Podcast, Sound Effects, Getting Started, Guide, Advice

Why (and How) You Should Use Sound Effects in Your Podcast

If you're looking for a simple way to spice up the audio in your podcast, try sound effects! You can find them free on the web, or you can be creative and make your own like a true foley artist.

Of course, not every podcast needs to feature sound effects. You don't want them to distract listeners in the middle of an interesting interview, for example. But, sound effects mixed well and used creatively can add an extra layer to your audio show that wasn't there before.

Several great podcasts out there - like Make Art Not Content, TED Radio Hour, and Radiolab - use sound effects to take the quality of their podcast up a notch. It can be a pleasing experience for the ear to hear ambient sounds while listening to someone tell an engaging story. Podcasts are an audial experience after all, so why not pepper your show with as many interesting sounds as you can that elevate the experience?

Want to use sound effects in your podcast but not sure where to start? Below are three suggestions to help you get the ball rolling and brainstorm some cool ideas.

Use Them As Transitions

Many podcasts use sound effects and music as intros and outros, but you can also use sound effects as transitional pieces between different conversation points. They're a great way to show the passage of time in an audial way!

Without a sound effect to split them up, listeners may hear a harsh, off-putting jump cut between two pieces of dialogue. Other listeners may not realize the topic has changed, and be confused while listening to a continuous stream of dialogue. Find unique ways to split up dialogue with transitional sound effects, and your podcast will feel more organized to your audience.

Use Them to Paint a Picture

Y'know when you're reading a good book and you can see a picture of what you're reading inside your head? You can create the same kind of experience for your listeners just by using sound effects.

If someone in your podcast is telling a story about the time they roamed through Times Square, add in some cityscape sounds complete with car horns and crowds of people talking. Maybe your interviewee is talking about their dream vacation on Miami Beach. Throw in some ocean waves and seagull sounds!

Using sound effects to paint a picture is particularly useful in narrative podcasts, where all of the dialogue and characters are staged. You can use them to explain what's going on in a scene (like a character slamming a door or breaking a glass), or you can use them to give listeners a better sense of the setting. For example, if your characters are talking in a subway station, you can layer quiet MTA announcements and train noises to make it seem like they're really there.

Use Them to Emphasize a Point

It's not necessary to use sound effects when people in your podcast are talking, but that doesn't mean you can't do it. In fact, doing so can make your podcast stand out!

Think of it like bolding, underlining, or italicizing text on a computer. Using a sound effect to emphasize a talking point - whether it be a lower-pitched version of the words already spoken, a clip of someone laughing, or notes playing on a harp - tells listeners, "Hey! Pay attention! This is important!"

Using sound effects to accentuate dialogue is a great way to evoke emotional responses out of your audience. If someone's saying something funny, for example, you can use generic circus music to try and get your audience to laugh. Sound effects are a great slapstick tool! If your guest is recalling a scary story, droning sounds or psycho strings might add an extra layer of creepiness.

We've only listed a few ways to use sound effects - the possibilities are truly endless! If you're looking for more advice on how to use sound effects in your podcasts, check out the educational video we found below.

We hope this guide helped you come up with some ideas. Download some sound effects off the web or record your own and start using them in your podcast to give it some extra flavor. Happy podcasting!

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Article Image: Various hand drawn cartoon bubbles over a grey background, with the phrases "Bang!", "Bam!", "Ka-boom!!!", "yes," and "no." (undrey via DepositPhotos.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey