Audacity is one of the most common programs to edit a podcast with. It’s free, easy to use, and helps you turn your raw podcast recordings into high-quality final podcast episodes. There are plenty of more premium editing programs out there, but for most people Audacity is all you need to produce your podcast to life. In this guide, I’ll take you through how to edit your podcast in Audacity, and some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that make the editing process more efficient. After all, it does take juuuuuuuust a bit of time (a.k.a. ~3-4 hours per episode). This post covers:
Settings and Prep in Audacity
First things first, you need to get Audacity on your laptop or computer if you don’t have it already. There are also some key watchouts when preparing to start your edit:
- Download Audacity – Here‘s where you can download Audacity for Windows, Mac, and beyond. It’s free, and doesn’t take long to install.
- Download the FFmpeg Plugin – This allows you to import and export a wider range of file types, including M4A – which you’ll need if you record any podcast interviews using Zoom.
- Create keyboard shortcuts (see picture below) – That is, for the Audacity features you use the most. You can do so by going to Edit -> Preferences. Some of the most helpful shortcuts I use are for Save, Copy, Cut, Paste, Amplify, Silence, and Sync-Lock Tracks. It saves a loooot of time vs. dragging your mouse everywhere and everywhere and everywhere.
- Wear headphones while editing – It doesn’t matter what type of headphones you wear (I use AirPods and they work great). The point here is 1. So you can clearly hear every detail when editing the tracks, and 2. Many podcast listeners tune in wearing headphones, so you want to edit the podcast with that same final sound in mind (and in your ears).
- Take notes – There’s a ton to keep track of while you edit (get it). Keep your notepad out at all times and make note of the time stamps whenever you take a break, plus any spots where you’ll need to add something in later.
- Save frequently – Also, save frequently. And while you’re there, save frequently. There is NOTHING worse than spending houuuuuuurs on hours editing your podcast episode, only for a freak phantom ghost power outage or computer crash to get rid of your progress and force you to start all over. And miss your episode release deadline while you’re at it. Save frequently. There’s no such thing as saving too much. Save-ty first.
- Take frequent breaks – This is arguably the most important editing advice I can give. Take breaks. Lots of them. I’m talking quick breaks every 5-15 minutes of audio time you go through. Podcast editing is draining, and it plays with your mind because you’re staring at time stamps that say “10:00” – but it might take you 30 minutes or more “real time” to get that far. The best way to avoid burnout from podcast editing is by taking breaks. Once you get to a 5 or 15-minute milestone, hit save, stand up from your desk, walk around your place, go to the bathroom, refill your water, get some fresh air….do whatever helps you recharge, even if it lasts just a few minutes. It’s more necessary than pretty much anything possibly ever.
Editing for Volume in Audacity
Now that you’re prepped and ready to go, it’s time to edit your podcast! I like to approach podcast editing in 2 major phases: editing for volume, and editing for content. Both of these phases involve going through the episode from beginning to end, but there are some key differences in how closely you need to zoom in and listen for details. Here’s the first part: how to edit for volume in Audacity. Which is super important. Wait…you don’t love listening to podcasts that make your ears hurt or make you constantly adjust the volume?!
- Open the MP3, M4A, or WAV file in Audacity – Make sure your headphones are connected to your laptop and open Audacity. Again, select the speaker option towards the top to select your headphones. Then, click File -> Open, and open your recorded tracks. If you have an interview podcast, I always prefer recording with separate tracks (you’ll see why in a bit). Once your tracks are lined up in Audacity, hit Save. Like clockwork, you should hit Save after every one of these steps, and more.
- Change the Project Rate to 44100 Hz – Do this (in the lower left of Audacity) and save. It’s the most common sample rate for audio content.
- Noise Reduction – What I like to do next is clean up any extra background noise throughout, using Noise Reduction. This is a 2-parter: 1. Select a few seconds of “silence” from the noisier of the 2 tracks. Then click Effect -> Noise Reduction -> Get Noise Profile 2. Then, select all of the content and hit Effect -> Noise Reduction -> Ok. If you’re looking closely, you’ll see the “silent” part of the tracks smooth out a little bit. Be careful to only use Noise Reduction once or twice, as too much Noise Reduction causes too much distortion (and maybe too much tuna).
- Normalize – Next is Normalize. This is a good way to change the volume of the tracks one at a time. Select all the audio in one track, hit Effect -> Normalize, and try out a few different values of peak amplitude until the track is looking good to start. Typically this will be between 0 and -5.0 dB. You’ll want the average waveform/audio of the track to ultimately be as loud as (and line up with) the 0.5 to -0.5 marks on the left hand side. Do the same for your 2nd track.
- Adjust volume – Now for your first pass going through the entire episode. Fear not, this one is quicker, and you can do it all visually after getting a feel for the first few seconds of sound. In fact, listen to a few seconds of each track to get a sense of the sound levels and what they look like, and then take out your headphones and put them away. You can do this part by eye. You can even listen to music or another podcast while you do it (it’s the most fun when it’s something completely different than what you’re working on). Zoom out a couple clicks, then go through both tracks at the same time from left to right, highlighting and making the audio content smaller when it’s clearly too big, and making it bigger when it’s clearly too small. The best way to do this is by selecting the portion of the track, hitting Effect -> Amplify, and putting in a positive/negative number to make the portion louder or quieter. You’ll typically only need to move things up or down by 3, since you already addressed the overall track volume with Normalize.
