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How to Create Professional Podcasts with GarageBand


We tend to focus on the production of music around here, but ever since we launched AUDIOTUTS we’ve had many requests for a tutorial on podcasting. This is that tutorial.

GarageBand isn’t the most complicated or expensive piece of software around and it’s certainly never used in professional studio recording, but it’s more than you’ll ever need for any kind of podcast. And if you know you’re only going to record podcasts, and never get into music production, why break the bank?

This tutorial assumes you’ve already planned your podcast—we’re covering the how-to of recording a podcast.

1. Create a New Podcast Episode

When GarageBand launches, you’ll be presented with a window that lets you decide what to work on—whether you open an existing project, create a new music project or start a new podcast episode.

If you’ve used GarageBand recently, it’ll actually open the last project you were working on. Going to File > New will close the current project and bring up this window. Click on Create New Podcast Episode to continue, and save the file somewhere you’ll be able to find it later.

2. Plan Your Tracks

It’s much easier to decide on the tracks you’ll be using up front rather than adding random tracks as you go along. When you first start your new project, it’ll look something like this:

First get rid of the template tracks you don’t want. Not going to be using a female voice? Delete that track using the Track > Delete Track menu option (keyboard shortcut Command – Delete).

Add a new track using the Track > New Track menu option (keyboard shortcut Option – Command – N). Select Real Instrument Track and hit Create. You can arrange the tracks in an order you’re happy with by clicking and dragging the track up or down.

3. Select Track Presets

GarageBand has a handy set of track presets, such as the Male Voice and Female Voice tracks that were created with the project. If you’re using the microphone that’s built-in with your Mac next to the iSight camera (on newer Macs, excepting the Mac Pro), you can choose the iSight Microphone presets, for instance. When you create a new track you’ll be presented with these options in the pane on the right hand side.

Once you’ve selected a preset, you can click the word “Details” to see what adjustments have been made for this preset. For instance, the iSight Microphone presets feature bass reduction and a speech enhancer. Obviously, there’s too much bass in the iSight microphones. Modifications like this make a big difference.

To be clear, I don’t recommend using the built-in microphone. Get some decent gear before you start if you can afford it.

4. Insert an Opening Jingle

Most podcasts incorporate a bunch of jingles and sound effects, the most prominent being the opening jingle. Once you’ve got this down, you can easily insert other sounds throughout the podcast.

If you have a track in iTunes you want to use (that you have permission to use from the copyright holder!), click the Media Browser button in the dark grey control panel beneath the track arrangement area. The button looks like the highlighted, blue button here:

Clicking the Audio tab in the Media Browser pane will present you with your options. Find the song you want to use and drag it over to the Jingles track. I don’t have permission to use Hell’s Bells from AC/DC, but it can’t hurt to drag it over for the purposes of a screenshot:

5. Edit the Jingle to Suit

If you place your cursor near the start of the jingle, you’ll see it flick over to a resizing icon. If you click and drag to the right, it’ll cut off some of the beginning. Use this to cut the file down to the start point you need, and then do the same thing from the other end of the jingle until you’ve got what you need.

If you click the downwards-pointing arrow near the track label, you’ll be presented with GarageBand’s automation settings. It is set to Volume by default, which we’ll use to fade the jingle in and back out. Ensure that the track’s volume returns to normal after the jingle has finished so you can insert audio here and actually hear it later.

6. Insert Other Jingles and Sound Effects

Since you probably don’t permission to use too much of your iTunes library, you can find jingles and sound effects that were shipped with GarageBand using the Loop Browser. The button for the Loop Browser is on the transport bar—the same bar the Media Browser button is on—but on the left hand side. The icon is simply an eye.

You’ll see the loop browser take the place of the audio editor below. Explore your options and find something you like, and drag it up to the Jingles track (or create a new one for special effects, if you like). I’ve scrapped Hell’s Bells before I get sued for copyright infringement and used one of the jingles that comes with the software. Take note of the Loop Browser and the new jingle in this screenshot:

Since the built-in jingles are designed for this kind of thing, the added fade effects aren’t usually necessary. I can easily turn the fades off by clicking the little blue square button next to the word Volume in the automation controls. It’ll turn gray. If you want to use automation for other purposes, click the handles you’ve already set to select them and hit delete.

If you don’t wish to keep all your sound effects and jingles in one or two tracks, just drag them into the big empty space marked “Drag Apple Loops Here” and GarageBand will create a new track for each one. Be careful—this can get messy quick!

