Taking the Goldilocks approach to podcast editing

You can take the Goldilocks approach to podcast editing and make your work stand out by not standing out. Just right!

We all remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – here is a reminder if you need it (Read the story)

What you probably did not know is that it can be read as a story about podcasting.

It has truth we can use in a form we can remember.

Not too hot

Our audio, like the porridge, should be just right – not too hot, and not too cold.

An audio signal that is “too hot“ means it is too high and is clipping. It will be distorted – with red lights usually flashing.

As we record, we set the gain so the level dances from about -18 dB rising to -12 dB. Sometimes referred to as ‘tickling the 12s’.

In this space, there is headroom for an unexpected peak (laughter or enthusiastic agreement) without it clipping – that unwanted flat top to the waveform.

Too cold – the noise and signal are too close to each other at a low level. We need to boost it to be usable and to match other audio. In the process, the noise is also boosted and becomes noticeable (eg breaths or computer fan noise). We need it just right.

Carry the weight

The chairs could be thought of as holding content – your podcast episode.

Not too small, or too big. We fit content in containers of an appropriate size, able to carry the weight. Enough there to engage and hold attention. Not so much that your listeners leave before you’re finished.

Editing shapes the episode components from an assortment of bits into a whole. A flow, an arc, an arrangement. Crafted. Getting it right takes thought, planning and practice.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said of aircraft engineering, though it equally applies to our podcasting,

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The right kind of bed

Music beds sit under speech. The place between hard and soft is where the music or ambient sounds should live.

Choosing the right music and sitting it at the right level relative to your speech can create something that makes your podcast outstanding. Don’t drown out the meaning in the words, or create meaningless muzak. Take what you know and surprise yourself and hopefully your listeners, by adding a subtle sizzle.

The story tells us Goldilocks then fell asleep only to be later surprised by some unhappy bears. We don’t want that kind of bed – unless your podcast is meant to be an aid to sleep (just watch out for the bears)!

Find your balance – not too hot, sufficient size, and a soft bed.

Then go tell your new story using an old one.

Something to see

Do your work for you and be just a little out of your depth – a short and interesting perspective by David Bowie

Something to hear

Eric Nuzum – author of my favourite book about podcasting (Make Noise) – here closing a conference as the keynote speaker. Nice man, nice voice.

Something to read

Some editing advice from Robyn Edgar Audio Engineer and Sound Designer for Pacific Content



Consider these four steps before you start your next podcast edit


And finally

  • Only the best is good enough – really? Feel the tension.
  • you decide when good is good enough to have your name on it