Things Audacity Can’t Do

I have been using Audacity, the free digital audio recorder and editor, for a long time. It’s a great program, but there are some things it can’t do, such as:

  • It can’t record or play files in the MIDI format.
  • If you want to play or export files in proprietary or restricted file audio formats such as WMA (Windows Media Audio) or AAC (Advanced Audio Coding, supported by iTunes, iPad, iPod, YouTube, and others) you have to download and install additional plug-ins.
  • It has less plug-ins and effects that a specialized Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
  • It can’t apply sound effects in realtime. You have to record the track and then apply sound effects to it.
  • It isn’t a specialized audio editing software package. There are some limitations on multi-track editing and mixing features.

Despite these limitations Audacity is a powerful and easy-to-use application that probably will meet the needs of most people who want to record audio, do some basic editing, and add special effects to it. Please contact me if you have any questions about it.

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Getting Started with Digital Audio – What Equipment do I Need?

You need very little equipment to record digital audio. You will need a computer with a sound card. Unless you are a professional musician, or have some other special need, the sound card that came installed in your computer will probably work fine. Don’t even think about using the built-in mic on your computer or laptop or notebook computer for recording. The sound quality of your recording will be terrible. For $20-30 you can probably buy a desktop or headset microphone that will be adequate. I have aBlue Snowball Microphone Blue Snow Ball mic I bought from Amazon.com for $79 that I record a lot with. The audio quality of my recordings is pretty good, and my voice sounds natural. I also have a Sennheiser headset microphone I bought from Amazon for $170. I hate to have to admit this, but the Blue Snowball mic is just as good. If you have a microphone that did not come with a stand, you should buy one because you have to keep your mic steady to get a decent recording. That’s really all you need for recording audio except for a free software program such as Audacity for recording and editing. If you own an Apple computer it came with the Garageband audio program installed and it’s much more than adequate for anyone except a professional studio musician.

Getting Started with Digital Audio – What Equipment do I Need?

You need very little equipment to record digital audio. You will need a computer with a sound card. Unless you are a professional musician, or have some other special need, the sound card that came installed in your computer will probably work fine. Don’t even think about using the built-in mic on your computer or laptop or notebook computer for recording. The sound quality of your recording will be terrible. For $20-30 you can probably buy a desktop or headset microphone that will be adequate. I have a Blue Snow Ball mic I bought from Amazon.com for $79 that I record a lot with. The audio quality of my recordings is pretty good, and my voice sounds natural. I also have a Sennheiser headset microphone I bought from Amazon for $170. I hate to have to admit this, but the Blue Snowball mic is just as good. If you have a microphone that did not come with a stand, you should buy one because you have to keep your mic steady to get a decent recording. That’s really all you need for recording audio except for a free software program such as Audacity for recording and editing. If you own an Apple computer it came with the Garageband audio program installed and it’s much more than adequate for anyone except a professional studio musician.

Converter that “Converts” MP3 Files to WAV Files

I am working with a professor here at Cypress who is revising the Biology Self-Assessment Modules. She created a PowerPoint presentation and I let her borrow my new expensive headset microphone to record the audio for one of the modules. There was so much noise in the recordings they were not usable. I recorded the audio for each slide in Audacity using my Blue Snowball mic to see if it did a better job. The Blue Snowball did a good job. I exported each file from Audacity as an MP3 because an MP3 is about one tenth the size of a WAV file. I tried to embed the MP3s into the slides, but locked up my computer. I tried to do this on a computer in the FRC and locked up that computer also. I looked up this problem on the Web and learned that you cannot embed any type of audio into PowerPoint except WAV files. I have to embed the files, not link to them, because I am going to have to record the PowerPoint presentation in Camtasia and add some animation such as call outs to the slides.

I found that you can go to Source Forge.com and download a free converter called CDex that adds a special RIFF-WAV header to an audio file that will “fool” PowerPoint into thinking that the MP3 file is a WAV file. It changes the file extension from MP3 to WAV, but the file is the same size as the original MP3 file. I tried it and it works. You can download it here:

http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/?q=download . Be sure you download the Beta 1.70 version. I always use Firefox. It automatically checks each download for viruses.

You can find instructions on how to use the converter here:

http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/how-to-embed-mp3-audio-files-in-microsoft-powerpoint-presentation/

I am going to post this message in the Digital Audio group also.

Workflow for Editing Audio in Audacity

I am currently working on a big audio editing project. I have found this workflow works good for me:

1. Listen to the clip, noting areas where this is nothing but noise.

2. Highlight an area that contains nothing but noise.

3. Open the noise removal tool and select Get Noise Profile.

4. Close the tool and select the entire audio clip.

5. Open Noise Removal again. I find it helpful to first remove 6 DB of noise. If the clip was recorded at a very loud level I remove 12 DB of noise. You can always remove more noise later.

6. Listen to the clip again, noting where clicking sound might be. Highlight each clicking sound and press the Delete key. Audacity has a tool that removes clicks, but I have found my method works better.

7. I always set Audacity so that if there is clipping on the track it is highlighted in red. Select the clipped areas and select the Clip Fix effect.

8. Normalize the clip if needed.

9. Export the MP3 file and save it in the location where you keep the files for this project.

Removing Noise with Audacity

I have been doing a lot of editing in Audacity recently, and mostly through trial and error, I have developed a workflow that works well for me. Today I am going to discuss how I remove noise from an audio clip. First, I open the clip in Audacity and listen to it. I have experimented with listening to cclips at different sound levels and I have found that setting the volume on my headset about halfway between the softest and the loudest levels works best. I look at the wave form and select a few seconds of noise.  The screen shot at the top shows what noise looks like. I open the Effect menu on the menu bar and select Noise Removal. On this screen I click the Get Noise Profile button to let the noise removal tool analyze  the sounds I want to remove from the clip. I return to the wave form and select all of it. I open the Noise Removal tool again and usually set it to remove 6 DB of noise. I never change the other two options, Frequency Smoothing and Attack/Decay time. I click the OK button to close this dialog box. I return to the clip and listen to it again. It works well for me if I remove noise in increments of 6 DB. If the clip was recorded at a very loud volume I remove 12 DB of noise. If you are too aggressive in removing noise the clip will have a hollow sound sort of like an echo chamber effect.

In future posts I will cover other auditing tasks in Audacity, such as removing clicks and clipping.