Whether you're looking for something lighthearted and entertaining as you ride the train home from work, or maybe even you're looking to obtain some genuine tips to improve your mixing or production technique without reading giant slabs of technical information, podcasts are the perfect tool for musicians.
However, with such a wide array of music podcasts and content available to stream on the internet, it can often be difficult knowing where to start. To get you into the swing of things, here’s some of our favourite podcasts at Mixdown HQ – happy listening.
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A treasure trove for any musician, Tape Notes offers a rare insight into the recording process of some of the most compelling songs in recent memory. Hosted by John Kennedy, musicians (and often their producers) join the show to share demo files from their phones, play isolated stems from unused sessions, and really get stuck into the nitty gritty of their studio workflow.
Each episode of Tape Notes lasts from around 90 minutes to two hours, and usually focuses upon a certain record or release anniversary to ensure it captivates the attention of the listener. Highlights include Floating Points laboriously explaining how he works his EMS Synthi, The 1975 breaking down the sessions for A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and Jessie Ware celebrating her massive debut LP Devotion with Dave Okumu.
Hanging out With Audiophiles
Jamie Lidell made a name for himself with a string of hits throughout the last few decades. Hailing from the UK, he’s primarily known for his one-man-band approach to music, looping synthesisers, drum machines and sampling while he does. The cherry on top is his smooth, velvety voice across all of it, his songs “Multiply” being used on Grey’s Anatomy, and “A Little Bit More” being used by retailer Target.
Jamie’s obsession with synthesis, sampling and all things signal flow are on show in his hugely successful podcast Hanging out With Audiophiles, speaking to artists, producers and noise makers about their workflow, as well as their lives, inspirations and workflow. Guests include Fred Again, Nigel Godrich, Holly Herndon and Marta Salognia!
Every episode is preceded by a “Nitty”, a short segment where he breaks down some new sound he’s been working on. Nitty’s include making a vocoder from scratch, trying (and failing with spectacular results) to sync up tape machines, as well as using his vastly expansive collection of Eurorack synthesis modules to create various sounds, noises and textures.
Rick Rubin’s soft-spoken voice is basically the closest musicians come to appreciating the fundamentals of ASMR, and there’s no better display of his dulcet tones than on his Broken Record podcast. Co-hosted with writer Malcolm Gladwell and ex-New York Times editor Bruce Headlam and mainly recorded at Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios, Broken Record sets out to offer an unfiltered and candid profile of each guest, with Rubin’s unflappable personality and experience making sure he gets the most out of each week’s visitor.
With topics ranging from reflections on significant releases, onstage experiences and production tips to life advice and discussions on mental health, Broken Record rarely disappoints and always impresses. Key episodes include Rick Rubin’s chats with Andre 3000, Run The Jewels, Tame Impala, Tyler The Creator and XL Recordings boss Richard Russell.
Pensado’s Place is one of the best platforms out there for any budding audio expert, mix engineer or producer. Hosted by Dave Pensado, a Grammy Award winning mix engineer with 50 years of experience under his belt and executive producer / artist manager Herb Trawick, the show sees the pair cover technique application, interviews with industry professionals, discussions with their audience and more.
Despite his veteran status, Pensado is a staunch advocate for software and almost exclusively mixes in the box, which makes for a unique and methodical view of mixing that’s seen Pensado’s Place become known as one of the best audio talk shows out there. Be sure to check out Mike Dean’s appearance on the show to ease you into everything – it’s a massive highlight.
This Sounds Better
This one’s for the real audio nerds out there. Hosted by audio engineers Alex Tumay (Young Thug, Travis Scott), Jason Kingsland (Kaiser Chiefs, Band Of Horses) and Miles Walker (Beyonce, Rhianna), This Sounds Better is dedicated to all the geeky aspects of making records – the finer details of production, engineering, mixing and mastering.
For younger engineers looking for game on how to break into the industry as a freelancer, this podcast is essential. Each of the hosts are from totally different backgrounds, yet their experience and wisdom speaks volumes, and you’ll find yourself jotting down notes a lot more than you’d think. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for when season two drops in the next few weeks.
Probably one of the longest running podcasts of its kind, and almost certainly the most influential, Song Exploder is a seminal example of how to run a music podcast. Since its inception in 2014, host Hrishikesh Hirway has captivated listeners with his approach to dissecting popular music, with his guests breaking down the inspiration and creative process that went into some of their best songs.
Each episode lasts under thirty minutes, and with a new segment each fortnight, it’s by far one of the steadiest and most accessible podcasts on this list. Be sure to check out Lorde’s appearance on the show to chat about the creation of her track ‘Sober’, while other highlights include John Carpenter breaking down his Halloween theme, Lindsay Buckingham discussing Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ and Solange’s breakdown of her phenomenal 2016 track ‘Cranes In The Sky’.
The J Files
An obvious pick for our readers down under, The J Files sees the team at Double J deep-dive into the story of a legendary artist, city, album or event to explore how it impacted the course of music. Hosted by Caz Tran, the series acts as the perfect two hour primer to any topic, giving an engaging insight into the context of several keynote topics, with Tran and the pod covering everything from the rise and fall of the Big Day Out to the careers of The Prodigy and PJ Harvey, with more recent eps including The Cruel Sea, Outkast, Camp Cope, System of a Down, Kendrick Lamar and Depeche Mode to name a few!
Other niche topics explored on The J Files include bands who are predominantly popular in Japan, a comprehensive story of female-identifying bass players and a 30th anniversary celebration of the legendary Warp Records. It’s not as technical as some of the others on this list, but for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of music, it’s a no brainer.
If you want to get as in-depth and nerdy about a record as humanely possible, Dissect is perfect for you. Commissioned by Spotify and hosted by Cole Cuchna, the series dives into some of the biggest albums in recent memory, with each episode delving into the lyrics, production and stories behind each song on a particular record with scrutinising detail.
In the past, Cuchna has spent series dissecting albums from Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill and Kendrick Lamar, with this year’s season being dedicated to Beyonce’s groundbreaking 2016 visual album Lemonade.
Questlove is one of music’s most loved personalities, and his podcast Questlove Supreme is a perfect example of what makes him so great. With a new episode being uploaded each few days, Questlove Supreme covers everything from comedy and film to politics and pop culture, however, it’s the musical episodes that act as the highlights.
Witty, attentive and with an encyclopaedic base of knowledge, Questlove coaxes the most of his guests in a manner most music journalists would envy, with the likes of Norah Jones, James Taylor, Lenny Kravitz, Huey Lewis and even Michelle Obama making appearances on the show to chat about their musical inspirations. Essential listening.
Keen to start your own podcast? Here’s some great options for podcast mics with Audio Technica.