How do you see your sound?

Can you tell just by looking what the word is, or even if it is music?

Those of us who edit our podcast recordings regularly begin to recognise the waveform shape of an ‘um’ or an ‘er’, a ‘but’ or an ‘and’ – just don’t get me started on those pesky intakes of breath! (little slug shapes).

You can do your audio by numbers, or the shape of the waveform but in podcasting, the ears should always win – does it sound right? You can have it ‘correct’ but still not right.

Modern DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) usually offer an alternative view of the waveform known as ‘Spectral Display’ which shows frequency over time.

It is another way of seeing your sound. Low frequency is at the bottom of the display and high frequency at the top, with the dark colours being lower in level (not quite the same as loudness but close) and the brighter colours higher.

You can even display them at the same time which is useful.

The shape of your podcast

We know about story-arcs which reflect the shape of our podcast content – beginning, middle and end – with catalyst and change featuring strongly in the middle section to build tension and keep our listeners interested. Story-arc is important,arguably the most important, but there is another shape to keep in mind – visualisation of the audio signal.

The waveform is how we see our podcast when editing, and we should learn to read it like a book. To be able to recognise both normal and something that just doesn’t look right.

I like to zoom in and out to check detail and big-picture – both being important to see the shape of a podcast episode. It helps if you learn the keyboard shortcuts for these frequent actions (and any other actions you use regularly).

Look for the tallest peaks that are out of keeping with the levels for the rest of your speech – select and listen to check what was happening – delete if you can or lower the level if you can’t.

What do you see?

  • Notice any little clicks as you open your mouth to speak
  • See the inhale-slug I mentioned earlier
  • What are those flat fronted words?
  • A long tail and a little spike just after it – what words produce this look?

This is what it looks like

This is what it looks and sounds like

Something to see – AI to the rescue?

Something to hear

• Something to read