You are up and running ready to start making audio entertainment. Where to start. How about at an introduction. It sounds simple to say hi and give your name or what you will be talking about. It may even sound a little silly. ScottLo would do this. He would simply say you are listening to….and continue on with what he planned to talk about. Sure this is not fancy high-tech way to do things, but it is a start. Sometimes simple is what you need. It is a great way to introduce characters as well.
Pacing is also important. Think of it like music, your voice sets a tempo which can affect the mood. Listen to how ScottLo speaks. He is not rushing his words and allows for empty space to happen. You do not have to fill every space. Keep a beat and understand that changing this makes big difference in your story and audio.
Another thing to add in before your show or if you are coming back from a break or commercial is a bumper. Now I had not realized these actually had a real name to them. You have heard bumpers and never realized it. When you are listening to radio shows (yes including podcasts) and the show comes back from commercial break they usually introduce who you are listening to. For example in these TED Radio Hour examples they constantly are saying “This is RadioLab…This is one of ____ episodes…” to tell you what you are listening to and what it is about. It helps transition back. You can add in music that slowly fades to what you need it to fade to.
Next is sound affect. Adding them can help you tell a story and transport the listener into the story with you. Listen to some of the examples given by excerpts of TED Radio Hour. They add in small sounds that sound like they are far away to make it part of the background. Then some of the noises are louder and part of the foreground to bring them to your attention, they are a sign of importance to them. They play sounds of people walking on gravel, a busy place bustling with music, and even paper being turned. When telling stories you want to hit as many senses as you can and to do that you have to make the listener bring up personal memories. I don’t know what London is like, but I do know the feeling of a crowded and bustling city.
Now my favorite is music. If I wasn’t so science inclined I think I would have ended up majoring in music. I love how music can affect our moods and how we read non-visual situations. So consider adding some background music to let your listeners know how to feel. Want to be dramatic. Then do the opposite, stop the music. Silence is golden and when you have had noise the entire time the moment of silence can mean everything. Look at this TED Radio Hour as an example. Just make sure you are testing it people should not have to fiddle with their volume controls while listening to you.
Ambient noise is a category of its own. It isn’t music or a sound affect, yet it can be if done correctly. You need something that fits the entirety of your theme and is not distracting. If you are going to be talking about some interesting news think about adding sounds that you would hear in a mellow coffee shop. Bodies moving, some hushed conversation, but keep it low. Maybe your telling a short story. Add in a little tune in the back, give your listeners something that will soften your voice. The point is ambient noise is supposed to be supportive. It doesn’t call attention to it and it most definitely can’t be intrusive.
The final thing that can be used is an exit. The end of your piece is your last chance to make an impression, take it. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. There are multiple things you can do in your exit. Anything from your own specialized send off, a specific sound, a recap, or teaser.
Now all of these things are unique and special in their own way. But they become even greater when you stack sounds. Look back on the background sounds of the TED Radio Hours I have linked. One sound is nice, multiple sounds create depth.