In mediums like podcasts where the primary source of conveyance to the viewer is through sound, it’s unsurprising that what exactly the podcast sounds like is a big deal. However, this goes beyond simple word and syntax choice; and even beyond how information is extracted from interviewees. For a podcast, whatever type it may be, to truly stand out the addition of secondary sounds are key.
A good example of this comes in the form of NPR’s podcast titled “True You” which claims to explore the self-interactions that occur when a person realizes they’re not who they think they are. While I don’t find this podcast to be good content wise, it does, however, exemplary present the use of secondary sounds within a podcast. As such, this is a perfect example of how a subpar podcast can be made to sit among NPR’s standards through the use of advanced secondary sound use and why you should too.
In “True You”, sound effects and music clips make up the brunt of this secondary sound use. But, of course, it should be noted these secondary sounds are thrown in randomly. They’re used for everything from emphasis to setting the mood to transitions. Each sound is used as a punctuation to something stated by either the hosts or their interviewees. In this way, more weight is put behind the words and can create some stark moments that would function similarly to italicized or bolded text within a written work.
Secondary sounds in “True You” also find form in the biblical quotes used to set up the introductory story. Here rather scratchy quotations about locusts are presented to the listener to set the mood for the first major interjection by the hosts. This priming of the hosts interjection, which questioned why people in the past found it so hard to believe that locusts and grasshoppers are the same animal before segueing into the primary story, created a sense of dramatic tension. This tension is then played by the hosts for the rest of the podcast.
In general, it can be surmised that secondary sounds, specifically sound effects and music, are perfectly fitted for emphasis among works that are primarily auditory in nature. These effects, when used well, provide emphasis and focus to phrases that may otherwise be passed over by a listener if not properly prompted auditorily. Secondary sounds create a great tool for any podcast and can elevate even subpar productions to the next level when used correctly.