I am planning to write an advanced tutorial on Audacity. Here are the topics I have come up with so far:
Possible Topics for Advanced Audacity Tutorial
Digital Audio Basics
How Sound Works
Digital Audio File Formats
Choosing the Right Hardware and Software
Sound Inputs and Outputs
Choosing a Computer and Operating System
Choosing Tools for Producing Music and Sound
Setting Up Your Equipment
Setting Up Your Workspace
Connecting Hardware to Your Computer
Preparing Your Computer to Record and Produce Audio
Recording Audio in Audacity
Choosing the Right Microphone
Recording the Human Voice
Mixing Voice and Background Music
Editing and Producing Audio
Cleaning Up Your Audio
Adding Special Effects
Transferring Legacy Media to CD
Producing a Compilation CD
Ripping Vocals from a CD
Ripping Music from CDs
Producing Audio DVDs
Please feel free to suggest other topics you think should be covered. Thanks.
For the past several weeks I have been writing a digital audio dictionary that is unlike any I have ever seen. In it I define hundreds of audio terms, illustrating many of them with screen shots. Since Audacity is the audio program I use when working at a PC, whenever possible I used screen shots from Audacity. The dictionary covers 44 pages and totals over 4,400 words. Most of the terms come from a wonderful book by Carla Schroder, The Book of Audacity. As far as I know this is the first book ever published on Audacity, the powerful free cross-platform audio editor that works on Windows PCs, Macs, and Linux-based machines. Ms. Schroder, in addition to covering everything a person could ever want to know about Audacity, does a very good job of covering all the basic digital audio processes and terminology. You may purchase it from Amazon.com for $23.30 for the print edition and $15.37 for the Kindle edition.
The dictionary is being proofread by the Digital Audio Committee at Austin Community College. When we are satisfied that all the misspelled words and grammatical errors in it have been discovered and corrected I will upload it to the Digital Audio website, which you may view at http://irt.austincc.edu/Audio/.
This week I attended the Educause ELI conference in Austin. One of the workshops I attended was taught by a trainer from Lynda.com who is also a teacher at a school of design in California. She began by showing us a video that you can view free at the Stanford University website. It showed a professor teaching a class. Students were constantly walking in front of the camera, and in the background there was a constant cacophony of loud pops, clanging, banging, rustling, and every other kind of distracting noise you can imagine. The presenter said that our eyes are hardwired to sort of adjust the quality of video as needed while we are watching it, but she said our ears have no such filtering device. We will always hear all the extraneous noises in the background.
When you shoot and produce a video, make sure the sound quality is acceptable. It is easy to open your video in a program such as Adobe Premiere or Premiere Elements and tweak the sound and improve the quality. If you need to you can export the audio track to your computer, edit it in Audacity and re-import it back into your video project.
Today we are going to discuss dynamic range compression. To be more specific, I’m going to talk about the one that ships with Audacity, since that’s the one I use. A dynamic range compressor, called the compressor in Audacity, attenuates the louder frequencies, reducing the differences between the loud and soft passages in a piece of audio. In layperson’s terms, it makes the loud passages quieter and the quiet passages louder. When you open the compressor in Audacity you will see that it has settings for the Threshold, the Noise Floor, the Ratio, the Attack Time, and the Decay Time. We will take a whirlwind tour of each of these features.
The Threshold setting determines the starting point, in decibels, where the gain of the audio signal is reduced. The Noise Floor is the measure of the signal created from the sum of all the noise sources of the piece of audio under question. The ratio setting determines how much compression will be applied. The Attack Time setting determines how quickly the compressor reaches its maximum effect. The Decay Time setting determines how long it takes to phase out the compression. These setting are all discussed and illustrated with screen shots in the comprehensive (3,700 words and counting) digital audio dictionary I am compiling.
Another dynamic range compressor was developed by the late Chris Capel because he wanted to apply compression to his recordings of classical recordings. His site is now being maintained by Daniel Lewis. You may download Chris’s Dynamic Compressor as a plug-in for Audacity here: http://theaudacitytopodcast.com/chriss-dynamic-compressor-plugin-for-audacity/ .
The best training site I know of is at lynda.com. No other site even comes close. This website has literally thousands of video tutorials on literally any software program that is on the market. My college pays for a membership for me at this great website and I use it almost every day. Since this is a blog about digital audio I will only talk about some of the many audio courses it features. Currently Lynda.com offers 336 courses that deal at least in part with audio. Some of the titles are:
- Foundations of Audio
- Audio and Video for PowerPoint
- Audio Mixing Bootcamp
- Pro Tools
- Flash Audio
- Digital Audio Principles
- Garageband ’11 – I have taken this excellent course.
Membership only costs $25 a month if you do not want access to the exercise files. If you want the exercise files a membership will cost you $375 a year. If you spend a lot of time working with computer software programs do yourself a favor and check out www.lynda.com.