The Complete Guide on How to use Audacity

by Elliot V. King

As a free recording software, Audacity can be used as an open-source audio editor and recorder among other functions. The user interface can be quite confusing if you are using the software for the first time. Therefore, learning about the software and how to use it is very important to get you started. This guide will help you understand how you can use Audacity.

Audacity is a free to download audio software for all platforms

Recording

Before you start recording, you need to connect the recording gadget you are using to your PC or laptop. Then, you need to check the instrument settings so that you can fix the output target of the equipment you are about to use. You should ensure that the Audacity’s input equals the gadget’s output to have a good recording. After you’ve completed these settings, the audio signal will be directed through the Soundflower interface out of Audacity’s synth’s output to the audio input. While recording, you need to keep an eye on your instrument to check latency. However, since locating your groove while recording can be hard, consider using preferred interface settings. Finally, you need to check and confirm connectivity before you start playing the instrument. Ensure that the inputs and outputs are correctly channeled and then embark on recording or playing the instrument.

Ensure you have the L-R input pulses

If the meters are striking the 0dB mark, use the Input Volume Slider to reduce the level of input. This will enable the meters to approach 0 when you have the loudest pieces only.

How to start recording

After connecting everything as it should be and setting all the levels correctly, you can start recording. There are two approaches you can use to record:

1. You can just hit the Record button and start playing the instrument. There is a high possibility that there will be a period of muteness as you settle down and start playing the instrument. However, you can clip away (cut) this section after you are through with recording.

2. Secondly, you can facilitate the Sound Activated Recording by going to your settings. You just need to click on the checkbox provided to fix the Sound Activation Level (DB). You need to understand that the lesser the DB figure, the softer the sound that’s going to prompt the recording and vice versa. This approach is ideal if you don’t want a lengthy silence at the start of your audio recording.

Recording the audio track

Regardless of the approach you choose, you can go ahead and record your audio track. You just need to press the red button or press R on your keyboard and then start playing the instrument when you are ready. As you start recording, you will see waveforms whilst you are playing the instrument to confirm that you are successfully recording.

However, if the waveform of the audio displays a straight line while you are recording or playing the instrument, you need to check the connections and then start all over again. Remember, if you are playing the instrument far away from the PC or laptop, the signal might not be strong enough thus not reaching the recording software.

Stop the recording

To stop the recording, press the square-shaped button that has a yellow color. However, if you started recording using the Sound Activated Recording option, Audacity will automatically stop the recording as the sound falls below the stipulated threshold (DB). For you to expand supplementary tracks while still listening to tracks that you’ve already recorded, check your preference settings. You will see a section that is labeled as ‘Overdub: play other tracks while recording a new one’.

Fix up a time and date to record

Audacity has a Timer Record feature which lacks in the majority of sound recording software. You can choose the Timer Record option or press the shift + T keys in the Transport menu. After choosing the Timer Record option, you can fix the Start Time and Date, opt to have an End time and date or even set the recording duration. This feature is important because it helps you switch on or start recording when you are not nearby.

Lengthen your recording

If you want to add additional material to the audio track you have recorded, you need to press Shift + Record keys or type Shift-R and the supplementary material will be added at the end of the present recording.

MacBooks are very popular amongst audio enthusiasts

Playback

Analyzing the recorded track

After you’ve completed recording your audio track, you need to listen to the audio carefully to determine its quality and what you may need to change or add. To analyze the audio track, you need to press the Play button on the UI or press the spacebar. The audio track will start playing from the start and then halt towards the end.

If you press Shift key after pressing the play button, you will loop the recorded track until you press stop or the space bar. To loop a certain section of the audio track, you need to facilitate the Selection tool first, click and then graft over the section that you need to loop.

Changing the playback speed

When training a solo or trying to record tough music, changing the playback speed can help you. Audacity allows you to change the playback speed with ease to suit your needs. To slow down or increase the speed of your playback, you need to drag the Playback Speed slider and then click the green ‘Playback at Speed’ button. Your track will start playing at the speed you’ve selected. However, if you need to make more changes, you just need to regulate the speed and then press the green playback button.

Select track view

Normally, Audacity allows you to see the sound waveform of the track you are recording (in a rectilinear form). This form does not provide a lot of details. If you need to learn more about the audio track you’ve recorded, Audacity has the following features for track view:

I. The waveform – this feature displays the audio waveform with the level of decibel. 

II. The spectrogram – the feature will provide you with a colorful Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) interpretation of the recorded audio track. 

