This tutorial was written by Sarah DeLorme, Associate Digital Scholarship Librarian.
The Digital Studio gets a lot of queries from our patrons regarding audio editing. There are so many great programs to choose from, it can be sometimes be overwhelming to know where to start. Audacity is a professional quality open source audio editor. It is intuitive to use and can easily be used to put together a great podcast.
Before you even open the Audacity software, it is important to set yourself up for success in your recording. Audacity will let you connect to an external microphone, or the built in microphone at your workstation. Whichever recording device you choose, be sure to record in a quiet indoor space where you will not be interrupted. (A great place to record is the Sound Room in the Digital Studio. You can even reserve it online!) It also helps to work from a script, so that you can practice and pace yourself as you go along.
When you open Audacity, you will see this blank workspace.
Use the dropdown menus to select your recording device and your recording mode (you can choose either mono or stereo- mono is recommended for podcasts).
Click on the top numbered bar to check the input levels of your microphone. Try to keep at least a foot of space between yourself and the microphone, and speak clearly and at a moderate volume. The ideal range is a fully green bar. Avoid orange and red levels- that means you are too close or too loud!
Press the red circle button to begin your recording. (Helpful hint: leave a few seconds of empty noise at the start of the recording to sample during the noise reduction process later.) As you record, a waveform will appear on the track. Try to keep your waveform at a relatively similar level throughout, so that the volume is not fluctuating. Avoid very small waveforms which might be too soft to hear, as well as very large waveforms which might be so loud you get feedback.
Using the select tool (⌶) click and drag to highlight an empty noise portion of your recording. If you left a few seconds of silence before you started recording, use that! Otherwise, try to find a pause in the recording.
On the top menu, select effect> Noise Reduction> Get noise profile.
Next, use Command + A (CTRL+A on Windows) to select the entire track. It will look like this:
Navigate back to the noise reduction panel (Effect>Noise Reduction) and select “OK”. You will notice that your waveform will smooth out as the effect erases some of the background noise.
Creating a Second Track
Go to Tracks>Add new> Mono track. Remember, the new track will begin recording wherever the playhead is. Drag the playhead to the end of the first recording to make a seamless transition, like this:
You can move the clip around the track by selecting the “timeshift” tool (which looks like a double-headed arrow), clicking the clip, and dragging it to the desired position. You can also reorder the tracks by clicking and holding in the blank space of the left hand track menu and dragging up or down.
Deleting portions of your recording
Use the select tool to highlight the part of the recording you want to delete. (Helpful hint: use the zoom tool (🔍) to magnify the waveform and zero in on the word or phrase you wish to remove) Press the “Delete” button to remove the selected recording.
Importing and Exporting
Most podcasts have some catchy into music, and Audacity makes it easy to import a music file. Go to File>import>audio and select the desired track. This will import the entire song. Trim the track to desired length by highlighting the extra music and pressing the delete button. To fade out, highlight the clip and go to Effects>Fade out. You will see the waveform change into a cone shape as the music tapers off.
NOTE: If you are using music in your podcast, it is very important to make sure you are not infringing on the artist’s copyright. If you are unsure about whether or not you can use a clip, ask a librarian- they can help!
To export your project as a final sound file, navigate to File>export> and select your preferred file type.
NOTE: To export an .mp3, Audacity will require you to download an additional file from their website. This is an mp3 encoding library. The prompt will provide you with a link to the download, as well as instructions. (This site is also full of tips and tutorials if you need further assistance with Audacity.)
Once your project is exported, you can open it in any program that plays audio files. However, it will be compressed, so you cannot go back and edit it. To preserve the tracks so that you can go back and edit them, you will need to save your project.
Saving your Project
Select File> Save Project. This will save your project as an .aup file, preserving your track information so that you can open it up again later to edit it. You will only be able to open an .aup file in Audacity. This can be edited from any computer, as long as Audacity is installed.
NOTE:When you save your project, it will generate a project file (yourtitle.AUP) and a project folder (yourtitle_data).
Be sure to save both of these to your Google Drive, flash drive, or wherever you are saving your project. The folder contains your assets, and the .aup file contains the blueprint for your project. You will need both to reopen your project successfully!
If you need further assistance with your podcast, you can always contact the Digital Studio staff at firstname.lastname@example.org