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Record Audio with Audacity

What is Audacity?

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

Download Audacity

System versions supported: 

  • Windows 10/8/7/Vista 
  • Mac OS X/macOS 10.7 and later 
  • GNU/Linux® 

Exporting MP3 Files

  • Windows and Mac users
    • You will be able to export your Audacity project as an MP3 file without any plugins needing installed.
  • Linux users:

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.

How do I start recording audio in Audacity?

  1. If you have an external microphone, plug it into your computer before launching the Audacity program. Then, open the program and click on the "Audio Setup" button near the top-middle of the window. From the dropdown list that appears, hover your cursor over the "Recording Device" option and then ensure the desired microphone is selected from the second dropdown list that appears.

select microphone by clicking Audio Setup button, then hover over Recording Device option

Note: Restart Audacity if the program does not see your microphone - this issue is usually caused by launching Audacity before plugging in a microphone. Audacity only looks to see what microphones are connected when the program first starts.

  1. To begin recording, click the red Record button or press the "R" key on your keyboard. The Record button is located near the top-left of the screen and contains a solid red circle.

Press the record button to begin recording

  1. Continue recording for as long as you want. If you need a break, you can press the 'P' key on your keyboard to pause the recording. When ready to proceed with recording, press the 'P' button again. 
  2. When done recording, or if you're wanting to record several separate clips, click the stop button located near the top left of the window. You can also press the Spacebar on your keyboard to stop the recording. The Stop button is located to the right of the play button and contains a solid black square.

Press the record button to stop recording

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 5 to 10 second silence at the beginning of your recording in order to ensure a good sample of the room's environmental sounds, which can be edited out using the "noise reduction" effect.
  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 (amp) rather than linear (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.

How do I import audio?

  1. Click File in the menu bar at the top of your screen.
  2. Click Import from the dropdown menu.
  3. Select Audio.
  4. Select your file from your device to import.

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Command+Shift+I on a Mac and Control+Shift+I on Windows. 

Audacity File menu open to Audio

How do I apply noise reduction?

  1. Leave a 10 second silence at the beginning or end of your recording to capture the room's environmental noises.
  2. Click and drag your mouse to highlight a section of your recording with this room noise.

click and drag your cursor over the 10 seconds of silence you recorded

  1. Click Effect > Noise Removal and Repair > Noise Reduction and then select Get Noise Profile
  2. Once you’ve captured the Noise Profile, press CRTL/COMMAND + A to select the entire audio clip. 
  3. Go back to Effect > Noise Removal and Repair > Noise Reduction.  Leaving the default settings, click Okay and it will remove the background noises from the entire audio track.
  4. If you only want the noise reduced for a particular section, only highlight that part with your mouse instead of highlighting your entire track.

Effect menu to Noise Removal and Repair to Noise Reduction

get noise profile

  1. 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.

silence audio button in the toolbar

WASAPI loopback

We usually recommend recording audio through a microphone or separate recording device rather than recording through your computer microphone. This is because the computer microphone picks up sounds from your computer. However, the WASAPI Loopback feature can record the audio coming out of your computer and then remove it from the recording.

  1.  In Audacity, choose the “Windows WASAPI” audio host, and then choose an appropriate loopback device, such as “Speakers (loopback)” or “Headphones (loopback).”

audacity waspi loopback

  1. Click the Record button to start recording the audio in Audacity, and then click Stop when you’re done. Because you’re using Audacity, you can easily trim and edit the sound file when you’re done.

NOTE: If this doesn’t work, you may also need to select the correct number of recording channels to match your device using the dropdown box to the right of device selection box. For example, if you have a 7.1 channel headset, select 8. This feature is not available for Mac versions of Audacity.

Source: How to Record the Sound Coming From Your PC (Even Without Stereo Mix)

How do I fade in audio?

  1. Highlight the section of audio you want to apply the fade to.
  2. Click on Effect > Fade In. The first few seconds of the audio will smoothly fade in.

Fade in selected from effects menu

How do I fade out audio?

  1. Highlight the section of audio you want to apply the fade to.
  2. Click on Effect > Fade Out. The selected audio will now smoothly fade out.

select fade out from effects menu

How do I delete sections of my audio file?

  1. Click on your waveform so your cursor is placed where you want to make an edit. 
  2. Repeatedly click the Zoom In button until the displayed waveform expands so you can see the soundwaves clearly.

