3 Audacity Tips To Enhance Your Recorded Interviews

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mixer   3 Audacity Tips To Enhance Your Recorded InterviewsAs a blogger and a researcher, I have to conduct a lot of interviews. Some months I’ve conducted two or three interviews a week, and many of those are recorded interviews, because many people don’t have time to answer questions via email. One of the nice things about recorded interviews is that they work well as an audio podcast either available for download from your own blog, or distributed as a podcast at any podcast directory.

Regardless what you intend to do with the interview, one thing that’s for certain is that you want to develop a reputation as a professional interviewer that produces high-quality, interesting conversations with fascinating people.


Only part of the recipe for this is developing interesting and thoughtful questions for your interviewee to answer, but the other significant part of the equation is how well you’ve edited the audio interview into a high-quality, professional show. Many avid audio enthusiasts may find some of the edits below somewhat simple, but for the blogger or podcaster with little audio editing experience, these tips are critical to know.

3 Tips To Enhance Your Interview Audio With Audacity

I use the Audacity audio recording software to record and edit all of my interviews. My recording setup is about as simple as it gets – an Olympic earpiece that doubles as both a microphone and an earphone, so that I can hear the person on the phone while the microphone feeds the conversation into the laptop and Audacity. This works well, and produces high quality conversations, but like anything, there are flaws in the setup that produce less than optimum conditions.

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The beauty of Audacity is that you have the capability to “fix” those flaws. The three most common problems that I’m going to touch on in this post are removing background noise, amplifying voices, and integrating quality introduction with music.

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Before we start doctoring the audio file with the Audacity audio recording software, let me first introduce the patient. Above is a snippet of an hour-long audio interview that I conducted last month. The two most common flaws are background noise, shown in the center of this clip, and low voice volume (my voice) as shown on the right. You can see that the amplitude when I was talking is about half of that of the voice on the phone – which is to be expected when recording with such an earpiece.

How To Fix Quiet Voices

The first tweak for the common interview issue of quiet voices is also the easiest. The volume of the voice is equivalent to “amplitude,” so all you have to do is use Audacity’s Amplify tool to increase the quiet voice just a little bit.

To perform this task, just highlight the section of audio track with the quiet voice, and then select “Amplify” from the Effect menu option.

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In the amplify tool, you’ll need to select an amplification that is just enough to increase the voice volume to a level that’s equivalent to the other person speaking. It may take some trial and error the first time, so just undo the change and try a new value until you get it right.

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In my case, I found that an increase of 5 dB did the trick. Once you know the right value, the only tedious part of this fix is that you’ll need to find every place in the track where the quiet voice shows up, and do the highlight/amplify routine to fix it.

How To Remove Background Noise With Audacity

The second most common flaw in an interview audio file is background noise. Maybe you left a fan on in the other room, or there are cars going by just outside the open window, and you realize once you listen to the audio that the sound is terribly annoying and distracting.

The first step in this technique is to identify an area in your file that features nothing but the background noise alone. When you find such an area, highlight that section of the audio track, and then go into the “Noise Removal” tool in the Effects menu option.

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Once you’re there, click on “Get Noise Profile“. Doing this captures a snapshot of the background noise itself. The software uses this to “erase” that sound profile from a section (or all) of the audio file. The next step is just to highlight the area where you want to remove the noise (most of the time you’ll just select the entire track), and then go back into this window and select “Remove Noise“.

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As you can see, Audacity does an amazing job at cleaning up the noise. There is one caveat, and it is this – carefully gauge the amount of noise that you want to remove. Removing too little won’t do much good, and removing too much will make the audio sound over-digitized or artificially quiet. One thing I noticed is that the middle to lower middle setting is usually ideal.

Integrating A Musical Or Voice Introduction

Have you ever heard those cool podcasts with a great musical introduction? Well, believe it or not, you can do the same exact thing in Audacity in just a few simple steps. The first step, obviously, is importing the music file that you would like to use (make sure you don’t infringe on any licensing issues).

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The next step is just highlight the block of music you’d like to use as your introduction (select the correct number of seconds) and then do a simple Copy. Then place the cursor at the start of your audio file, and select Paste. The copied music clip will get inserted into your track, pushing the entire interview to the right.

While this is cool, it’ll sound weird because at the end of the clip, your music will just end abruptly. Instead, you want to taper off the music as you enter into the interview itself. You can do this by highlighting the very last part of your music clip and selecting Effect -> Fade Out from the Menu.

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You’ll see the amplitude of the music clip taper off as it approaches the end of the clip, and in effect producing a very nice fade into the interview itself.

By using these three simple tips, you’ve just equalized voice volume, removed background noise, and embedded a professional music introduction into your audio interview. With just these few simple changes, you’ll transform amateur sounding interviews into well produced, professional sounding conversations.

Do you perform audio interviews? Do you have any editing tips or tricks of your own? Share your own insights in the comments section below.

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19 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

LaVonne Ellis

Great tips, thanks!

Reply

Dammit

It seems that Windows 7 has disabled the Record What You Hear option many sound cards, my SB Audigy drives falling victim to this (cough) “new feature.” Audacity, on my computer, is affected by this Windows Update. I tried installing earlier drivers for the card to reclaim the ability to record system sound, but the computer crashed completely and had to be set to an earlier restore point to bring it back to life.

So…has anyone discovered a work-around for this problem?

Reply

Dammit

It seems that Windows 7 has disabled the Record What You Hear option many sound cards, my SB Audigy drives falling victim to this (cough) “new feature.” Audacity, on my computer, is affected by this Windows Update. I tried installing earlier drivers for the card to reclaim the ability to record system sound, but the computer crashed completely and had to be set to an earlier restore point to bring it back to life.

So…has anyone discovered a work-around for this problem?

