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Multimedia Literacy: Audio

Audacity Tutorial

Our recommended tool for audio editing is Audacity. This self-guided activity is designed takes you through the process of recording, editing and mixing a podcast. The first tab covers what you need to know about the Audacity interface and options for recording equipment.

The following information is for Audacity version 3.1; it is recommended that you update Audacity on your own computer if you are using an older version.

Audacity Interface

Before you start recording...
  • Check the input (what you are using to record) and the output (what you are using to listen back). If you are working on SMDC computers and using plug-in headphones, make sure both the input the output are set to USB audio codec. Also make sure the headphones are plugged in on the left side of the silver dock (there's is a microphone/headphone symbol by the port).

Screenshot of Audacity input and output settings

Recording equipment
  • Visit the Recording page to learn more about equipment options and to listen to examples of audio recorded with a laptop, a USB mic, in studio 3, and in studio 6
  • Use what you already have. Zoom works well for recording groups and interviews.
  • Headphones with a built-in microphone are generally better than a computer/laptop mic.

Move on to the next tab to learn about recording in Audacity

This tab covers what you need to know about recording levels and recording environment before you start recording yourself.

Recording Levels

Make sure to click the meter that says "click to start monitoring"

When you speak into the microphone, you want you natural speaking voice to hit the "ideal range" in Audacity.

  • Ideal: -6 to -12 (turns from green to yellow)
  • Too loud: -6 to 0 (orange to red)
  • Too quiet: below -18 (green)

It is easier to fix audio that is too quiet; it's very difficult to enhance audio that is too loud.

Recording Environment 

Think about your options for recording your podcast and remember the SMDC studios are a great option for a relatively quiet recording environment.

Practice

You can record whatever you'd like or use the sample script below. Record for at least 30 seconds.
  • Press the red record button. You will see a track added and the waveform will begin to form as you speak.
  • When you are finished recording, press the space bar or the stop button.
  • If you find that something is not working in Audacity, check to see if pause is selected and click the black square stop button.
  • Pay attention to what the waveform looks like- you want to see definition and peaks and valleys in your waveform.
Tips for recording in the SMDC Mac classroom
  • Plug the headphones into the left-side of the silver doc (microphone/headphone symbol)
  • Room B isn't the ideal recording environment and that's fine for this exercise. Make a mental note if you need your audio to be louder when you record your podcast.
  • If working in pairs, each person can read one of the parts of the provided script below. Hold the headphones in between you so that the microphone can pick up both of your voices. Record it twice- once on each computer. 

Sample Script

One option is to record the excerpt below from the episode "How to Speak Bad English" from the Rough Translation podcast (full transcript)

--

WARNER: There are all kinds of reasons people take a job teaching English - maybe to travel somewhere or stay a while in a new place. I have done that myself back in the day. But for Heather Hansen, teaching English was a calling, one that crystallized for her when she was a college student studying German in Austria.

HANSEN: And I remember almost making myself sick about having to speak in German and then standing in front of the class, battling through, can't find the words, and I'm not pronouncing things correctly. And I'm - all I'm thinking is, if I could just do this in English, they would all know how smart I am. So that was really what put me on the course for working with language and helping people with language because I thought, we've got to help them so they can express themselves better, so they can get the respect they deserve, so they can avoid embarrassment. And that was why I got into doing what I'm doing.

--

Once you have recorded something, move on to the next tab to practice editing.

 

This tab will cover some basic editing techniques including

  • Selecting and deleting portions of track
  • Splitting tracks into clips and moving clips around

Selecting and deleting portions of a track

If you make a mistake while you are recording, you don't have to restart. Instead, take a deep breath and start recording from before you made the mistake, such as the beginning of the sentence. You can cut out sections, words, or distracting sounds from your tracks.

Practice

  • Watch the video and download the audio "Audacity editing practice: umm"; right-click on the media player and click "save audio as..." it will download as an MP3 file.
  • Once you have downloaded it, go to File > Import or just drag the file into Audacity.
  • Once you have opened the audio file in Audacity, listen to it to identify the "ummm" and the use the selection tool to highlight the umm and delete it. Keep listening back to refine it- you may need to make additional cuts to make it sound natural.

*Alternatively, you can practice with the audio you just recorded- try deleting a word and make it sound as natural as possible.

Splitting and moving clips

Practice

  • Using what you recorded earlier, practice splitting and moving the clips around.
  • Try adding multiple tracks and layering clips (tracks > add new > mono)
  • Practice trimming clips
  • The edit menu offer additional options for editing. Pick 2 of the following to practice.
  • In some cases, you need to select a portion of a track first.
    • Edit > Clip Boundaries > Split at the cursor or region in an existing track or clip, doing nothing
      except separating it into multiple clips.
    • Edit > Remove Special > Split Delete at a region in an existing track or clip, removing the selected
      audio without shifting the following audio.
    • Edit > Remove Special > Split Cut at a region in an existing track or clip, removing the selected
      audio to the Audacity clipboard without shifting the following audio.
    • Edit > Clip Boundaries > Split New at a region in an existing track or clip, moving the selected
      audio to the same position in a new track at the bottom of the project.

When you are finished, move on to the next page to practice mixing music into your podcast.

Incorporating music and sound effects is a great way to enhance the listening experience. This tab will cover how to find and download a song from Free Music Archive and then how to mix the music into your podcast, including fading it in and out.

Creative Commons Overview

If you are not familiar with Creative Commons, watch this short explanation and explore the Creative Commons page for more information.

Finding Creative Commons Music

Free Music Archive provides access to many Creative Commons licensed songs that you can use in your podcast- make sure to check the license and to provide attribution to it in your podcast.

Practice

  • Spend up to 5 minutes finding and downloading a song to practice with for the next part. It doesn't need to be the song you will ultimately use in your podcast. When you download a song, it will likely be in your downloads folder on the computer.
  • If you are unable to download a song from Free Music Archive, try downloading the MP3 file "The Zeppelin" below or practice the next steps with the audio you've already recorded.

Mixing Music

Practice

  • Play around with the gain slider to lower and raise the volume for the entire track
  • Have the music start at regular full volume and use the envelope tool to fade the song out after a few seconds.
  • Move the audio you recorded, so that it starts as the music is fading out.
  • Make sure to listen to how it sounds and make adjustments as you go.

When you're finished, move on to the next page to learn about saving and exporting.

This tab covers two of the most important steps when creating a podcast: saving and exporting!

Saving

  • Go to File > Save Project As... and name your project and choose where you want to save it.
  • You'll see a message that says you are creating an Audacity project not an audio file. This project file will only open back up in Audacity.
  • The project will be saved as a .aup3 file.You may see a ".aup3-wal" file that should disappear when you quit Audacity.
  • There is no longer an accompanying data folder.
  • Make sure to save your project often as you work.
  • SMDC computers are wiped clean when restarted- save your work to google drive or an external hard drive.

Exporting

  • When you are finished with your podcast and ready to share it, you need to export it as an MP3 file. Go to File > Export > Export as MP3. Make sure the next popup says MP3; if not click the drop down and select MP3.
  • Fill in the metadata- especially your name and the title of your project. Clear any metadata that's already in there- it might be from your song.
  • Listen to the MP3 after you export.
  • Once you have the MP3 file, you can upload it to Canvas or another website such as Soundcloud.

You've completed the module! If you have any questions now or as your work on your project, go to the Student Multimedia Design Center desk for help or send a message.