Zoomed into waveform

  1. Click and drag your mouse to select the portion of audio you would like to delete.
  2. Click the play button to listen to your selected portion and confirm that you have selected the correct time. 
  3. Select Edit > Delete or press the delete/backspace button on your keyboard. 
  4. The selected audio is removed from the track, and the rest of the audio moves to fill the space left after the delete.
  5. Listen back to each edit to make sure it sounds natural. If not, choose Edit > Undo Delete and try again.

Delete selected from edit menu

How do I apply amplitude adjustment (normalize)?

To maximize the volume of your recording, you can use the 'Normalize' effect.

  1. 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.
  2. Choose Effect >  Volume and Compression > 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.
  3. 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".

NOTE: 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. 

Effects menu to Volume and Compression and then Normalize

set normalize properties

How do I amplify?

Use the Amplify effect to change the volume of your audio track. Amplify always preserves the relative volumes of the tracks and/or channels.

  1. Select Effect > Volume and Compression > Amplify from the menu bar at the top of your screen. 
  2. In the 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. 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.

Effect menu to Volume and Compression and then amplify

use the amplify slider

How do I level out the volume?

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.

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.

  1. Click on the Track Control Panel of your narration track and select the entire track.
  2. Choose Effect > Volume and Compression > Compressor. The Compressor effect works by making the loud parts quieter, then amplifying everything, which ends up making the quiet parts louder. The Compressor is a complex but very useful effect, so let's take a moment to see how it works.

Effect menu to  Volume and Compression and then select Compressor

  1. 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.
  2. 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 setting Threshold to -12 dB.
  3. The Noise Floor control tells Compressor that anything below that level is noise and it shouldn't make it any louder.
    • Try setting Noise Floor to -80 dB.
  4. The Ratio control tells Compressor how much quieter it should make the loud parts.
    • Set the Ratio to 6:1.
  5. 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.
  6. Click Preview to determine if compression levels are appropriate.
    • Are the quiet parts still too quiet? Try adjusting the Threshold setting to -18 dB.
    • Does your voice sound unnaturally squashed? Try adjusting the Threshold setting to -6 dB. 
  7. Once satisfied, click the OK button and let Compressor do its work. Listen back to the result.

Compressor controls. Click Preview to hear the changes before you apply them. When ready, click OK to save changes

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 sections

  1. Click on the envelope tool (to the right of the selection tool) or press F2 on your keyboard
  2. Navigate to the part in the audio where you would like to increase or decrease the volume and click to set a node.
  3. Drag the node up or down to amplify or reduce the volume at that point

Envelope tool

  1. When you're done, click on Tracks > Mix > Mix and Render to finalize your changes

mix and render selected from tracks menu

How do I label my track?

  1. Highlight the section of audio you want to label.
  2. Click Edit > Labels > Add Label at Selection.

Add label option in edit menu

  1. Start typing your label on the Label Track.
  2. Drag the outside edges of your label to determine the section of audio your label is for.

New label made under track

How do I cut and paste 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.
  3. You can also use the Cut, Copy and Paste buttons in the toolbar at the top of your screen.

copy cut and paste buttons in toolbar

NOTE: If the Cut, Copy Paste Icons do not appear in the toolbar, click View > Toolbars > Cut/Copy/Paste Toolbar 

Add cut and paste icons to toolbar

How do I add additional tracks?

  1. To add a new track, select Tracks > Add New> select the new type of track. A new track appears at the bottom of your project.

New track at bottom of audio file

You can cut and paste parts of an existing track or tracks onto either an inserted blank track, or onto an existing audio track.

  1. Using the Selection tool select the portion of a track that you want to copy.
  2. Select Copy or Cut.
  3. Place the cursor on the track and location where you wish to paste
  4. Click Paste

selected audio pasted onto new track

How do I 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.

Move track options un audio track dropdown menu

  1. 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.
  2. Click Effect > Volume and Compression > Auto Duck.

Selecting Auto duck from the menu

  1. 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.

set autoduck options

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.

How do I update 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... 

select metadata from edit menu

  1. 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
  2. You can click on "Add" and "Remove" to add or remove additional tags
  3. When you're done, press "OK" to save your changes
  4. 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

How do I export my file?

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 linked below. Once you have downloaded and installed the LAME encoder you will be able to create MP3 files using Audacity.

  1. Click File > Export > Export as MP3 (or another desired file type)
  2. View the Format Options section to set the bit rate and other options for the MP3 file.

export your recording as an mp3

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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