For about the last year and a half, my daughter and I have made a podcast. My daughter is currently a toddler. It's not always easy to produce a podcast with a toddler, but I have found the end product to be priceless.
Disclaimer: Because every child is different, this is going to be less of a how to and more of a "my experience with podcasting with a toddler."
Toddler's are not always the easiest to work with. So why would I bring it upon myself to try to make a podcast with one?
Like many of my cohorts in the millennial generation, I’m really into podcasts. Like many podcasts listeners, I’ve thought “I should make a podcast.” Should might be a stretch. But I definitely could record audio and post it on the internet.
A couple buddies and I tried starting a podcast called Average of Averages. Being the tech nerd I am, I loved doing all the technical stuff of a podcast—recording, making a website, generating a feed, etc.—but I had trouble figuring out what could make out show different and engaging. Three white guys talking about nothing? How original. We never did figure out our niche. Finding time for three people to record also wasn’t easy. It fizzled out after two episodes.
I still wanted to make a podcast though.
Around this time, my daughter started putting multiple words together in cute little 18-month old sentences. I’m terrible at writing a journal. I’m also terrified that I’ll forget all the adorable things my daughter says. Then it hit me! Here’s a tiny human being, in my own house, whose schedule I have small amount of control over (more on this later), and I want some way to record her so I can remember how cute and little she was. There’s the podcast. The Lily & Sam Show was born.
Making the Podcast
After about a year and a half and a couple dozen episodes, I feel like we're finally at a place where recording and editing is a smooth process. It's taken a lot of trial and error to get to this point though.
Starting with One Microphone
We started recording with a single microphone, the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB. I chose this microphone because it was recommended both by Jason Snell and Marco Arment (#4 on Marco's mega review). It’s a great USB mic. My daughter would sit in my lap and I’d move the mic up and down depending on who was talking. I quickly realized this was not going to be a great long term solution. She kept wanting to turn around and look at me and moving the mic between us often missed what she or I would say. Not great.
Upgrading to Two Microphones
I later purchased a second mic, the Pyle PDMIC58, a cheap XLR mic also recommended by Marco Arment (#5 on Marco's mega review). Since this was XLR only, I needed an USB audio interface.
I was able to borrow a Zoom H6 from a coworker. I was considering buying one because it would double as a recorder and an interface. I thought we might have an easier time recording if I could follow her around and record her in a less controlled environment. My microphones weren’t suited for that at all. So we tried the Zoom H6 as an audio interface. Turns out she loved having her own chair and microphone.
So I knew that was the direction we needed to head. My wife bought surprised me with a Behringer UMC404HD audio interface after I had to return the Zoom H6 to my friend. The Behringer was the most affordable decent audio interface that had more than 2 XLR inputs I could find. (I wanted to be able to have at least 3 inputs because my wife occasionally joins us on the podcast.)
I don’t know if you know this about toddlers or not, but they don’t stop moving. The problem with my daughter sitting in her own chair and having her own microphone, is she kept moving and touching the mic! So. Much. Noise. My daughter also liked switching seats with me for a while. That made editing a pain.
I also got a couple heavy mic stands to set on my desk (these ones). This lets us sit on opposite ends of the desk and face each other. In addition to being able to put the mics in the right place for both of us, this reduces the amount of noise bleed there is.
I edit in GarageBand. I don't love it, but it's free! I've gotten faster at editing over the months, but it's still a chore.
If you've listened to any of our episodes you know they are short, like 2–3 minutes. In order to get 2–3 of content, we now typically record for about 10+ minutes. At the beginning it sometimes took 20+ minutes to get 2 minutes of material. Most editing is cutting out the parts where it's quiet, she's running off to play with her LEGOs, or she is being too grumpy. Occasionally I move stuff around to make the conversation more coherent. It used to take me about an hour to cut 17 minutes of recordings down to 2 minutes. Now I can edit an episode in about 20 minutes. With 2 mics you get 2 tracks, which makes it easier to see who's talking where and what can be cut out. I always listen through once or twice with my eyes closed to make sure it all sounds decently coherent.
I tried so hard at the beginning to remove all of my daughter's mic bumps and the noise of her moving in her chair. Eventually I kinda gave up on that mission. I began to see it as the charm of recording with a podcast; hearing how lively she is while we record. I personally think it gives the podcast a bit of character.
One of the hardest parts of editing has been adjusting levels. Because my daughter moves around so much, sometimes she's too quiet and sometimes she's too loud. So I have to go through and a bunch of volume automation points all over to help it sound a bit better.
As she has gotten older and her language skills have improved, the editing process as gotten easier and easier. So the future is bright.
I will write more about the technical aspects of the website in another post, but lilyandsam.show pulls in data from my custom CMS at verygood.fm and generates the RSS feed. It's built with NuxtJS and is hosted on Netlify. Netlify made it simple to add a form for people to ask questions for the show. Those questions are emailed to me.
We're now recording the podcast about every other week, sometimes once a month. I love having these recordings. I love when my daughter runs up to me and asks if we can record the podcast. I love seeing her grin when she listens back to it.
Sometimes it's real tough to make. My daughter gets grumpy and hungry and doesn't want to record. Or she'll say she wants to record just get into my office and play. But on average, I'd say it's worth it.
I'll keep making it as long as she wants to.
A Message From My Daughter
My daughter wanted to help me type this. So the following is typed by her:
/.l l., ÷¬;l¬…÷ln,no.,,;/,jllj
Thanks for reading!