Creating and publishing a high quality podcast is easier than you think. In this article, we will walk through how you can do it using your Mac, GarageBand, a pair of headphones, and an external microphone. You can pick a theme song to use for your intro and fade out the music as you begin your show. Pick the format, plan your content, and have fun with it. At the conclusion of the episode, you can fade back in your theme music if you wish. Finally, publish your episode on a hosting site, advertise it a bit, and enjoy as the accolades come flying in. If you’ve got something to say, then let’s get started.
Find a quiet spot where you can setup your computer and an external microphone. I recommend the Dschlzy USB streaming podcast microphone. It has a great sound quality at a good price point (~$53) and is easy to setup. The USB connection makes it super simple to connect to your computer. Go ahead and plugin your microphone first so GarageBand will recognize it when you open the application. You can also connect your headphones at this time.
If you are in a room or location with an echo or tough acoustics, a relatively inexpensive option is to get foam sound panels for the immediate walls. Just use some 3M command strips to secure them to the wall with no damage or marks whatsoever. As an example, the Freelante studio where I broadcast from is shown above.
Getting Started with GarageBand
Ok, you are in your happy place now. You've got your setup ready, and your microphone is plugged in. Go ahead and open GarageBand. Select “Empty Project" and click the Choose button.
The next screen asks you to choose a track type. You will use "Audio: Record using a microphone." Because you have already connected your external mic, its description should appear below Input 1. Click the "Create" button.
Because GarageBand has its roots in music recordings, there are a few settings we want to change before we get started.
Change the display type to just show the time. We don't care about the other music-related items.
Turn off the count-in (1234).
Turn off the metronome. Otherwise you will hear an annoying clicking sound.
At this point, let's verify that your microphone sounds good. Go ahead and speak into the mic a bit. Feel free to use the classic "check, check, check" or its cousin "testing 1, 2, 3." On the Audio 1 track, there is a green bar that extends to the right as the input volume increases. As you talk, you generally want the bar to bounce just past the circle where it turns yellow. If it goes all the way to the right into the red, then you will experience some loss of quality and accuracy in your recording. You can either adjust the circle slider or adjust your microphone setup accordingly.
Personally, I like to position myself right in front of the mic's wind screen. But set yourself up however you best feel comfortable. The audio output will go to your headphones, so you can hear exactly how it sounds. Experiment a bit until you find the right volume settings and setup that is comfortable for you.
Your Intro Music
Each track in GarageBand is a separate audio recording that you are able to mix together. When you first start, there is only the Audio 1 track. If you like, add a new track for your intro music. Hit the plus sign button at the top-left of the track header. Use the same type selection (audio microphone recording) as it won't matter too much. We are just going to add pre-recorded music here. Click on the name of the new track and change it to "Intro Music."
Now, although it would be nice, we can't just use our favorite song because most music is licensed. Unless you happen to know Taylor Swift and can call her up to ask for a favor, you need to look elsewhere. There are sites such as Premium Beat where you can find and license curated music. There is a small amount that is available free for commercial use, for example you can search YouTube for "Free Non-Copyright Background Music". Alternatively, you can create your own if you are musically inclined. I, on the other hand, am a perpetual student of the guitar and not ready for prime time. So I need to look at one of the other options.
Once you have your music, drag the MP3 file onto your Intro Music track in GarageBand. You should see something similar to the following screen capture. Hit the play button and verify your music track is what you wanted. One nice feature of GarageBand is that after you hit the stop button, it turns into a button that takes you back to the beginning of the recording. Very handy feature.
We want our intro music to fade out as we speak. We can use an automation for this. Go to the "Mix" menu at the top, and click "Show Automation." Each track will now have a drop down for the type of automation. Volume is the default and that is what we want. To change the volume, click inside the music track towards the left side near the beginning 00:00. You should see a dot appear. Move your cursor to the right and do this two more times. You can then drag the dots up or down, and you see the volume line change accordingly. I use three dots to control the fade out as shown below. Test this by hitting the play button.
Now we have a lot of intro music in this track that has no volume. We don't need it there, so we can get rid of the extra portion of the recording. Set the playhead at a point just past where the volume has gone down to zero. Right click on the top bar of the Intro Music track and select "Split at Playhead." There are now two segments in this track. You can move or delete them independently. Right click on the extraneous segment and delete it.
Split at Playhead will be your friend as you are recording your podcast and end up editing segments or removing outtakes you don't want to include in the final product. Some people prefer to edit and record segments as they go. Others will long-form record and go back to edit later. Try both approaches and see which one works better for you.
Its Your Time to Shine
Click on the Audio 1 track and hit record. Practice speaking into the microphone remembering to talk clearly at a nice cadence. You should see the playhead move forward leaving behind the visual representation of your recorded audio sound waves. After a bit, hit stop and play back what you just recorded. Get comfortable with the process.
If you record near the beginning, you should hear your intro music as well until it fades out. You can decide when to come in with your entrance over the music. You can always silence any track while you are recording by hitting the mute button underneath the track title. It will still be there in the final product if you choose to keep it, that will just prevent it from playing while you are recording.
In terms of your content, two common formats are you individually speaking or an interview style where you have other guest(s). In either case, I like to outline what I am going to say or ask ahead of time. I have tried writing down word-for-word verbatim what i will say, and my preference is not to go that route. At least for me personally, it ends up sounding too bland. I think it sounds more natural and authentic to have topics and material in mind, and to present it in a more conversational style. As with anything, your mileage may vary and you should go with whatever approach works best for you.
Essentially, after thinking through what I want to say, I end up just talking into the microphone and going with the flow. I prefer this to reading a pre-rehearsed set of lines.
Wrapping Up and Creating Your MP3
You can choose to have an outtro, or theme music faded in as you sign off for that episode. You will use the same technique as before but vary the trajectory of the volume control.
You can save your work using the File | Save menu item. This will, by default, save your project to /Users/<username>/Music/GarageBand. It will actually create a directory with a .band extension there with your project name and store a number of files underneath that top folder.
There is one more setting you will want to change. This is a puzzling one, but trust me. Using the defaults, the volume of your final recording will likely be lower than expected. To fix this, go into GarageBand | Preferences, and make sure to uncheck the "Auto Normalize" option. Although the text says it will export projects at full volume, there are a number of factors that affect normalization and it doesn't always work they way you want it to. So if the volume on your MP3 is too low, be sure to uncheck this option.
Once you've done that are finished recording, you can create an MP3 of your work using the Share | Export Song to Disk menu option.
To make your podcast available to the world, I use Buzzsprout. You can publish up to 2 hours of content and they will host it for up to 90 days for free. Beyond either of those limits, you need to pay for their upgraded service. A really nice feature of Buzzsprout is that they make it easy to publish your podcast in all the major directories.
For example, the Freelante podcast was created using the method described in this article, is hosted on Buzzsprout, and was published using their directory services. It is now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, and others. All of this was possible using the Directories feature on Buzzsprout with minimal effort.
You will need to choose a name for your podcast and create art for it. More on those topics later as well as how to create a two-person interview-style podcast. For now, I hope this article has been helpful to get you started. I'd love to hear your feedback and suggestions. Now go get those microphones ready, fire up GarageBand, and have fun!