7. Control Conflicting Track Volumes Automatically with Ducking

If you’re going to be a rude host and talk over your jingle during its prime time, you probably want to ensure you’re going to be heard over it. This is accomplished with ducking.

GarageBand conveniently sets this up for your voiceover and jingle tracks, but it’s important to understand if you’re using multiple tracks for various things. Ducking determines which tracks have priority over other tracks and reduces the volume of the low priority tracks when there is audio playing on the high priority tracks.

If I have ducking set up and I talk halfway through the jingle, the jingle will play at full volume up until the time when I talk, when it will have its volume reduced until I finish.

To work with ducking, ensure that Control > Ducking is ticked, and use the up and down arrows and next to the pan control on each track to determine whether it is low or high priority. As you can see here, the male and female voice chats have priority over the jingles track:

Of course, this can also be used to make sure that really talkative person stops talking over everybody else!

8. Record Your Show

Record-enable the track assigned for your voice by clicking the button with a circle inside it on your track. It should now be red instead of gray. This indicates that when you hit record, the audio will be recorded on this particular track.

Drag your mouse along the timeline at the top of the screen until you’re at the point in time you wish to record at, and hit record.

Don’t be afraid to stop recording, collect yourself and check your script, and then start at the next section of your script—few people get it all in one go, though podcasters who record live over the phone or using Skype don’t have much of a choice!

Your project might start looking like this:

9. Inserting Markers and Images

To help you out when you’re editing, it can be handy to use markers to keep tabs on where various sections of the show begin and end. Click on the track at the top called “Podcast Track” and you’ll see a new pane appear where the Loop Browser was.

Use the Add Marker button in that pane to create a new marker entry. Specify the point in time where the marker begins and give the section a clear title. If all you want is to mark out the various sections of the podcast for your own use, you can leave it here.

If you wish to add images, the process couldn’t be easier. Use the Media Browser to find images in your iPhoto library, or use Finder to get to the folder your images are contained in. Then just drag and drop them on to the “Drag Artwork Here” icon next to the marker timecode. These images will show up in the iTunes Album Art pane as you listen to the podcast.

If you want to provide your listeners with more information on the topics you’re covering, you can use markers to provide URLs that will also show up on top of the image you’ve chosen on the iTunes Album Art pane. Fill in the URL Title field with the name of the link, and the URL field with its actual address.

Of course, you can also add episode artwork—one picture for the whole episode if you’re not using any others, or just the picture that first shows up when you’re browsing for and listening to the podcast. Just drag an image into the large picture box on the left hand side of the markers pane.

You can see everything we just talked about in this screenshot:

10. Applying a Fade Out

You saw how to fade out an individual track using automation earlier on. At the end of the show, you might want to fade the whole thing out smoothly so there are no audio remnants left at the end of the show.

Ensure that the Track > Show Master Track menu option is enabled and you’ll see a master track with a purple label section just above the transport controls and underneath the “Drag Apple Loops Here” area. Using automation, just as with the individual track automation, you can make changes that affect the entire show.

However, Apple have made it quite easy for us in this case. Instead of selecting the various points you want the show to fade out over, use the menu option Track > Fade Out. This will fade your master track to a volume of zero ending at either the last bit of audio or the end of the last marker—whichever comes last.

11. Apply Master Effects

Under the Track Info pane you can apply presets to the master track much like you did with the earlier tracks. However, my copy of GarageBand (which I’m sure is up to date) didn’t have any podcasting presets, so you’re on your own here. You might want to add some mastering effects much like you master musical audio. A compressor might ensure that the podcast doesn’t suddenly erupt with sudden bursts of audio.

If you don’t know much about compressors, just stick with a compressor preset. They’re all designed for music, but the Pop Basic is often considered to be a decent choice for controlling your overall podcast mix.

12. Filling in Episode Info

Before you finish up and ship this off to your website or iTunes, fill in the episode info so people know what to expect. Click on the Podcast Track again and make sure the Track Info pane is visible—the button for this is next to the button for the Media Browser.

Here you can enter the title, parental advisory (clean or explicit) and description for your podcast. You also need to fill in the “artist” and “composer” fields—unfortunately, Apple haven’t altered the labels on these settings and I can see that confusing some beginners. Enter your podcast’s name here, and the particular episode’s title under Title.

And you’re done! You can now save your project and do as you wish with it.

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