III. The pitch – this shows the pitches of the audio track. The pitches range from high (the upper level of the audio track) to the low (found at the bottom of the track).

Solo tracks

If you have several audio tracks that are playing at once and you need to listen to a solo track, you have to click the Solo button that’s found in the Track control section (on the left of the audio waveform). After clicking the solo button, all the tracks that were playing will be muted.

Mute the tracks

In case there are multiple tracks playing and you need to mute a few of the tracks, you need to click the Mute button. You can find the Mute button in the Track control section. You will mute all the tracks that were playing thus convenient when equating two recordings or cracking down the mixture.

Audacity is used by professionals and beginners for great editing results

Editing

Trimming an audio track

Assuming you’ve recorded more that you required or need, you can trim the audio track to remain with what you need. Firstly, you need to create a backup just in case things does not go to plan. You can copy the recorded audio track somewhere else as a backup and then embark on trimming the recorded track. When trimming an audio track, follow these steps:

I. Pick out the Selection Tool

II. Select the audio track that you need to keep

III. Select the Loop Playback using the Shift-Space keys and then listen to the edited version to make sure it’s what needed

IV. Make additional changes as required until you have the changes you want

V. On your Edit menu, choose the Remove Audio option and then choose the trim option

VI. The audio track will be trimmed on both sides (you will remain with the content you want)

Apply the effects

You can add a wide range of effects besides the ones that are provided by Audacity. Some of the effects that you can add include VST effects as well as the effects that are built-in to your operating system. To apply any of the effects, highlight a section or the entire track and then select the anticipated effect. For instance, you can add the Echo effect. To apply the effect, just fix any parameters needed by the effect, preview and then click OK. You can apply other effects besides the echo and before saving the effect(s), you can preview.

It is important to save the original audio track before you start applying any changes just in case you need to start all over again or if anything goes wrong.

Experiment

Audacity has a wide range of effects and features that you can use to experiment ad try out new things. You can try out numerous things while remaining with the original audio track just in case. After you are done with editing, trimming, mixing and improving your file, you just need to save. Finally, select the File menu, choose the Export option and then select your preferred format e.g. WMA, AIFF, etc.

Inspecting your recording environment

When recording, there are several factors you need to consider to have the best audio quality. The first thing you need to remember is that your microphone will catch the majority of the ambient sound throughout the recording period. Therefore, knowing how to use and position your microphone is very important.

Whenever you plan to record, here are some of the things you need to consider:

· You need to start or plan to record in a quiet place or room because the microphone will collect any unwanted sounds. Some of the sounds that the microphone might collect include machine noises, a phone ringing, people talking, moving cars or operating machines, etc. 

· The positioning of the microphone is vital. You don’t have to position the microphone close to your mouth because it can end up catching unwanted breathing sounds when recording. Also, the positioning of the microphone can determine the degree of brushing. Having the microphone close to the mouth is not recommended.

· While recording you need to keep the microphone at a fixed distance because variable distances affect the recording volume. If you can have a problem keeping a fixed distance when recording, you can use a headset that has a microphone.

· It is advisable to use the same computer when recording because machines are different and they generate different unwanted sounds while recording. Additionally, recording each Podcast in the same location can help you maintain the quality of your recording. 

Audacity can be installed on Windows, Mac OSX, GNU/Linux and other operating systems. Here are some of the features of this recording software:

· Record live audio

· Convert tapes and records into CDs or digital recordings

· Record computer playback on any windows, Windows Vista or any other machine

· Edit MP2, MP3WAV, FLAC, AIFF, or Ogg Vorbis sound files

· Supporting variable formats like AC3, WMA, and M4A/M4R (AAC)

· Cut, splice, copy or mix sounds 

· Numerous effects e.g. changing the playback speed

Download Audacity for free now to start your creative endeavours

Since Audacity is free, you can use it variably, for example, to record audio tracks to keep memories, start a profession or for fun among other uses. However, understanding how the software works and how you can use it optimally is very important. This guide helps you to understand how you can record, playback or edit audio tracks using Audacity. You don’t have to be a professional or possess expertise skills to use Audacity, you just need to read and understand the guide and you are good to go.

Finally, you can only learn by trying and making mistakes especially if you have never used Audacity. Therefore, remember to keep the original track as a backup when editing or trying to apply some of the effects to avoid losing the recorded track entirely.

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