How To - Podcast Guides

How to Edit a Podcast: The Guide Every Creator Needs in 2024

You’ve recorded your first interview or the first part of your new show’s story, but now, how will you get it ready for distribution? Podcast editing involves more than a quick clip and publish, we tell you everything you need to know to get started.


black and white cassette tapes up close header image for how to edit a podcast

We can’t dig too deep into the topic of podcast editing without acknowledging that there are two distinct disciplines at play. 

You’ll need to know how to edit a podcast in terms of the software to use, and the physical podcast editing. Then there’s the more creative side of podcast editing, which involves choosing when to edit, what you'd like to cut, where to take breaks or add music or effects (aka sound design), and so on.


Editing a podcast involves both sides of the brain
Editing a podcast is both an art and a science

Both the scientific and the artistic sides of the brain are put to use when you record and edit your podcast. We’re going to be giving them both their time in the spotlight. 

Our step-by-step guide on how to edit a podcast is perfect for new podcasters, and those of you who still might not be getting the results you’d hoped for.

Post-Production: Beyond Just Podcast Editing

Post-production—or all the work that happens after you hit record—can be split into four different stages:

1. Editing

This is our focus in this article. To really understand the role podcast editing plays in how to produce a show we need to look at the bigger picture and how each stage in the production process contributes to a final episode. 

That includes the very important and very underrated steps of research and planning before you even get behind the mic, write your script, record your podcast, and then edit those recordings together to tell a compelling story. We'll touch on all these points here.

2. Sound Design

This is the creative process of adding music and sound effects to the audio track to embellish the story, evoke emotion, give the story momentum, and keep the listener engaged.

3. Mixing/Mastering

This is where you’ll adjust the levels of the various parts of your recording so they all sit well together. This includes making adjustments when people speak at different volumes and where you’ll compress, EQ, and process your podcast sound to improve the quality of your recordings and create a final, polished product.

4. Syndication and Promotion

After your podcast is ready to hit the airwaves, the next step involves finding an audience and getting your podcast onto their devices. We’ve covered promoting a podcast in great depth in another post. (This bit isn't technically covered under the term 'post-production,’ but I'm including it here for the full picture).

How to Edit a Podcast & Why It’s Important

How to Edit a Podcast & Why It’s Important

Our focus today is podcast editing (technique and style), but before we dig into the technical side of things, let’s think about preparation for just a moment. Because the more you do ahead of recording, the less work there will be in the post-production.

If you’re conducting an interview with a guest, doing some research and writing down some notes can have a much more profound impact on the quality of your podcast than getting it perfectly mixed down and mastered.

It’s easy to edit out “umms” and “uhhs” but it’s impossible to insert interesting questions, insights, or research that’s missing from your podcast recording. And in both cases, when you edit a podcast, you’ll want to get your mixing and mastering as close to professional audio as possible.

The Initial Steps to Editing a Podcast

If you’re wondering how much to edit down the length of a podcast, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on how much recorded audio you have and how much needs to be cut out or cleaned up. 

Some of the most popular podcasts can go for 2 or 3 hours, but with podcasts to grow your business, it’s usually a better idea to keep it concise. If your episodes run somewhere in the 20-30 minute range, it’s something people can listen to during their commute in the car, while they ride the train or bus, during a workout, etc.

how long should a podcast be
The average commute in the US is 25 minutes, for branded podcasts that's often a good length to aim for

 Choosing The Right Tools to Edit a Podcast

After your essential podcasting equipment, when it comes to editing a podcast you’ll need a DAW.

A DAW (digital audio workstation) is the audio editing software that you’ll use to edit audio. Most platforms double as recording software, so you can record on them or import an audio file that’s been recorded elsewhere. 

Which DAW Should You Use to Edit a Podcast?

You’ll often find Audacity listed in podcast software roundups, but this popular piece of free podcast editing software is not ideal. It’s an easy-to-use software and lets you record and edit in one place. 

But it’s a destructive audio editor, which means that you can lose the things that you edit out - this can make it tough (or impossible) to add them back in later if you decide to revise your edit. With a non-destructive editor, you can go back multiple steps to make changes.

If you’re looking for a free editing interface and you’re on a Mac, check out the classic GarageBand. It’s great for podcast editing, especially if you’re just looking for some default settings that’ll get the job done without having to get too bogged down in the details.

podcast editing in Pro Tools
At Lower Street, we edit podcasts using the industry standard Digital Audio Workstation, Pro Tools

We use Pro Tools to edit podcasts professionally for our clients. It’s the industry standard for broadcast, not to mention most of your favorite music albums. It’s a very powerful platform but comes with the appropriate learning curve and price tag, so it might not be the best place to get started podcast editing.

Another option used by many professional podcast producers is Reaper. It’s a powerful platform for podcast production or music production with a small price tag. But similar to Pro Tools, it’ll take a little while to get proficient with it.

Hindenburg Broadcaster is tailored for audio publishers, with an easy-to-learn interface and a simple workflow that can help speed up your process. It’s a good middle-ground between the free apps and the more complex audio editing tools and is used by many podcast professionals.

Audio Editing Basics: What to Look For, What to Remove

If you have a rough outline or plan that you’ve written ahead of time, you’ll be able to edit out any tangents in the conversation that don’t contribute to whatever it is that you’re trying to get across.

Be merciless with your editing, and don’t be afraid to cut, cut, and then cut some more. 20-30 minutes is a great length for a business podcast. We don’t all have to be Dan Carlin and release 5-hour episodes of Hardcore History that take months to produce. 

Approach every sentence with the question: Is this adding to the story? If not, it can go.

Umms and Uhhs: What’s the Deal?

A lot of focus in the podcasting blogosphere is put on the fanatical removal of every stutter, repetition, or crutch word (‘like,’ ‘sorta,’ ‘kinda,’ etc.). Sure, taking out 100 of them throughout an hour-long interview can cut your episode length down some, but it’s a hugely time-consuming process (unless you use an AI-supported tool like Descript, which can cut them all out in one go). More than that, editing them all out tends to end in unnatural-sounding dialogue.

People are humans - let them sound like it! Of course, we want to remove any obvious blunders or annoying ‘ya knows’ that can be taken away while retaining the natural flow of speech.

audio editing
Don't over-analyze and over-edit your podcast interview

But your time and energy are far better spent on removing or reordering entire sections of the discussion to tell a more compelling and engaging story in a shorter space of time than nit-picking over every little in-breath.

Remove noise, plosive pops, and any background sounds as much as possible. Be careful if you’re editing out any loud breathing. It can sound unnatural if you don’t hear people taking any breaths at all while speaking. Edit out any interruptions where you can, too.

writing a podcast script
Before opening up your editor, listen to your interview and make notes on what should go and what should stay

Listen to the podcast and take note of any long pauses that could be jarring to a listener. A brief moment of dead air can feel like an eternity. Although, for the same reason, it can be a very powerful tool in the right circumstances.

One advice for podcast editing is to always consider the value to the listener. You don’t want to be too precious with your content. Does it add value for your listeners? If not, cut it. Your definition of adding value will depend on what it is that your listeners are looking for. We’re aiming for a smooth, cohesive listening experience that flows naturally. That’s how to edit podcast content in a way that respects your listener’s time.

Topping and tailing is the process of cutting out any audio clip of chit-chat that takes place before the start of your show and anything that comes afterward. You don’t want to release anything that your guest says if they’re under the impression that you’re ‘off the air,’ but these moments can sometimes contain gems that are worth asking your guest’s permission to use.

Look for stand-out moments that could be used for promotions on other platforms. Short clips or hooks from your interviews can be used to create audiograms on social - something we covered in our article on podcast promotion.

9 Quick Podcast Editing Tips

Editing a podcast is a crucial step in creating a polished and engaging final product. We've compiled our top tips for how to edit a podcast smoothly, and quickly. From the initial steps of listening to your recording to adding tasteful sound effects and choosing the right music, these tips will guide you in creating a seamless and professional podcast.

