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Record Audio with Audacity

What is Audacity?

  • A free, open source audio recording and editing application.
  • Available for Windows and Mac

Download Audacity

  • Download Audacity for
    • Windows 10/8/7/Vista
    • Mac OS X/macOS 10.7 and later
    • GNU/Linux®     
  • The LAME tool that allows the export of MP3 files is now included in Audacity for Windows and Mac computers.
  • If you are using a Linux system and would like to export files from Audacity in MP3 format, you will need to download and install the optional LAME MP3 encoder. Instructions are below. 

Audacity Tutorial

To help you through the basics of recording and editing audio in Audacity, the library has created a tutorial. Use the tutorial to help you walk through the step-by-step process. 

Recording Audio with Audacity

  1. Click the red Record button image, then begin talking or playing.
  2. Continue for as long as you want. When you feel you've recorded enough, click the gray, square 'stop' button located to the right of the green play button.

Best Practices for Recording Audio

  1. Practice rehearsing your script out loud on your own and with a colleague to make the appropriate edits before you record.
  2. Always leave a 10 second silence buffer before recording to ensure you are able to collect the noise profile and edit out the background noise.
  3. When recording, try to aim for a maximum peak of around –6 dB or 0.5 if you have your meters set to linear rather than dB.
  4. Record all of your audio at once. If you make a mistake in your recording, stop and take a breath and then try saying the sentence again. This can be tweaked in the editing phase.
  5. Be aware of the pace of your speech. Intentionally speak slower than you normally would, so your voiceover can be understood.
  6. Smile when you're recording the audio.

Import Audio

  1. Click File
  2. Click Import
  3. Select Audio
  4. Select your file.

Noise Reduction

  1. Highlight section of dead air
  2. Click Effect > Noise Reduction and then select Get Noise Profile
  3. Once you’ve captured the Noise Profile, press CRTL/COMMAND + A to select the entire audio clip. 
  4. Go back to Effect > Noise Reduction.  Leaving the default settings, click Okay and it will remove the background noises from the entire audio track.
  5. If you only want the noise reduced for a particular section, only highlight that part with your mouse.
  6. You can also select a section of audio and press CTRL+L to silence that section of audio.  This can also be done using the silence audio button in the toolbar.

Fade Out Audio

  1. Click the Skip to End button (>).
  2. Use the Zoom tool (magnifying glass) OR Crtl/Command +1 to zoom  in until you can see the last two or three seconds of the waveform.
  3. Click in the waveform about 1 second before the end.
  4. Click on Select > Region > Cursor to Track End.
  5. Click on Effect > Fade Out. The last second of the audio is smoothly faded out.

Edit Recording (Delete)

  1. Click the Skip to Start button (<).
  2. Repeatedly click the Zoom In button until the displayed waveform expands so you can see from the beginning of the recording to the time you started talking or playing
  3. With the Selection tool, click just before the point where you started talking or playing
  4. Choose Select > Region > Track Start to Cursor
  5. The region from the beginning of the track to the beginning of your performance is selected
  6. Choose Edit > Delete
  7. The selected audio is removed from the track, and the rest of the audio moves left to fill the space left after the delete.
  8. If you've made any mistakes in your performance you could edit them out. Use the Selection Tool to select each mistake and press the delete key. Listen back to each edit to make sure it sounds natural. If not, choose Edit > Undo Delete and try again.

Amplitude Adjustment (Normalize)

  1. To maximize the volume of your recording, you can use the 'Normalize' effect.
  2. Choose Select > All (or use CTRL + A) to select all of the track.
    • With default Tracks Preferences, you may not need this step - all the audio in the project is selected if you choose an effect without first selecting any audio.
  3. Choose Effect > Normalize....
    • Accept (for now) the default choices in the Normalize dialog and click the OK button
    • The volume is normalized to -1 dB, so leaving a little headroom below the maximum possible 0 dB level.
  4. Note that Normalize defaults to retaining the existing balance between stereo channels. However basic consumer-level equipment can often record with channels unbalanced. To correct unwanted volume differences between left and right, check "Normalize stereo channels independently".
  • Extraneous noises in the recording can cause Normalize to create unwanted changes in the stereo balance, or prevent recordings being made as loud as they can be. Extraneous noises should be edited with Click Removal, Repair or Amplify before the Normalize step. 

