Tech Column: Podcast perfection

James Manwaring
Sunday, January 1, 2023

Self-proclaimed podcast fanatic James Manwaring offers his tips on how to make your school music podcast a sure-fire hit.

Zinkevych / Adobe Stock

It won't have escaped your attention that podcasts have become more and more popular over the last few years. I remember when they were just starting out and it was quite an organic and changing landscape. Now, podcasts are huge, with companies charging premium rates for ad-free content and early releases.

It strikes me that we therefore have an opportunity in schools to get students creating podcasts – and the music department is the place to start. But how do you launch a podcast in your music department and what do you need to make it a success?

Inspiration and ideas

The first thing you need to do is get inspired by listening to some of the great podcasts available. There is the obvious go-to podcast for music teachers, Teaching Notes, which is a Music Teachers Association podcast for music teachers. But there are also podcasts for every topic you can imagine and so much to discover that will help your students. The Listening Service is a particular favourite of mine, made by BBC Radio 3.

Start by working out what type of podcast you want to make in your department. You could share news about your music department, including interviews with students, snippets of performances and even jingles and music composed by students. Creating a revision tool or resource-based podcast to share with students and the wider teaching community is another option. And finally, you could utilise the skills of musicians as producers to create a school podcast.

Creating a podcast

It is easy to hear the word podcast and think that you are embarking on a hugely complex project. Admittedly, the great commercial podcasts out there have high production values and must take a huge amount of editing and production. But you will be able to make something that will serve a purpose and let's face it, you must begin somewhere.

Let's think of a podcast as a recording that you share with people. It can include any audio you wish to include, and it can be any length you wish. Some podcasts are short and are designed to be posted daily. Some are much longer and are part of a whole series – almost like an audiobook. And, of course, it's worth remembering that as a teacher you don't need to make the podcast yourself. You can leave that to your students. But you will need to keep an eye on the content before it is shared widely.

Creating a podcast therefore starts with recording ideas and gathering all the audio you wish to include. Bringing to life your topic will rely on you not just talking for 10 minutes but drawing in a range of other sounds and voices.

What do you need?

A handy tool that is available for creating podcasts is Soundtrap. This is a DAW that lives in the cloud, and students can access it wherever they have an internet connection. Soundtrap has a dedicated podcasting studio and there are various loops and tools available to budding producers. You will also benefit from having a good microphone, alongside a DAW, to ensure that the audio quality is good. I have a Rode NTUSB microphone and I am really pleased with the quality and ease of use. Not only is it good for recording audio, but it is a great tool to enhance your Zoom calls.

Audio quality is important, but the content is always going to be the key. The combination of informative content and a great microphone will certainly lead to a better overall product. When it comes to sharing your podcast you will most likely use your school website or learning platform to ensure the content reaches your audience. There are also free websites that you can use to host your podcast.

Cross-curricular benefits

A music department is often the place to find microphones, cables and music production software. But podcasting can have an impact on the whole school. Keen music students might be inspired to start creating podcasts that reach out to other departments in the school, adding their own musical touches along the way. This might be the starting place for a podcasting club where students work together to create content.

The more you can impact the school, the more likely you are to make a successful podcast. When other departments start to benefit from Soundtrap and nice microphones, then you might find that you get the budget to afford them.

Start somewhere, share everywhere

Talk to your students about their ideas for a podcast. They are the ones most likely to drive the project and you can guide and advise them along the way. Once the content is made you can then start to share it and share it everywhere. There really is no limit to your reach if the topic is right. And even if it is something that your students just enjoy making, the process will teach them valuable skills for the future.