Very few Operating Systems include software that will allow good audio editing. We will look at an open source application for audio editing called Audacity. Audacity is available from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
The beauty of this audio editor is that it is simple to use – and many of the features are intuitive. It won’t take long to master the basics and there is a very good built-in Help section. Here are some basic steps for getting started with Audacity. First, open Audacity. To record directly to Audacity, ensure that the input is set to Microphone (select from the drop down list).
Click the red Record button to begin your recording – stop with the yellow Stop button – or pause with the blue Pause button. Every time you stop a recording it ends the track. When you hit Record again it starts a new track (Audacity is a multi-track recorder.) If you wish to stop the current track and then continue recording to the same track then click Pause again to continue.
To select a section of audio choose the Selection Tool. Hold down the left mouse button and drag across the portion of the track you wish to select. Now that you have selected a portion of audio you can play it (press Play and only the selected portion will be played) or delete it (press the Delete key on the keyboard).
Use the Zoom In / Zoom Out buttons if you need to magnify /reduce the audio graphic / timeline. When multi-tracking you will need to shift the tracks so that they don’t overlay each other and play at the same time. Do this by using the Time Shift Tool – click the tool and move into the track you wish to shift.
Hold down the left mouse button and drag the track to where you want it to be.
Use rewind to get back to the start and click the play button to hear your recording.
To import another sound file (e.g. wav or mp3) select Project / Import Audio from the menu bar and navigate to the required file. Note that a stereo track will show both left and right channels and that microphone input will show as a mono channel. If you need to adjust the volume of any track you can use the gain control – slide to the right to make louder – to the left to reduce volume. For advanced use you may want to use the Envelope Tool which allows you to adjust the volume of a marked section of audio (rather than the whole track). Look at Envelope Editing in Audacity’s Help file for an explanation of how to use that tool.
When you have finished your recording you should do two things. Firstly save the project (File / Save Project), This will allow you to reopen it later in Audacity and continue to edit / build it. Secondly create the mp3 (File / Export As MP3…). You can now close Audacity. Your mp3 will now play with any media player simply by double-clicking it.
Remember if you plan to use music in your audio file that most music is copyright and you would need permission from the copyright holder. You can use music that is royalty and copyright free. Do NOT use commercially produced music. You may own the CD but that doesn’t allow you to include the music in published material. The best solution is to obtain copyright free music from one of the specialist providers:
Remember that Audacity has a very good built in Help system – you may find that you don’t need to look elsewhere for help, however here is a list of some other tutorial material.:
This is the official Audacity documentation and tutorials: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/
This link will take you to a BBC tutorial entitled ‘60 Second Shakespeare’ which demonstrates multitrack editing in Audacity. Please take the time to have a look at this tutorial.