A Learner’s Guide to Learning Radio

My name is Corrine Yonce, I joined the WBTV-LP outreach team early this spring after taking some of their amazing educational classes last fall. If you are like me, you don’t know much about radio, which can make joining this community seem inaccessible. I invite you to accompany me on this learning process.

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I think the big question is why: why “do radio” when that technology feels like its has far surpassed the audio waves.

When I talk to people about the project I am working on, a story-sharing interview project, I am almost always followed up with a solid,  “Why don’t you do videos too?” Sometimes the assumption is that I haven’t even thought about taking a video.

There is something about interviewing that feels much less intrusive. When you eliminate the visual, you kind of take away this element that can be distracting from the really beautiful pieces.

Storycorp was my doorway into radio making. Storycorp began in 2003, and has this premise that everyone has a story that matters, a story to be told. Storycorp is very unique- they build soundproof studios around the country and even have a mobile station that travels with the auspicious goal of touching every American citizen’s life.

I knew the people I wanted to interview because they were the people I served through Americorp, but that’s all I knew. Fortunately sites like Transom literally break down radio-making into step by step processes, reviewing equipment and softwares, providing editing tutorials, and generally giving the how-to’s for recording.

Honestly, if you are just starting out you don’t need much. It is so simple that I drew out this doodle on a paper bag to show you what you’ll need.

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Exhibit A: Recorder. You can borrow an zoom H4 (or H1 for a more compact size) for free (after an orientation of course) from the VCAM facility. Both have external Microphones that can be used for capturing room noise or sound effects.

Exhibit B: The right Mic. With microphones, there are basic rules, some tools suited for certain jobs better than others, but in the end you just have to figure it out through trial and error. Shown is the lapel mic which podcaster and DJ Audrey described to me as “just okay.” They are good interviewing mics if you are meeting people where they are at (lugging equipment to their apartment), but you have to keep that subject sitting still and not readjusting the clothing its attached to. With a more permanent set up you could use table microphones, you could mess around with an usb mic, and you can actually record phone calls if that is what you are into. But really, with microphones there is a lot of research to be done so I redirect you here. Again, you will find a wide variety of microphones and superior expertise at the VCAM facility.

Exhibit C: The software. I use garageband, the mac ap that came with my computer and works like a charm. For you PC folk, audacity is a free download away. Why make things more complicated?

If podcasting is your thing, or story making of any sorts, I highly recommend you check out the work of Jessica Able, whose podcast and book (available at Fletcher Free) are featured on our website. She is the co-author of Radio: An Illustrated Guide, alongside Ira Glass, which has been my bible these past months in terms of creating audio story.

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In the end, my most helpful resource was WBTV itself, the equipment they let me borrow, classes I took, and the radio lovers there who were eager to answer my questions. WBTV-LP is an amazing opportunity to the Burlington public. Here in Burlington, we have such access to these learning experiences, to equipment, and a way to pump out little audio art pieces that can highlight our community in unique ways. The support and enthusiasm of the WBTV team drew me to join at the committee level as a volunteer so I could get more expertise and better understand the work I see to do.

What it comes down to is that the conversations that make us human and individuals draw us in, and I think that is why we pursue radio without the distracting flashiness of video. The tools are out there, you can come make radio too.

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