Practical Podcast Advice — Cross Fades

I am going to start a series around here called Practical Podcast Advice. It will be less about waxing philosophical on the art of podcasting and more about practical techniques, gear, lessons learned, etc.

This week, I want to introduce anyone who is just getting into podcast editing to their new best friend — the crossfade.

If you aren’t yet familiar, a crossfade is simply when you take one piece of audio, butt it up against another piece of audio and then fade between the two. Rather than having a hard line of “Clip A ends here” and “Clip B begins here”, we have “Clip A slowly fades out” while “Clip B slowly fades in” at the same time. Super simple, but if you are just beginning to edit your own podcast, prepare to do this about 14 billion times.

The main purpose of the crossfade is to blur that line between Clip A and Clip B. It’s a way to cut out mistakes (or coughs, ummmms, etc.) without your listener ever knowing that they were there in the first place. As an example, I’ve linked an audio clip of me reciting some Shakespeare below. You’ll hear me say the same thing three times — one where I mess up a bunch, one where I edited without crossfades, one where I edited with crossfades.

Can you here the difference between the second and third version? The second one has really subtle clips wherever I made edits. It’s subtle, but sometimes it jumps from silence to the middle of a breath I’m inhaling. They only take a millisecond, but there are audible ‘blips’ that can be really jarring. These things may not be a huge deal in a 10 second clip, but force your audience to listen to abrupt cuts like that for an hour and their ears will fall off.

Here is an image showing both edited versions that you heard side by side. They are the exact same other than the crossfades that you see in the version on the right.

So that’s it! Crossfades are our best friend. Almost any audio editing software will allow you to do this, I’ve collected links to a few popular programs and the specifics of how to perform crossfades in each. If I’ve missed your editing software below, just Google, most half-decent editing software will have this functionality.

I) Crossfades in Ableton Live

II) Crossfades in Audacity

III) Crossfades in Logic

IV) Crossfades in Adobe Audition

Keep in mind that this technique won’t make any edit perfect. You still need to listen really hard to make the timing feel natural. I would argue that the clip above, even with crossfades, feels pretty rushed. Be careful about how much ‘space’ (aka silence) you leave when chopping chunks of audio out of your timeline.

Also pay attention to inhales and exhales — we are subconsciously very attuned to this and listeners will be slightly uncomfortable if you are crossfading in the middle of an inhale or an exhale too often (again listen closely to the above clip, even the crossfaded version has one sort of strange inhale near the beginning if you listen hard enough).

As you get used to using this technique, it will affect the way you speak into the microphone (which is a good thing). You’ll slowly start to internalize that thought of “Hey, I need to leave a bit of silence between thoughts so that I can perform a clean crossfade if need be”.

Like anything, try it out, figure out how to make it work for you, and all the best with your shows!