Audacity, the popular open source audio editor, is great for editing podcasts, recording home demos, perhaps recording study notes. You can use it to record other audio on your computer, and tweak voice-overs for video projects, such as YouTube reaction videos.
But there’s a strong chance you’re not using Audacity to its full capability. The feature-strong application has a great selection of audio effects that can be used to add an extra dimension of polish to your audio projects. We’ve already produced a guide to show you how to make the most of Audacity, and this feature goes further.
These 5 tips (plus a bonus!) show you how to take your Audacity audio projects to the next level. Forget thoughts of “upgrading” to Adobe Audition — try these tricks and stick with Audacity!
Get a Telephone-Style Sound Effect
We’ll start with some easy ones. Ever needed to treat some audio to make it sound as though it is coming out of a telephone? Perhaps you want to make a voice appear to be calling from overseas, for example?
To do this, select the audio to, then open Effects > Equalization. From here, go to the Select Curve drop-down box, and choose, unsurprisingly, Telephone. Wait as the effect is applied, then listen back.
This video illustrates the procedure perfectly. Note that other effects are available from this drop-down menu, most notably one that applies a “Walkie-talkie” sound to your audio project.
Have a Radio Playing in the Background
Producing an audio drama or short scene? Need some “background radio” to paint a picture of a location (perhaps a kitchen, or a car) with a radio playing?
For this effect to be applied, again select your audio track/section of audio and then select Effect > High Pass Filter. From here, set the Rolloff drop-down menu to 12 dB, then click OK. Wait while the effect is applied, then Effect > Amplify and click OK for the default option.
Next, go to Effect > Low Pass Filter and select 6 dB for Rolloff. We then need to go back to Effect > High Pass Filter and choose 6 dB again for Rolloff, then repeat Effect > Amplify, again with the default option. Finally, return to Effect > Low Pass Filter and select 12 dB.
Throughout, check the audio as you go — it might be that you like the effect as it is, or you might like to add a final Effect > Amplify. You can also add some white noise to the radio by adding a new track (Tracks > Add New > Audio track) and then selecting Generate > Noise… and select White.
The resulting white noise track should then be treated in the same way as your first track, with the amplification and changes to the filters. Check the video above for help.
Demonic Voices… MWAHAHAHA!
Need to present some sort of evil, devilish tones into your production? Perhaps you’re doing some voices for a videogame mod project, or a radio play (like the ones you can buy on Audible)… either way, you can use Audacity to bring a hellish quality to proceedings.
It’s remarkably simple, too. Start off with three identical tracks (duplicate the first by selecting and hitting Ctrl+D) then rename them if it helps. Next, adjust the gain on the second and third tracks, then change the pitch. Do this by selecting the track, opening Effects > Change Pitch and setting the pitch for track 2 to -5, and the pitch for track 3 to -25.
Follow this with a further effect, selecting track 2 and opening Effects > Echo and changing the Delay time to 0.1, then hitting OK. You should then select track 2 again and open Effects > Gverb, leave the settings as they are, and click OK.
With track 3 then selected, open Effects > Bass Boost and set Frequency to 200 and Boost to 16, and click OK. Again, use the video to help.
Sound Like a Robot
More voices… those of robots! You can treat your voice to make it sound like a robot using Audacity, amazingly, and like the demonic voice effect, this can be done in just a couple of minutes.
Begin with a phrase you wish to robotize, and as before, duplicate it with Ctrl+D. Select the second track, open Effects > Echo and set the Delay time to 0.04, and Decay factor to 0.6, clicking OK to confirm the change. Next, with track 2 selected again, go to Effects > Change Pitch and set the Percent Change value to –10.
Go back to the original track, and press Ctrl+D to duplicate it again. Select track 3 and open Effects > Change Tempo, and set Percent Change to -3. Click OK to confirm this. You should now be done, but you may find that you prefer to tweak all three tracks to suit your robotic voice.
Note that robots don’t talk like people. Whether you’re trying to replicate Microsoft Sam or JARVIS from the Avengers movies, you’ll need to modify your delivery to suit the job.
Want Daleks Voice Sound Effects in Audacity?
As a bonus, here’s a video that describes how to use Audacity with a plugin called Killeringer in order to create a Dalek voice effect, from BBC America’s Doctor Who.
This essentially emulates the analogue ring modulator effect developed in the 1960s, the details of which are known only to a select few, including Doctor Who’s Dalek voice artist, Nicholas Briggs. Incidentally, if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you can use the Raspberry Pi to help with DIY projects.
Laser Blaster Sound FX With Audacity
We’re going to finish with this sound effect, which is simple to start, but can get complicated later on if you want to keep tweaking things.
This effect starts off with an empty track populated by the Chirp effect, which you find in Generate > Chirp. Set the Waveform to Sawtooth, with the Frequency Start value at 1200 and the End value at 50; set the Amplitude to 0.7 in both fields.
Set Linear in the Interpolation drop-down menu, and set a duration of 00.200 seconds, then click OK. The resulting sound effect will resemble a 1980s style laser blaster noise, and from this stage you should take a look at the video to find the various ways in which you can develop this, from adding echoes to using plugins.
It’s probably fair to say that most people don’t take advantage of Audacity’s wide selection of features and effects. We reckon that giving you these top sound effect tutorials should help you to find out more about this superb, free sound editing tool.
Do you use Audacity? Have a favorite sound effect or tool? Astonished that these tricks are possible? Tell us about it in the comments!