Amplify

  1. Accessed by: Effect > Amplify...
  2. Input Box: Type a value for the amount of amplification you would like to apply. Positive values make the sound louder, negative values make it quieter. As you type, the New Peak Amplitude input box will be updated.
  3. If you take the negative of the value shown in the Amplification (dB) box, this will give you the current peak amplitude of the selection. 
  4. Slider: Drag the slider right to make the sound louder, or to the left to make it quieter. As you drag, your selected value will be updated in the input box, and the New Peak Amplitude input box will be updated.

Level out the volume

  1. Unless you are professional narrator or voice-over specialist there are probably level (volume) variations during your narration. Remember, your listeners can't see you, so having a consistent volume for your narration is important so they'll be able to hear and understand everything you're saying.
  2. You could go through and manually adjust the volume throughout your narration track, but there's an easier way - use Audacity's built-in Compressor effect.
  3. Click on the Track Control Panel of your narration track to select the entire track.
  4. Choose Effect > Compressor. The Compressor is a complex but very useful effect, so let's take a moment to see how it works.
  5. The Compressor effect works by making the loud parts quieter, then amplifying everything, which ends up making the quiet parts louder.
  6. Check Make-up gain for 0dB after compressing and Compress based on Peaks.
    • The former means that Compressor will maximize the volume of the track after it does its work. The latter means that Compressor will look at the peaks of the waveform rather than its average value.
  7. The "Threshold" control is the "tipping point" - the point where Compressor decides if something is "loud" (and should be made quieter) or "quiet" (in which case it leaves it alone).
    • Try "Threshold" to "-12 dB".
  8. The "Noise Floor" control tells Compressor that anything below that level is noise and it shouldn't make it any louder.
    • Try "-80 dB".
  9. The "Ratio" control tells Compressor how much quieter it should make the loud parts.
    • Set it to "6:1".
  10. Set the "Attack Time" to "0.5 secs" and the "Release Time" to "1.0 secs". These two controls tell Compressor how fast it should respond to changes in volume.
  11. Click the OK button and let Compressor do its work. Listen back to the result.
  12. Are the quiet parts still too quiet? Choose Edit > Undo Compressor and try again with a Threshold setting of -18 dB.
  13. Does your voice sound unnaturally squashed? Undo and try again with a Threshold setting of -6 dB.

Adjusting Volume with the Envelope Tool

The envelope tool is used to shape the waveform of your audio track to increase or decrease the volume of the audio in specific sectionsScreenshot: Envelope tool

  1. Click on the envelope tool (to the right of the selection tool) or press F2 on your keyboardScreenshot: Creating and modifying nodes
  2. Navigate to the part in the audio where you would like to increase or decrease the volume and click to set a node. Drag the node up or down to amplify or reduce the volume at that point
  3. When you're done, click on Tracks > Mix > Mix and Render to finalize your changes

Audio Equalization

Equalization is the process of adjusting specific frequencies in an audio recording to create different timbres which can change how the sound is perceived

  1. Highlight the portion of the track that you want to equalize or click the left tab to select the entire audio track
  2. Click Effect > Equalization 
  3. Lower frequencies are represented on the left end of the X-axis while higher frequencies are represented on the right end. Hertz is a measure of frequency -- the higher the Hertz, the higher the frequency
  4. With EQ Type set to "Draw", you can click and edit points in the graph where X is the frequency that you would like to boost and Y is the amount by which to amplify or reduce the frequencyScreenshot: Bass boost EQ curve
  5. For example, to boost the bass sounds in the selected audio, everything to the left of 100Hz should be amplified to 9dB 
  6. You can change the EQ Type to "Graphic" if you prefer to use a multi-slider interface rather than an editable graph
  7. The "Select Curve" dropdown offers a list of preset options such as "Bass Boost" and "Treble Boost" to help get you started
  8. Click "Preview" to preview the equalization effect and make adjustments as necessary. Equalization can often be a process of trial and error
  9. Click "OK" to apply the changes

Labelling

  • Highlight the section of audio, then go to Tracks > Add New > Label Track
  • Start typing your label on the Label Track

Cutting and Pasting Sections of Audio

  1. Click and highlight to select a section of audio.
  2. Use CTRL + C to Copy, CTRL + X to Cut and CTRL + V to Paste (there are also buttons in the top menu for this).

Add Additional Tracks

  1. You can cut and paste parts of an existing track or tracks onto either an inserted blank track, or onto an existing audio track. 
  2. To paste onto a blank track, go to Tracks > Add New> select the new type of track. A new track appears at the bottom of your project.
  3. Using the Selection tool select the portion of a track that you want to copy
  4. Copy or Cut 
  5. Place the cursor on the track and location where you wish to paste
  6. Click PASTE

Auto Duck

Create a control track (voice over) and then use the Auto Duck effect to automatically adjust the threshold level for background music. 

  1. Select the track(s) or region(s) whose volume you want to modify (for example, a background music track).
  2. Deselect the track that is to act as the control track (for example, a spoken commentary). Note that the first unselected track underneath the selected track(s) acts as the control track.
  3. Place the tracks so that at least one of the selected tracks to be modified is above the unselected control track. Any other tracks below the unselected control track will also be modified if they are selected. You can use the Audio Track Dropdown Menu to move tracks up or down if needed.
    • The control track should be properly synchronized with the tracks to be "ducked" - you can use Time Shift Tool to align the tracks with each other as required.
  4. Choose "Auto Duck" from the Effect Menu.
  5. Note that in the Auto Duck window, there is a Maximum pause option. You can change the number of seconds for the Maximum pause to avoid the selected track's volume from becoming louder during the pauses in the control track. Try to change the number of seconds for the Maximum pause to 3, 4 or 5 seconds to produce this effect. You can customize the number of seconds based on the longest pause that exists in your control track.

Auto Duck analyzes the control track first of all, then applies the effect to the selected track(s). This second stage takes longer to complete than the first, so the estimated time remaining in the progress bar may be an underestimate until the later stages of processing.

More information can be found on the Audacity manual.

Updating Audio Metadata

Metadata tags are stored with an audio file when you export the file and can be read by other programs such as iTunes. This includes information such as artist, album, track name, etc.

  1. To edit the metadata tags for your audio project, click on Edit > Metadata... Screenshot: Edit metadata window
  2. Some basic tags are already preloaded in the editing window such as Artist Name and Track Title. Use the value column to input the relevant information
  3. You can click on "Add" and "Remove" to add or remove additional tags
  4. When you're done, press "OK" to save your changes
  5. When you export your project, you will be prompted once more to confirm the file's metadata. If you have already followed the steps above, the information you entered will be imported automatically into the prompting window and you can click "OK" to proceed

Export Files

  1. The LAME tool that allows the export of MP3 files is now included in Audacity for Windows and Mac computers.
  2. If you are using a Linux system and would like to export files from Audacity in MP3 format, you will need to download and install the optional LAME MP3 encoder. Instructions are below. Once you have downloaded and installed the LAME encoder you will be able to create MP3 files using Audacity.
  3. The steps for exporting a file in MP3 format are the same as for a WAV file, except:
  4. Click File > Export > Export as MP3
  5. Then view the Format Options section to set the bit rate and other options for the MP3 file.

Resources to Help with Creating a Podcast

Link to Guide: Record a PodcastLink to Guide: Record Audio with AudacityLink to Guide: Find audio and images for remixing

Suggest an edit to this guide

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