What are editing notes? Why you need them and how they’ll save you buckets of time.

(5 minute read)

If you have already begun your podcasting journey then you’ve likely come up against the sheer, hour-dissolving, and rabbit hole-tumbling-down toil of editing. You’ve likely spent hours fiddling with the audio you've captured. Snipping breaths, trimming ‘ums’, trying to figure out which parts are even useful, interesting and valuable, through to puzzling over how to fix that weird bit in your audio that now suddenly sounds glitchy or strange… this all takes time.

Firstly, this is a perfectly common experience. You want your podcast or audio project to sound great! So it’s worth investing heaps of time in the editing, right? Well, yes and no. I’m an advocate for efficient, well-planned and snappy editing. And for giving you your time back! 

If there’s one tip I can give you, let it be the technique of making notes about your audio BEFORE you begin editing.

(If you are reading this and you have yet to attempt editing your audio work then read on as the below tips will give you a much more efficient approach.)

Introducing: the editing log.

Taking the time to listen to your raw audio, plan what will stay, and note what needs to be cut, removed and repaired before you edit is going to save you SO MUCH TIME. Creating your editing log or making editing notes may seem like an unnecessary and time-consuming way to make the editing process even longer. Why not just dive in! Why plan when you can just DO? Believe me, the impulse to dive in is going to immerse you in a murky, confusing and very long editing nightmare. Plan it first, get it right, save your time and end up with a much better project.

The Steps

  1. Listen to your recorded audio in full WITHOUT STOPPING. Do not pause and do not stop the audio. You need to get a feel for what it would be like for your listener to sit and listen to what you’ve made. Listen for what is too exhausting or repetitive, or too long-whinded, or what feels wonderfully engaging. You’ll only get a true sense of this if you listen in full without giving yourself the opportunity to refresh your attention or take a break.

While listening in full on this first sitting, note a few things:

  • What is happening and when

For example note 

0.05 rumbly noises while mic is set up”, 
“0.45 Q1 - 'how did you begin the project?'” 
“1.17 talent answers and elaborates about collaboration” 
“2.15 - starts to get waffly” 
“5.32 Q 2 about director”
and so forth.

  • The idea is NOT to transcribe the words (that would be impossible without pausing). Instead the objective is to roughly note what you can, writing specific TIMES and TOPICS. You are creating a map.
  • Note also against each entry a tick or cross indicating “Yup interesting” or “nope this is not staying,” and add question marks to some sections if you’re not sure. Or write “fascinating!” “boring!” Trust your instincts! Keep going 'til you’ve reached the end of your recording.

2. Now return to the parts you’ve ticked and any or sections question marked.

Listen to these sections and note again which exact words/sounds you want to keep. The whole answer? One particular sentence?
For example note “Keep audio from where talent says ‘It began when I’…. to ‘so I knew this was it.’” The particular words here are more important to note than the times. What are you listening out for when you come back to cut?

3. If there is anything to remedy within this audio you want to keep, note that too “Edit, cut breath in middle of sentence.” or “remove tapping noise”.

4. Plan it: How will these parts that you do want to keep stitch together? Jump in the audio (according to the times you've written in your notes map) between one good part and then the next section you think should follow. Will it flow? Is there an energy shift in tone? Will you need to insert some music, some room noise, a new question, some narration or will you redraw the boundaries of which quotes to keep?

You will need to cut from silence to silence so note as well - where are you going to be able to cleanly snip? Will you need to Fade OUT the audio prior and Fade IN the audio post to give you two points to cleanly cut inside?

Ask yourself what story will these selected pieces of audio tell. Is anything missing? Is this the story I want to tell?

5. Time it out. How long did you want your package to be? How long are the parts you are intending to include? Will you be on target, too long (be more ruthless!)


Repeat steps 2-5 until you’re clear on what should stay.


Now begin your editing! Now that you have a much clearer concept of what will be included you can edit very quickly. Stick to your plan. 

Tip: If you’re only keeping small sections of audio and making something much shorter than the raw audio, then copy the sections of recording you wish to keep, and paste them in to a new project. If there is more audio that will stay in the project than is to be removed, then cut out of the raw audio the bits you wish to remove, but do it from the end, your last planned cut, back towards the beginning so that your time notes stay accurate for as long as possible. 

And always listen in full once you’re done.

Now go get a coffee and enjoy all that time you've saved.