Editing in Audacity - Quick Intro

At CEU we teach people to make podcasts with Audacity. Some people love this program, whilst others hate it. We teach with it because it is simple and easy to learn, available on every operating system, free and open source. This guide is a quick introduction to editing in Audacity for beginners. For an in-depth understanding check out the Audacity manual.  We also made videos to help you.

You can download the guide as a .pdf or find it below

editing_in_audacity_-_quick_intro.pdf

If you need a more detailed step-by-step guide then please go here

***

Download Audacity: http://www.audacityteam.org/home/

Interface:

Once you open Audacity, familiarize yourself with the main sectors you will be working on. Highlighted are the main bars you will be using for editing.

Our highlights:
    

Selection Tool (F1) - works just like in Word, click to select content

Envelope Tool (F2) - you will use this to make things louder or quieter

Zoom in Tool (F4) - use it to zoom

Time Shift Tool (F5) - you will use this to move tracks or clips forwards or backwards

Trim Audio (CTRL + T) - will delete the area around the content you want to keep

Silence Audio (CTRL + L) - will silence the area you select

The Undo (CTRL + Z) button needs no introduction.

Example of a waveform:

Waveforms are visual representations of sound. How loud or quiet the waveform is can be seen from how high or low the waveforms reach on the vertical decibel measure. The point in time is measured from left to right. If you listen whilst watching you’ll soon understand the relationship between what you recorded and how it looks. You can zoom in and out.

Audacity Editing Tutorials

  • Learn to import audio  and create new tracks

This video will show you how to (1) import audio files,  (2) create new tracks and (3) understand the difference between importing an audio file and opening an Audacity (.aup) project.

  • Learn to remove content

This video will show you how to (1) delete or remove content without splitting the track and without leaving a gap, (2) trim audio or remove content around the area you want to keep, (3) silence audio and keep your track in one piece, (4) split delete or delete while splitting your track and leaving a gap in content.

  • Learn to move content

This video will show you how to (1) time shift a track or move your audio down the timeline, (2) to copy and paste content, (3) to cut and paste content, (4) and to split cut, or cut content while splitting your track and leaving a gap.

  • Learn to move several things at once

This video will show you how to (1) select content across several tracks and move all the selected content down the timeline (2) synchronize tracks to one reference track and move content down the timeline.

  • Learn to make audio louder or quieter

This video will show you how to increase/decrease the volume of your audio using (1) the amplification effect, (2) the fade in and fade out effect, and (3) the envelope tool.

  • Learn basic sound processing to make your podcast sound better

Noise Reduction

Learn to take out unwanted audio your recorder might have picked up, such as static noise, computer noise, ventilation and so on. Like all audio processing effects, this should be used with care. If you apply this effect to a whole track, which you are likely to do, it will affect all of your audio. Always playback the changed clip and make sure your audio is not distorted.

Normalize

Normalization is an audio processing effect that will analyze your audio, find the highest peak in your recording,  and apply the maximum loudness to a decibel (DB) limit you set. It is effectively another way to amplify your audio, with the added benefit of removing the DC offset from your file. DC offset is a source of poor audio and distorsion, read more about it here. Zero decibels is the highest peak you can set  without your audio clipping. Above this level your audio is too loud and distorted. We recommend setting a level of -2 DB, because if later you will want to apply other effects to your levels, they might jump above 0 DB. This is a suggested level we use for caution. Normalize before you edit, if your audio levels are really low and you cannot hear your audio properly. Otherwise, edit out the unnecessary high peaks like coughs, knocks, ringing phones etc. and then normalize. Always check your levels at the end of the editing process and make sure your audio is loud enough.

Compressor

The compressor effect reduces the difference between loud and quiet sounds, or the dynamic range of your audio. A certain level of up and own is good and natural. But you do not want listeners to constantly adjust their volume. If you record in different conditions and you have mixed loudness levels or if one of your interviewees is considerably louder than the other you might want to try the compressor to make your audio sound better. Do not forget that your aim is to have consistent audio levels, not to end up with flat audio. Play with the the audio threshold and the ratio, playback, and trust your ears.

Equalization

Equalization allows you to process sound by frequency, not by decibels. Frequency will show you if a sound is low or high (if it’s high pitched or low pitched). A deeper voice will have a lower frequency than a nasal or high pitched voice. You can apply this effect to make your audio sound clearer or sound “better” - this of, course, is highly subjective and might be problematic, if you think about the implications of changing a person’s voice. Equalization is useful to attenuate strong “sssss” sounds, P-pops and so on. You can apply this effect on selected audio or to your whole track once you are done cutting content. Do not use this effect as a blanket solution to bad audio and be mindful of the diversity of your audio - what works for voice processing, does not always work for a jingle or a field recording.

  • Learn to export your audio

    This video will show you how to (1) export audio.