Editing and Improving Your Audio

Taking out the “er”s and “um”s

In a podcast or in prerecorded audio, you have the option to take out the “er”s and “um”s. I would encourage you to take them out – but I’d also encourage you to listen to that edited audio, so you hear for yourself how you want to be. That’s aspirational; that’s the model you’re working towards. Hearing yourself in that sort of perfect light, then you know what it sounds like and can strive for it in the future.

And you can really listen to the words. If you’ve recorded a broadcast interview, for example, you can hear when you were pausing for thoughts. That’s how most people indicate it: “um” to fill the gaps, allowing your brain to catch up. But there are other ways to do that too; you’ll especially hear them in American podcasts. “Hey, that’s a great question” – filler statements. “It’s so interesting you asked me that question!”

But you can try both live and prerecorded audio to see how you really sound, and which you prefer in terms of sound. Do a live podcast and leave it as is; then try one with edits, with the “er”s and “um”s taken out, and see which vibe you prefer.

Getting someone else to edit your recorded audio

Sometimes when you edit your own stuff, you’re oblivious to things you hear all the time. Noises in your house, or verbal things you’ve gotten used to. So in your early days of making a podcast or working with audio, edit your audio – then send it to someone else who’s been editing for a while and say “Hey, I’ve done this edit. Any chance you could re-edit it for me?” And see what they take out.

It’s not easy to professionally edit audio, so just send them a brief sample. If it’s a 30-minute podcast, send them three minutes or so – put it on Soundcloud so they can download it, then have them send it back to you. From there, you’ll have a solid marker of the standard you need to hit, and you can cross-reference your own audio with the professional sample. You can look at it in Adobe, or whatever tool you use, and see: “Oh, look, they took that out. I see what they did. They moved pieces around to make it flow better and help listeners see things differently.”

Improving your knowledge on audio

Audio knowledge, like interviewing, boils down to practise. If you’ve got good reference points, if you’ve listened to a lot of podcasts – maybe with music, maybe without music – that gives you a head start. You’ll also want higher-grade reference points, BBC Radio or similar: industry-level, high-level audio quality capture.

Listening to these, whether they’re voice-only interviews or not, you can understand how things are meant to sound – that sweet spot of audio quality. The sweet spot is not distorted, not too quiet, not too spacey. However you can, try to move yourself into that sweet spot, regardless of the equipment you’re using. The room helps; better quality equipment helps. But it’s mainly about your expertise.

As an analogy, think about photography. Everyone’s a photographer now, aren’t they? Because everyone’s got an iPhone with a great camera. For our purposes, there’s also a really good microphone on the iPhone!

But it’s not just about the equipment – it’s how you use it. And the more you use that equipment, the more you get to understand it. You start to understand, “If I get a little closer to the mic, I can really engage with the sound” or “If I move further away, I’ll sound different.”

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