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Mastering the Art of Sound Design for Podcasts: A Comprehensive Guide

Sound design can include everything from background music to sound effects, voiceovers, ambient noise, and more. It's a crucial component of any audio project, which can deeply influence the listeners' experience and engagement.

If you're interested in creating your own audio walking tour, check out our creator platform and this guide to getting started.

person working on a computer adjusting sound levels. next to the person is a black microphone.

Sound design can be subdivided into a few core elements:

Dialogue/Voiceover: This is the primary audio and contains the spoken words that drive the narrative or discussion in a podcast. Sound design for dialogue includes elements such as recording quality, clarity, and intelligibility.

Ambient sounds: These are the background noises that provide context for a scene or setting. They can be recorded in real environments or synthesized digitally. In a podcast or audio walking tour, they can help to create a sense of space and mood, immersing the listener in a particular environment.

Sound effects: These are the specific, identifiable sounds that are used to accompany or emphasize certain actions, events, or themes in the audio narrative. They can be anything from a door creaking, footsteps, or a car engine starting.

Music: This is used to create mood, drive pace, and underscore emotion in a podcast. It can be original compositions or licensed tracks, and is used in intros, outros, transitions, or even subtly underneath dialogue.

Good sound design can make listeners feel like they're right there in the room with you or transported to a whole different world. Clear and well-balanced sound also helps listeners understand the content better. If the dialogue is drowned out by music or background noise, listeners might miss key points. On the other hand, well-mixed audio makes the content easy to follow and enjoy.

Here are some best practices as you work on your next audio project:

Ensure clear dialogue: This is the most critical part of any podcast. Use high-quality microphones and ensure you are in a quiet environment to minimize background noise during recording.

Balance your levels: Balance the levels between dialogue, sound effects, ambient sounds, and music to make sure one doesn't overwhelm the others. Dialogue should generally be the most prominent sound.

Use quality sounds: Using high-quality sound effects and music will give your podcast a professional feel. There are numerous libraries online where you can purchase sound effects, or you can record and create your own.

Understand your tools: Familiarize yourself with audio editing software. Tools like Adobe Audition, Audacity, or Descript offer powerful features for recording, editing, and mastering audio.

Learn about sound theory: Understanding basic principles like frequency, amplitude, phase, etc. can be helpful in making decisions about how to manipulate and arrange your sounds. Just knowing the ins and outs of these basics can end up being really helpful.

Test on multiple devices: Listen to your podcast or audio walking tour on several different devices (headphones, laptop speakers, etc.) to ensure it sounds good on all of them.

Just as visual artists use color, texture, and composition to create a mood or tell a story, audio producers and podcasters can use sound design to guide their listeners' experiences and emotions. Just like in a good film or play, when all elements of that soundscape work together in harmony, it can turn a simple narrative into a truly immersive experience.


Gesso is an audio storytelling platform for creators of all backgrounds. Create an account and publish your own audio walking tours in any city. It’s as easy as dropping pins on a map.


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