Reply

Art Lader

Does this help?

http://vistadesktopthemes.com/

Reply

Dammit

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. The entire sound mixer is completely gone from Windows 7 for my SB Audigy card, so there are no disabled devices to reveal. Virtual Cable doesn’t seem to work for me either, but that could be my own ineptitude. Downloading old drivers to do a roll-back crashed my computer. Others around the net are experiencing the same problem.

There are various solutions out there, from buying a USB sound card, a new sound card, to line out and in cables, etc. Apparently, the prevention of recording system audio is deliberate to stop DRM violations (yes, I am wearing a tinfoil hat plus collander). My need for recording system audio is simply for recording video tutorials for people, so I find it unfortunate that my ability to do so has been hampered by this update.

Note that some screen recording programs do offer recording system audio and they do work – but the sound quality is not as good as it was with Audacity and the convenience is gone.

Oh well.

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Ryan Dube

Do you know if this is definitely a symptom of Windows 7/Audacity or specific sound cards only? If it’s related to Windows 7 – that’s terrible…and I may reconsider my upcoming upgrade to Windows 7 if that’s the case. I really need the ability to record-what-you-hear with Audacity.

Dammit

I *suspect* that this is part and parcel of Windows 7. I know that it has affected my Audigy card and, subsequently, Audacity. I have been reading various forums for a few days now, and it seems that some cards are affected and others are not affected.

I guess I wish that I would have thought to check my sound card first and its compatibility with Windows 7 first, specifically for the Record What You Hear option in Audacity. But, as the song goes…don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Reply

Dammit

I *suspect* that this is part and parcel of Windows 7. I know that it has affected my Audigy card and, subsequently, Audacity. I have been reading various forums for a few days now, and it seems that some cards are affected and others are not affected.

I guess I wish that I would have thought to check my sound card first and its compatibility with Windows 7 first, specifically for the Record What You Hear option in Audacity. But, as the song goes…don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Reply

Greg

Here’s a link to an article on how to avoid “yes – no” answers when conducting an interview.

http://makebettermedia.blogspot.com/2010/05/great-interview-advice.html

Reply

Greg

Here’s a link to an article on how to avoid “yes – no” answers when conducting an interview.

http://makebettermedia.blogspo

Reply

Oron Joffe

Nice article! Instead of “Amplify”, you can use the “Normalise” filter, which will automatically amplify the selected audio to the highest level it can without distorting it. Just remember to check there are no clicks or other abnormally loud sounds which will defeat this filter.

My top tip: unless you have a really good sound card, use a USB microphone. The fact that the digitisation is done in a DC environment (i.e. electrically “quiet”), will make for an amazing improvement in quality, even if the microphone is a modest one.

Reply

Oron Joffe

Nice article! Instead of “Amplify”, you can use the “Normalise” filter, which will automatically amplify the selected audio to the highest level it can without distorting it. Just remember to check there are no clicks or other abnormally loud sounds which will defeat this filter.

My top tip: unless you have a really good sound card, use a USB microphone. The fact that the digitisation is done in a DC environment (i.e. electrically “quiet”), will make for an amazing improvement in quality, even if the microphone is a modest one.

Reply

Scott Fox, Author e-Riches 2.0

I recommend using the Levelator software, too. This great free software will help normalize the voices in your entire recording to similar levels with just a few clicks.

Check out http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator

Levelator was suggested to me by a listener of my Click Millionaires Success Show podcasts (http://www.ClickMillionairesRadio.com) who had trouble hearing my voice during my interviews. (He was listening to the MP3s on the Tokyo subway, so that probably didn’t help!)

But he was right that it has improved the audio quality a lot very easily.

Reply

Scott Fox, Author e-Riches 2.0

I recommend using the Levelator software, too. This great free software will help normalize the voices in your entire recording to similar levels with just a few clicks.

Check out http://www.conversationsnetwor

Levelator was suggested to me by a listener of my Click Millionaires Success Show podcasts (http://www.ClickMillionairesRa…) who had trouble hearing my voice during my interviews. (He was listening to the MP3s on the Tokyo subway, so that probably didn’t help!)

But he was right that it has improved the audio quality a lot very easily.

Reply

Jim

You can also use the amplify function to obtain a consistent volume level without resorting to trial and error. Highlight a section of the interview with the low volume level and write down the number shown in the amplification (db) window (it is the number 5 in the third screenshot above). Then highlight an interview selection with the higher volume and write down the amplification (db) number again. Subtract one number from the other. The difference is how much amplification is needed to make the two selections have equal volume.

You have to be careful using the normalize function because it increases low volume levels and decreases high volume levels, reducing volume dynamics and making a recording sound flat. Amplify does not reduce the dynamics of a recording.

Reply

Jim

You can also use the amplify function to obtain a consistent volume level without resorting to trial and error. Highlight a section of the interview with the low volume level and write down the number shown in the amplification (db) window (it is the number 5 in the third screenshot above). Then highlight an interview selection with the higher volume and write down the amplification (db) number again. Subtract one number from the other. The difference is how much amplification is needed to make the two selections have equal volume.

You have to be careful using the normalize function because it increases low volume levels and decreases high volume levels, reducing volume dynamics and making a recording sound flat. Amplify does not reduce the dynamics of a recording.

Reply

David Peterson

Audacity allows you to have mutliple tracks. So rather than adding adding music into the beginning of the interview track it is better to add it as an additional track. You can then then ‘move’ the interview along (in its own track) to where the music fades out. This gives you a lot more flexibility and the ability to overlay the beginning of the interview over the top of the fading our music. Also makes it much simpler to experiment and to undo something that does not work very well. If you have theme music that you use for lots of podcasts then you can set this up as a template and just add your interview into it and do whatever other editing is required.

Reply

Anonymous

thanks for info, useful for me

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