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Bumpers, Sweepers, Stingers and Drops

I recently got an email asking about the voiceovers on my podcast, Campground Pirate Radio. Primarily, about the sweepers I use to segue from one set of tunes to another. That got me thinking that there are a lot of podcasts out there that could benefit from sound effects, bumpers, sweepers, stingers and drops.

Terminology

Most of these terms originated from radio. One caveat, I’ve heard or read way more than a couple definitions for each one of these. The definitions are my own, or at least, how I use them. I’m sure I’m going to hear from someone saying, “wait, no… it really means this…” That’s fine. Like I said, these work for me.

 Intros/Outros

This can either be prerecorded or live over music. This is the signature to your show. When your audience here’s your intro piece, it’s a familiarity that bonds them to your show. Just as well, your outro is a subtle signal that the program is coming to an end.

Some podcasters simply rely on music to open and close their shows. Starting their speech at a certain point in the music, either welcoming you to an new episode or starting their wrap up.

Others, like myself, rely on prerecorded pieces that act a quotation marks on the entire show. It’s like hearing the opening music to your favorite TV program.

CPR Intro
CPR Intro

CPR Outro
END-90 Minutes You’ll Never Get Back

Bomb-Throwing Anarchist Intro
BTA intro

Sweepers
A lot like a Bumper, this can be either be voice or voice over music or sound effects that bridge two elements of the show. These can also be used as station ID’s or introductions to different segments. Generally longer than a bumper, about 10-20 seconds in length.

CPR Sweeper – Crank It Up
CPR-Crank It Up

CPR Sweeper – Waldo Intro (If You Don’t Like Him)
IUW-If You Don’t Like Him

Bumpers
This is a prerecorded piece, usually consisting of voiceover and music that acts as a transition. These make it easier to move between one segment and another. For example, going from a commercial back to your show or going from one segment to another. These are usually short, about 5-10 seconds in length.

Bumper Example
Pop_Band_Bumper

Stingers
When you’re listening to a DJ and he says something then plays a fast piece of music or a sound effect to emphasize what he just said? That’s a stinger. These are very short, 1-3 second pieces.

Stinger Example
Whoosh 07

Drops
These are sound bites that are lifted from movies, radio, TV, or albums. They can either be used as an emphasis (like a Stinger) or a transition (like a Bumper or Sweeper). There’s usually no set length.

Drop Example
drop-sfx-6sec

My Shows Formula

I use sweepers and drops to break up the music on CPR. This allows me a formula for laying out my show.

  • Intro
  • 3 Songs
  • Sweeper (Station ID)
  • 3 Songs
  • Sweeper (Intro to Waldo)
  • 3 Songs
  • Drop
  • 3 Songs
  • Intro to the Bomb-Throwing Anarchist
  • BTA’s segment
  • 3 songs
  • Sweeper (Station ID)
  • 3 songs
  • Bumper to Waldo
  • 4 songs
  • Drop
  • 4 songs
  • Waldo wraps it up
  • Final song
  • Outro

It isn’t exact for every show, but for the most part this is the formula I use.

So Where Do I Get My PreRecorded Pieces From?

Start With Google
Now that you know some of terminology, start doing a Google search. You usually can find free creative commons or pod-friendly stingers pretty easily.

Do Your Own Voiceovers
If you’re comfortably doing voiceovers, create them yourself. The intro to CPR and the intro to the Bomb-Throwing Anarchist segment I created with nothing more than a few overdubs, some GarageBand sound effects and some pod-friendly music.

Note: the woman screaming, “Oh my God, they’re not breathing! Does anyone know CPR?” is my wife, Stephanie. Not only is that her first (and only, to date) voiceover, but the first time she’s recorded anything! All the other voices are mine. Even the screaming kids in BTA’s intro.

UPDATE: After posting this morning, a reader pointed out an excellent podcast from Dan Lyons at HowToMakePodcastsLikeAPro.com Dan goes into great detail on how to create your own intros and outros. Check it out, this is good stuff!

Hire Out
Every four or five months I have about 10 new sweepers and drops created. I’ve been using Stephen J at djdrop123.com Not only are his prices reasonable, but the guy does top notch work. All of my station ID sweepers, intros to Waldo and the final outro piece are created by Stephen J.

To start looking for a voiceover company, do a Google search for bumpers, sweepers, DJ drops and voiceovers. There are literally hundreds of people available to create the audio for you.

But, do your homework. Listen to their audio samples. Don’t just go by price alone. Ask yourself:

  • Does this fit my format?
  • What are the turnaround times?
  • Do they do custom audio pieces?
  • Do they have premade drops? (You might be able to save some money with these.)
  • How much is my investment with them?

When I’m ordering a new set of 15 seconds DJ drops (sweepers), I’ll usually order six general, station ID versions and four that introduce Waldo. I’ll write the scripts, give some basic instructions: High energy, use either music, sound effects or a combination of both, and then I tell him those four magic words that all creatives love to hear – Do whatever you want.

Remember, you’re hiring these people because they’re professionals. Don’t try to micromanage the job. Trust me, you’ll suck at it. Let these folks do what they do best. And if you write them a good script, they can run with it.

We reminds me – it’s getting time to order some new sweepers.

About Jay Walsh

With a combined 25 years of design, marketing, podcasting, video and social media knowledge, Jay created ProPodder.com with the goal of helping you make a better podcast.

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