1. Listen to Your Recording Once Before Editing

If you start slicing out chunks of conversations before remembering the rest of the podcast, you could remove things that are referenced later on, creating a lot of extra work and potential for mishaps.

2. Take Notes of Things to Edit Using Timestamps

As you listen, take notes of edits you want to make and include the timestamp of where this edit will take place in your recording.

3. Keep the Blank Space While Editing

If you edit out short pauses in the conversation or long sections of dialogue, don’t smush the rest of the conversation together yet - leave the blank space. Otherwise, none of your timestamps will make sense anymore. Another handy trick is to work through your timestamped edits in reverse order.

4. Listen at Regular Speed

It can be tempting to listen to your podcast at a quicker speed to get through your editing time faster. But this makes it difficult to edit pauses or lulls in the conversation and to get a feel for the overall pacing.

5. What to Do if One Person Is a Lot Quieter

Depending on how much quieter the recording is, this is something you may want to fix during the recording process by ensuring your guest’s microphone has a strong signal. If the level is too low, then increasing the gain (or volume) in the editing and mixing process will result in a lot of background hiss, which can be hard to remove. 

It’s always best to start with a good recording level in the first place. But the easiest way to manage this issue in post is to increase the gain of the lower-level speaker before you begin to edit your show. You can do this by normalizing the audio (a function available in all DAWs) or by adding some compression with makeup gain to increase the loudness.

6. Editing a Super Slick Trailer

Aim for something under 2.5 minutes. Pick the best quotes from your episodes to tease what is to come and compile them together in a way that whets the appetite of your potential listener. Tie it together with narration, but keep it short and sweet.

7. Sound Effects: Use Them Tastefully

Using sound effects or sound design can make a huge change to the emotional impact of your podcast. It can help guide the attention of your listeners and keep them engaged over the course of an episode.

But be careful - it’s a fine line between creative genius and just plain cheesy. And too much sound design and your narrative will be lost in the soundscape you’ve created. If in doubt, leave it out. But when used correctly, sound design can turn a good podcast into an amazing one.

8. Give It One Last Listen

Give your podcast one final listen before uploading it. Make sure you’ve cut out everything you can and that there aren’t any editing, mixing, or mastering errors. Is it engaging and interesting to listen to from start to finish?

9.Choose Your Podcast Music

The theme music that opens and closes your show will be a listener’s first impression. It sets the tone of your show and gives listeners an idea of what to expect. Good theme music will fit right in and may go unnoticed, which is okay because that means it’s a great fit. Bad theme music will stick out and instantly give people the wrong impression about your podcast.

If you don't know where to start, we recommend listening to other shows that you enjoy or that are doing a good job of appealing to the same target audience as you. You can find inspiration from the musical choices they make and select tracks that have a similar style or project the same emotion.

choosing podcast music
Choosing music for your podcast

If your podcast is already out in the wild, a useful hack is to look at your Spotify podcaster analytics dashboard. If you head into the ‘Audience’ tab of your show and scroll down to ‘Artists they’re listening to,’ you are given an insight into the most popular artists streamed by your audience in the last 28 days.

This can be a great place to get ideas of the kind of music your listeners enjoy so that you can find (or commission from a composer) something stylistically similar. But keep in mind you'll almost certainly want it to be instrumental - no lyrics to distract from your narrative!

Spotify Audience Insights screenshot showing artists they are listening to
Spotify for podcasters audience insights

Hiring a Podcast Editor or Producer

Now you know the basic ins and outs of podcast editing, you may decide to edit your own podcast, or you may notice it’s time to hire an editor, producer, or podcast editing service.

If you have any questions about editing or any other part of podcasting for your business, you can always reach out to chat with us. While you’re here, be sure to download a copy of our free Podcast Masterclass.

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    Harry Morton

    Hi, I'm Harry. I'm a father and the founder of Lower Street. I like mountain biking, making music, and travel.