- Silence (see picture below) – Finally, one of my favorite parts of editing: silencing out any extra background noise. Remember how I mentioned recording on separate tracks? This is huge here. Zoom out a couple more clicks, and go through the tracks, highlighting long moments of “silence” while the person on the other track is speaking. Do this by hitting Silence Audio Selection in the toolbar. You can essentially silence out all these moments, since there’s already sound coming from the other track. It’s even better when a loud truck, a crying child, a plane, lawnmower, or some other loud thing is going on in the background while the person on the other track is speaking.
Editing for Content in Audacity
Now that you’ve fixed the volume of your tracks, it’s time to go back to the beginning of the recording and start editing for content. If you have 2 tracks, make sure to keep your tracks lined up. Here’s what to grim reaper-ize:
- Take out filler words – Ummmmmmm, So, Well, Hmm, Basically…you know words like this, and hear them all the time in everyday conversation. It’s totally ok to keep some of them in, just don’t keep in too many to the point you start calling your guest “Um” out of habit.
- Take out extra long pauses (see picture below) – Pauses are great, especially…………………the pregnant pause. They keep your listener interested and can cause a bit of drama and tension, which is often good. But not long pauses. Those are no fun. Take out pauses that are noticeably more than a few seconds and don’t add any value.
- Take out anything repetitive or factually incorrect – Mistakes and repeats happen A LOT while recording. That’s totally cool. Sometimes there are little goofs that are funny to keep in. But if there’s something that gets repetitive, or will make you sound like a total Idiot of the Month unless you clean it up, go for it.
- Take out anything that puts you to sleep while editing – This ones a bit harder to decipher, but try to remind yourself to notice when a particular section or couple-minute stretch feels particularly, extra, extra boring. The audio will always seem a bit more boring while editing since there’s so much start-and-stop, but if something reeeeeeeally has no energy and doesn’t add anything, take it out. You’re saving your listeners time, which they appreciate even if they never knew that bit existed in the first place.
Adding Finishing Touches in Audacity
Ok! The end is in sight. You’ve been through your podcast tracks multiple times from start to finish: for volume, and for content. Done editing, right?! Not quite, but almost there. Now’s the perfect time to add in the finishing touches. This is where the podcast production magic really happens:
- Add in your intro teaser (see picture below) – Find a ~5-second snippet that makes for a great quote or a super intriguing teaser? Make a note of it, and once you get through the content, copy and paste that snippet at the absolute beginning of the episode. Remember to hit Tracks -> Sync-Lock Tracks before you paste, so the added seconds before the interview start are reflected on both tracks.
- Add in your transition beats – Once you have your licensed music (I love finding tracks to license on Jamendo), play around and create a couple-second snippet that would make for a good transition beat. These work great as bookends to the interview, as well as between segments or main topics. This is also referred to as looping music.
- Add in your licensed music – In addition to creating transition beats, you’ll also want to have a ~15-second intro and outro theme you create from that same licensed track. Insert the intro theme right after your teaser, and drop in the outro theme at the tail end of the tracks.
- Add in your customized intro, outro, and ad – Here’s where a little extra recording on your end goes a looooong way. Record a spoken intro and outro that are <1 minute each. The intro should include a welcome (back), the name of your podcast, who you are, who the guest is, and the main 3 topics you discuss in the episode. The outro should include a thank you to the guest, thank you to your listeners, and your top call-to-actions: Follow on your favorite podcast platform, tell a friend about the podcast, and visit my website at blank-blank-blankety blank. And for extra credit, add in a short and shweet midroll ad if there’s a product or service you offer you’re looking to drive with the podcast. For all of these, the more personalized and genuine, the better.
Wrapping Up in Audacity
Now for the best part…wrapping up your edit! Here’s how to finalize your podcast episode in MP3 format so it’s ready to be published and shared with the world:
- Prep your ID3 tags (see picture below) – This is metadata that is often automatically displayed on your favorite podcast platforms. It’s key to insert this info now, when you save as an MP3. The key info you’ll want to have prepped is the Artist Name (Podcast Name), Track Title, Album Title (Podcast Name), Track Number, Year, Genre (Other), and Comments (Episode Description).
- Export your episode as an MP3 – Finally, export that MP3! Once you have everything ready and your edit complete, hit File -> Export -> Export as MP3. You’ll get chills every time.
Recap – How to Edit Your Podcast in Audacity
That’s it, you’re done! Follow these steps and your podcast-editing bases will be covered. Turn your raw episode recording into a beautiful, polished podcast episode by prepping Audacity, editing for volume, editing for content, adding the finishing touches, and wrapping up. It’s a lot to take in and can be overwhelming at first, but trust me – it gets easier and quicker the more you do it. Just remember to save very, very, very frequently. And please, please, please take frequent breaks. Your brain will thank you.
If you have any questions on podcast editing in Audacity, podcast production, or podcasting in general, you can always reach me at . If you found this post helpful, you’ll also enjoy “How Do You Record a Podcast Interview Using Zoom?” and any of the 135+ episodes of the Wild Business Growth Podcast. Thank you for your time. Pod on!