Audacity

Introduction to Recording and Editing Audio

Introduction

About This Class

Audacity is an open source, free and easy to use audio editor and recorder. It includes powerful audio post-production tools to help create professional podcasts and music.

This class introduces the basic concepts and interface of Audacity. By the end of the class, you will gather basic knowledge of how to import, record, edit and export your audio project with Audacity. Some more advanced editing tools will also be mentioned such as auto duck and noise reduction. You will also have the opportunity to record or use our excercise file to create your own podcast. We encourage you explore Audacity's other advanced features that are briefly mentioned at the end of this class.

Download Audacity

audacity logo with name

Go to www.audacityteam.org and download the newest version of Audacity. The version we use for this class is Audacity 2.2.2. Then install Audacity by following the basic procedure of your computer operating system.

Download the Class Files

From the STS Canvas Course Homepage, download the Class Files for Audacity. These will help you complete the exercise below!

Navigating the Workspace

When you open Audacity, it will automatically create a new project for you. If you want to create an additional new project, go to File > New

image of audacity interface

Import Audio

Let's go ahead and import some audio! There are two ways to do this:

For this exercise, let's use File > Import > Audio... to import the voiceover file and melodyloops-season-of-joy file from our downloaded Class Files into the same project.

Audacity will prompt you how do you want to import your audio, we recommand you choose Make a copy of the files before editing (safer). Audacity will keep the original files untouched so that you have a backup if anything goes wrong. Click OK once you have made your selection.

image of pop-up box asking to choose an import method

Selection Tool

selection tool icon

The default tool of Audacity. Use it to select, or highlight, any part of the audio to edit it.

image of selecting part of an audio

The light grey area shows that this audio has been selected with the Selection Tool. You can hit spacebar or click the Play Button to play the highlighted section.

Magnification Tool

magnification tool icon

Use to zoom in and out on wave forms. To zoom in, click on the waveform. To zoom out, hold the Shift Key and click on the audio.

gif of magnification tool in use

View Fit Tool

view fit tool icon

Press the View Fit Tool icon and Audacity will automatically rescale your entire audio file(s) to fit your project window.

Recording Audio

The other way to gather audio is to record it yourself directly in Audacity! To do this, make sure you have access to a microphone or a computer with an internal microphone (such as Mac laptops). Let's start recording by following these easy steps:

First, test your microphone level

  1. Find the microphone level bar at the top right of the interface, and click to start monitoring.

    gif showing microphone level bar in use
  2. Speak in your normal speaking voice to test the level, make sure your sound level locates at about -6 dB. This level helps prevent audio to go over 0 dB which often results in audio distortion, something that cannot be fixed in post production
  3. If your mic level is too low or too high, or cannot see the shifting green bar, you can change your voice volume, or adjust the microphone sensibilit on the top left.

    gif showing how to change microphone sensibility

Start Recording

Choose the type of the microphone you want to use for recording. In this case, I am using the Internal Microphone directly from my laptop.

microphone selection

Record Tool

record tool icon

Click on the Record Tool to start recording in a new track. Press the Pause Tool to take a break while recording, or Stop Tool once you finish recording.

Basic Audio Editing

Deleting Audio

To delete a part of the audio file, select the part of the audio you want to delete using the Selection Tool. Press backspace or delete to erase the selected audio.

The Edit Menu

The Edit Menu includes basic tools to edit your audio.

  1. Use the Selection Tool to highlight the audio you want to modify
  2. Choose an option from the Edit menu. Some common Edit Menu Options include Cut, Delete, Copy, and Paste.
edit menu options that include cut, delete, copy, paste, dubplicate, remove special, clip boundaries, labels, labeled audio, metadeta, and preferences

Duplicate

This option allows a selected audio to be copied onto a new track within a project.

example of duplicated selected audio

Remove Special

options under remove special: split cut, split delete, silence audio, trim audio

Clip Boundaries

clip boundaries options: split, split new, join

Move Tool

move tool icon

Use the Move Tool to move the audio you just split to the location you want it to be.

Fade In and Fade Out

Fade Tool

fade tool icon

Use the Fade Tool to adjust the sound level of your audio. Click on the audio to reveal four dots on the waveform. These points allow you to adjust the sound level as shown by the wavelength.

example of how to use the fade in tool to adjust volume

Audio Effects

Audacity includes many audio effects for more advanced audio editing. To apply an effect, first use the Selection Tool to highlight the area of the audio you want to modify. Then, from the Effect Menu, select an effect option to add to the selected audio.

Basic Audio Effects

Advanced Audio Effects

There are many powerful audio effects in Audacity. This section will mainly focus on how to use the Noise Reduction Effect and Auto Duck Effect.

