Our First Recording Which You’ll Never Hear

At least not as it was recorded, not in its entirety. Even after four plus years of podcasting, I am clearly still learning. John is a musician and an audio engineer with considerable experience and talent. I am encouraged that he brings an inspiring beginner’s mind to his first podcast project with him in front of a microphone. I think it also says much about both of our mind sets on this project that part of our off mic conversation today was a discussion of the nature of failure and its role in experimentation and ultimately success.

John and I met for one of our almost habitual brew pub lunches. It was in the course of the first couple of these that we hatched the very scheme to do a brewcast in the first place. As it happened, I brought my field bag with me as I have some new gear I want to show John–a Zoom H4n and a Giant Squid Audio podcaster special. John also had some gear to share, a Zoom R16 and a Samson lavalier he is considering putting to work for field recordings when we start doing brewery tours for the podcast.

(For the uninitiated, the H4n is a wonderful, handheld recorder and is a staple amongst many podcasters. Giant Squid Audio is actually just one person, a craftsman who hand assembles these wonderful squib mics, that is small capsules on long runs of cables. They are perfect for clipping onto your conversational partner across a table and capturing a great, lively sound. The R16 is a battery powered, multitrack mixer; sort of a field version of the heart of many podcasters’ home studios. The Samson mic John got is a notional cousin to the Giant Squid Audio mics with a slightly different set up for its wiring and connectors. It is also a small capsule, suitable for clipping onto a person speaking.)

As we often do, we both sampled beers that were new to us, brewed at Growlers our agreed upon home brewery, and as it happens we ordered the same two beers in the same order. See where I am going with this? We decided it would be worth trying an ad hoc tasting, on mic. Granted, we had done exactly no preparation in terms of getting the back story on the beers, we didn’t even have our tasting score card in front of us (we are both fans of a scoring system popularized by Charlie the Beer Guy.)

Not surprisingly, the audio quality, up to a point, was quite good. As the lunch crowd got, well, more crowded, the audio got more problematic. I said as much, on mic, but didn’t think at the time to suggest we stop or try to change surroundings. Lesson 1. It was only the first of several lessons we were able to extract, the others on listening after the fact.

John and I both want to strike a good, conversational tone in the podcast. Not surprisingly, doing so takes more effort than just having a conversation that is engaging to you as a participant. I have learned some of the lessons to sounding natural through the years of practice I have put in as a podcaster, a public speaker and an interviewer. In a frank and constructive post mortem conducted through email, I think we got to the heart of the matter. John realized some of the work he’ll have to put in to achieve the sound we both want. I am reminded that I have much implicit knowledge I need to learn to share but also that being a single speaker is different from a conversationalist. Even my lesser experience at conducting interviews only partially overlaps with the more extemporaneous sounding approach we are attempting.

The end result is you will probably never hear our first recording. You may hear the bits and pieces John is able to extract for other purposes but probably not the whole thing as we recorded it. I am fine with that since I already know that this is the way new projects go. I am lucky to have a collaborator on the same wavelength, who is drawing the same lessons from our “failure” and remains as confident as I am that we’ll only improve as we get more practice.

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