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Audacity is a free audio editor that you can use to touch up interviews, voiceovers, music, and whatever other sound files you have. Want to move beyond simple cut-and-crop jobs? Then listen up! Knowing just a few Audacity tips can make your audio-editing life a whole lot easier.

Not sure if you need Audacity? Here are 10 ways you can put it to use 10 Creative Uses For Audacity That You Probably Haven’t Thought Of 10 Creative Uses For Audacity That You Probably Haven’t Thought Of You've probably heard of Audacity. It's a free cross-platform application for recording and mixing, which also happens to be incredibly powerful and versatile. You can use it to record vocals, instruments and other sounds, mix... Read More , which covers everything from podcasting and making ringtones to practising foreign languages and improving your reading skills.


Manually Record “What You Hear”

Have you ever wanted to record the sound coming from your computer? If so, then you’ve probably tried putting a microphone up to the speakers. In doing so you were probably pretty disappointed by the results. Fortunately, there’s a simpler and better way.

You’ll need the following:

  • 5mm male-to-male stereo audio cable
  • 5mm audio splitter cable (optional)
  • 5mm headphones or earbuds (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Plug the stereo audio cable into the audio output port of your computer. This is where you’d normally plug in your headphones. It’s usually color-coded as green and indicated by a headphones symbol.
  • Plug the other end of the stereo audio cable into the line-in port of your computer. It’s usually color-coded as blue.

Optional: With this setup, you can’t actually hear the audio anymore. To fix that, plug the audio splitter into the audio output port (green) and then plug the stereo audio cable into one of the audio splitter’s ports. Then, plug your headphones into the other port on the audio splitter.

Now you should be able to use Audacity to record the sound that you hear.

Remove Background Noise

We’ve covered this tip a few times but it’s so useful that it bears repeating. If your microphone recordings tend to “buzz” or if they have a lot of “background static”, then this simple procedure will help you get rid of it.

  • Highlight a section of recording where no deliberate sounds were made.
  • Select Effect > Noise Removal in the menu options.
  • Click on Get Noise Profile.
  • Now highlight the entire recording from start to end.
  • Select Effect > Noise Removal in the menu options again.
  • Click OK.


Amplify vs. Normalize

If you have an audio file that’s too soft or too loud or a mixture of the two, this tip might help. In fact, it can prove immensely useful when recording interviews 3 Audacity Tips To Enhance Your Recorded Interviews 3 Audacity Tips To Enhance Your Recorded Interviews Read More . First, you have to decide:

  • Is the entire track too soft or loud? Then Amplify.
  • Are only certain aspects of the track too soft or loud? Then Normalize.

Both of these options can be found under the Effect menu. To use them, you just have to highlight a portion of the track (or the entire track if you want) and apply the effect from the menu.

For more information, check out the Audacity Manual page.

Truncate Silence

Here’s a common problem for people who work with voice recordings: frequent gaps of silence. The immediate solution is to highlight each gap by hand and press the Delete key, which works fine if your recordings are short (less than a minute).

But if you’re doing that for a 2-hour recording, that’s a lot of unnecessary work. Here’s how you can cut all of that work down into one mouse click:

  • Highlight the entire recording.
  • Select Effect > Truncate Silence from the menu.
  • Min Duration, Max Duration, and Silence Threshold are used by Audacity to determine which parts of the recording count as “silence”.
  • Silence Compression determines how much of the silence is removed. Instead of removing all silence, Audacity simply compresses it. Example: using 4:1 compression, a 4-second period of silence would be compressed down to 1 second.
  • Click OK.

For more information, check out the Audacity Manual page.


Generate Sound Effects

If you’re trying to create sound effects but don’t have any samples to work with, let Audacity provide the samples for you. The Generate menu has several options to help you get started. Explaining each option would be worthy of its own article, so check out the Audacity Manual page for more information on how to use each option.

Of course, these sounds probably won’t be useful on their own. Try combining the generated sounds with some of the effects in the Effect menu and you might be surprised by some of the results you can achieve.

Rip Audio From Video

Ripping the audio from a video file is simple and straightforward. The only requirement is that you install FFmpeg for Audacity and LAME for Audacity, both of which you can download here. Scroll down and install the right versions for you (only available for Windows and Mac).

Once it’s installed:

  • Open the video file in Audacity with File > Open.
  • Select File > Export.
  • Choose MP3 as the export file format.
  • Click Save and you’re done.


Start With Good Source Material

This final tip is more of a general one: if you want audio editing to be a breeze, always start with good source audio. Whether you’re using Audacity or a professional solution that costs thousands of dollars, you can only clean up an audio file so much. The same isn’t so true for video, which can be manipulated and passed off as “good enough” – none of the same tricks work on audio.

Rather than working to fix a poorly recorded file, change your setup to produce cleaner recordings. You’ll thank yourself down the road. There’s a lot that can be said about this, but there are some good starter tips in this post about recording home music with Audacity A Beginner's Guide To Producing Home Music Recordings With Audacity A Beginner's Guide To Producing Home Music Recordings With Audacity For many musicians, the cost of paying a professional sound engineer is too high. It's better to learn about music production and recording techniques and use tools on your computer to record your own music. Read More .

How Do You Use Audacity?

Hopefully you find some of these tips helpful. Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Audacity is powerful with a lot of options and I’m sure there are plenty of other tricks that we don’t know about.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Microphone and Headphone Via Shutterstock, Hot Sound Levels Via Shutterstock, Blue Sound Wave Via Shutterstock, Studio Recording Via Shutterstock

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