Noise Reduction

  1. Record your own audio, or import the noise-reduction.wav file from the downloaded Class Files into your project

  2. Use the Selection Tool to highlight some "empty" space between words within the recorded speech. This selection will be the reference point for Audacity to know what noise to filter out once we apply the effect.

    example of selecting empty space between words within the audio
  3. Go to Effect > Noise Reduction... and click Get Noise Profile

    noise reduction dialogue box with get noise profile button
  4. Using the Selection Tool, highlight all of the audio you want to reduce background noise from, and go to Effect > Noise Reduction again
  5. Increase the Noise reduction (dB) to filter out more background noise. Keep in mind that if you choose to filter out too much noise, the audio might become distorted. Always make sure to Preview your effect before hitting OK

    noise reduction dialogue box with editing options

Before Noise Reduction:

example of audio wavelengths before noise reduction

After Noise Reduction:

example of audio wavelengths after noise reduction

Auto Duck

Auto Duck is an especially useful effect for podcasting. The effect reduces (ducks) the volume of one or more selected tracks automatically whenever the volume of a single unselected "control track " placed underneath reaches a particular threshold level. For example, you can have the volume of the track with background music reduce once the track with a voiceover is introduced at a certain volume.

  1. Import the music file melodyloops-season-of-joy.mp3 and voiceover.wav file. Make sure the music file is on the track above the track of the voiceover file. If not, click on the small triangle next to the audio name, and choose Move Track Down

    gif showing how to move a track below another one
  2. Using the Selection Tool, highlight the entire music file and go to Effect > Auto Duck
  3. Adjust the Duck amount and outer and inner fade up/fade down length. The lower the dB of the Duck amount, the lower the volume of the music will be once the voiceover appears. The Outer fade down/up length is the amount of time it takes to gradually fade the music out or in before the voice audio enters. The inner fade down/up length is the amount of time given to continue the fade after the voice audio enters. Remeber to always Preview your edits before clicking OK.

    auto duck dialogue box with editing options
  4. Press OK once you're done. Below is an example of a music file before and after the Auto Duck Effect:

BEFORE AUTO DUCK:

image of audio wavelength before auto duck effect added

AFTER AUTO DUCK:

image of audio wavelength after auto duck effect added

Saving and Exporting

When you finish working with your audio files, you have several options for saving and exporting your files.

Save as Audacity Project

image of file > save project as...

Saving as an Audacity project allows you to open the project later and add further changes to your audio. The information of your multiple tracks will be saved into the project. This is the best option if you want to continue editing in Audacity. Note that this project is only compatible with Audacity, meaning you won't be able to share your creation with people who don't have Audacity downloaded onto the computer they want to open your project from.

  1. Go to File > Save Project...
  2. Choose a folder to save your project in. The default folder is named Audacity and is usually placed under Documents.
  3. Give your project an appropriate File Name so that it is easier to locate later in case you forget the folder it's saved in.
  4. Click Save to save your project as a .aup file

Export as WAV File

image of file > export > export as wav

If you want to export your file to a compatible format, and you want to keep the best quality of your audio, export your audio as .wav (Waveform Audio File Format) file format. This file format is commonly used for uncompressed audio files and is compatible with most media players. It is also a larger file size compared to other formats.

  1. Go to File > Export > Export as WAV
  2. Choose a folder to save your project in. The default folder is named Audacity and is usually placed under Documents.
  3. Give your project an appropriate File Name so that it is easier to locate later in case you forget the folder it's saved in.
  4. Choose Save as type as either WAV (Microsoft) signed 16-bit PCM or WAV (Microsoft) signed 32-bit Float PCM and click Save.
  5. Audacity will prompt you to enter metadata for the audio. Complete the form to the best of your ability and click OK.
wav file exporting metadeta form

Export as MP3 File

If you want your audio files to have relatively good quality and smaller file size, export your audio as a .mp3 file. In order to export .mp3 files with Audacity, you will need to download a free MP3 encouder called lame.lib.

Download Lame For Windows

  1. Go to lame.buanzo.org/#lamewindl
  2. Click the link Lame v3.99.3 for Windows.exe to download the file.
  3. Click the downloaded file to open it and follow the simple instructions to install Lame.

Download Lame For Mac

  1. Go to lame.buanzo.org/#lameosxdl
  2. Click on the link Lame_Library_v3.99.5_for_Audacity_on_macOS.dmg to download the file.
  3. Click the downloaded file to open it and follow the simple instructions to install Lame.

Instructions to Export as MP3 File

  1. Go to File > Export > Export as MP3
  2. Choose a folder to save your project in. The default folder is named Audacity and is usually placed under Documents.
  3. Give your project an appropriate File Name so that it is easier to locate later in case you forget the folder it's saved in.
  4. For the Format Options, usually the default will do the job
  5. Audacity will prompt you to enter metadata for the audio. Complete the form to the best of your ability and click OK.
wav file exporting metadeta form