity is fairly simple. You want to record a single voice. Keys are maintaining a good recording level (start with a quiet environment and a decent mic close to your mouth); and using appropriate intonation, pace, and pausing (read a script and practice once or twice). You must listen to the finished product with headphones to be sure you have a good recording. While you can raise or lower the output after recording, there is no substitute for capturing a good signal. When you amplify in post production, you risk also amplifying the noise. Finally, for the purposes of this activity, I want you do at least two takes and join material from both. Perhaps your first take was perfect. I still want you to show that you can combine the best of multiple takes by cutting and pasting. In doing this, you want to choose where you cut carefully, so it sounds natural.

2. Record and juxtapose (two voices)

Check out my brief video tutorials: Recording Two Voices - Part 01 and Recording Two Voices - Part 02

A main benefit of using a multi-track recording tool is that you can blend and balance different audio sources. In a podcast, this is often two voices from two different people. Recording on two tracks allows you to do things like separately adjusting the volume (so they match). In addition, it allows you to record voices at different times. For instance, many (most?) Podcast have some moments of “voice-over” where a narrator introduces a clip, announces a title, reads credits etc. That voice CAN be the same person as one of the main voices of the podcast or a different person. In some podcasts, this could also be voices from an external “actuality.” For instance, if I were doing a political podcast, I might include voices from the news, a famous politician, etc.

For this exercise, I want you to work with two voices. Yours and at leats one other. You may capture audio from an external source. Or you may record the second person yourself. Consider a very brief interview (question and answer). Or, have someone read a short text in their voice, then you record and intro and an “outro.”

Your goals are to learn to manager audio levels (match audio quality) and also shift the clips along the timeline, so that there aren't awkward silences and pauses OR excessively quick cuts from one voice to another. (If you want to get fancy, you could emulate some of the Ears Only or Radio-lab type of cross fading and expressive overlapping of multiple voices.

Note, you can use Soundtrap to remotely record a conversation with a classmate (but only folks in our class account). Or you can also work with voice from other sources, such as a poetry reading from Penn Sound, recordings from You will also find some public domain audio at the US Library of Congress and The Internet Archive which also includes some interesting, historical Radio Drama.


When you have completed your edits, please share the recording with me via Soundtrap. Please name your file appropriately (example: Exercise-02-JohnSmith). Then simply use the “Add a Collaborator” function.

3. Combine and blend voice and music

This exercise is similar to ex 2, in that you are combining two sources. However, here your second one should be non-voice. So you'll locate and upload this file. A few challenges:

  1. Use legal music and sound effects
  2. Select clips from the music of appropriate length
  3. Fade or blend music and voice

The use of music in podcasting includes introductions and outros, but may also take the form of “bumpers” which signal transitions, or even play in the background at times to set a mood. But it must not interfere with the words.


Most musical recordings are copyright protected, and (unlike short, fair-use quotations from print) even very short samples require permission to use, even in a non-profit or educational podcast. Professional media producers pay fees to license such music or commission a composer and musicians to record original material. However, there are sources for legal music; you won't find the Beatles or Beyonce there, but it will serve your purpose. Generally referred to as copy-left, these sites and sources allow artists to selectively permit certain uses (often non-commercial) of their work without a fee or lawyers. For more information, read about Creative Commons or see Lawrence Lessig's book Free Culture.

Note that usually such licenses DO REQUIRE “attribution” – which means that you credit your source in the course of the podcast.

Suggested sources for legal music and sound effects:

  1. Search bumper, cue, soundtrack or look for music by genre at the Free Music Archive
  2. Or search copyleft music on sites like Jamendo and SoundCloud


When you have completed your edits, please share the recording with me via Soundtrap. Please name your file appropriately (example: Exercise-03-JohnSmith). Then simply use the “Add a Collaborator” function.

4. Record or source and blend voice with ambient sound

This exercise is similar to the prior one, only I'd like you to add some ambient sound that is appropriate. So the task involves conceptualizing some relevant sound effects or background sound, then sourcing it. You may either make ambient recordings yourself OR use an online source. Make a modest recording where voice is complemented by judicious use of appropriate sound effects. Selection, timing, placement, blending and audio quality are all things to think about.

You can also find podsafe sound effects via

5. Creating 'intro' and 'outro'

Your podcast will possibly only have one episode, but it is the convention of a series to have an introduction and 'outro.' You've heard examples. Key elements for me are a catchy sound bed (could be music, could be ambient sound, or …. ) and the announcement of the title (in a way that is audible). Often the outro picks up the same audio bed – but it can be different, or maybe a modified version of it *(I've sometimes used different parts of the same song, carefully clipped). Your outro should give credits at a minimum (thank interviewees, mention sources for music and other sound, perhaps emphasize the place and time of recording, etc.). If you know your podcast title, make this for real. It should sound high quality – and the voice must be audible over the sound bed.

6. Producing bumpers and transitions

Most often, bumpers are bits of musical sound that transition from one section to another. Some shows can commission a composer to write them custom. Sometimes you will manipulate a song to get a useable clip, cutting out portions, fading in/out. The choice of bumpers must also fit the kind of podcast you are doing and even the kind of transition. What kind of “mood” has been established? Or how do you want to shift the listener's attention? You might also play with equalization (changing the audio quality of the sound; think about how Radiolab alters the voice quality in their credits to aurally mark it as different). Please also include (via voice) credits for any music that you source on the web and didn't compose or perform yourself.

podcast_production_exercises.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/12 17:51 by