3 Audacity Tips to Enhance Your Recorded Interviews
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As a writer, blogger, and podcaster, I’ve conducted many interviews. Producing high-quality, interesting conversations with fascinating people is one thing, but you’ve got to get the audio right.

Whether sharing the interview on a podcast or playing it back to transcribe, clear, audible speech is vital. For this, you’ll need a digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Audacity (other DAWs are available).

While audio enthusiasts will find the edits below simple, for those with little audio editing experience, they’re critical. Use these tricks to enhance voice recordings in Audacity.

Why Use Audacity for Interviews?

I use the Audacity audio recording software to record and edit all my interviews.

My recording setup is nothing unusual. For PC recording, a Bluetooth headset, and a Blue Snowball desktop microphone. If I’m using Skype, then I’ll rely on the Skype call recording feature that is part of the service.

For mobile recording, I tend to double up, using my smartphone as a backup for a Sony portable voice recorder.

Both work well and produce high-quality conversations. However, as with anything, there are flaws in the setup that produce less than optimum conditions.

Use Audacity to enhance your audio tracks

The beauty of Audacity (besides it being free to use) is that you have the capability to “fix” those flaws. Voice recordings are prone to three common problems:

  1. Background noise
  2. Quiet voice
  3. Distortion and call drop-out

Below you’ll learn how to fix these issues and even enhance the Audacity production with some music.

1. How to Enhance Quiet Voices in Audacity

Boosting quiet voices is simple. The volume of the voice is equivalent to “amplitude,” so just use Audacity’s Amplify tool to enhance the voice.

First, highlight the section of the audio track with a quiet voice. Next, select Amplify from the Effect menu option.

In the amplify tool, select an amplification level to increase the voice volume to match the other person speaking. It may take some trial and error the first time. Don’t worry—just undo the change and try a new value until you get it right.

Use the Amplify tool to fix vocal tracks in Audacity

In my case, I found that an increase of 5 dB does 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.

2. 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 cars are passing an open window? PC fans can also cause a problem, as can nearby industry, humming refrigerators, and washing machines.

The problem is, you never realize until you listen to the audio that the sound quality is terrible.

To remove background noise, identify an area in your file that features only the background noise. When you find it, highlight that section of the audio track.

Next, open Effects > Noise Reduction.

Reduce background noise for enhanced audio in Audacity

In the toolbox, click 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. Usually, this is the entire track, so left-click the track header (on the left side of the screen).

Finally, return to Effects > Noise Reduction and this time click OK.

Use noise reduction to enhance Audacity audio

A few moments later, the background noise will be removed or at least reduced.

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; removing too much will make the audio sound over-digitized or artificially quiet.

In most cases, the default option should be enough. Otherwise, the middle to lower-middle setting is usually ideal.

3. Remove Distortion in Audacity

A key problem with recording phone calls on Skype and other voice chat services is distortion. It can occur as stuttered audio, robotic distortion, or even call “drop out”. This is where the person at the other end of the call appears to have gone for a few moments.

The best way to fix these problems is Clip Fix.

Start off by looking for the distortion. Open View > Show Clipping.

This will reveal the problem areas. Simply select these (as a whole, or one at a time) then Effects > Clip Fix. Again, rely on the default option to start with, changing only if the initial attempt doesn’t fix the distortion enough.

Enhance audio in Audacity by fixing distortion with Clip Fix

Use the Preview option to get an idea of how it sounds, then OK to fix the distortion. You may need to undo (Ctrl + Z) and re-do the fix with a slightly higher amplitude to increase the volume.

Integrating a Musical or Voice Introduction

Many great podcasts feature a great musical introduction. Believe it or not, it isn’t difficult to add one yourself in Audacity with just a few simple steps.

The first step, obviously, is finding the music that you would like to use and avoid infringing on any licenses. If you’re not composing your own tune, try one of the best royalty-free music sites 3 Places to Find Excellent Royalty-Free Music 3 Places to Find Excellent Royalty-Free Music Just because all of this music is freely available doesn't mean it's terrible! Either way, you can use them for free in your projects. Read More to find something suitable.

Next, import the music into Audacity (right-click the downloaded file and choose Audacity) so it is ready to use. The file will appear in a new Audacity window.

In the main audio file, click Tracks > Add New > Stereo and create a new track. This is where you’ll drop the music.

Switch to the Audacity window with the music track. Select the music (or a portion of it) then click Copy. Then place the cursor at the start of your primary audio file and select Paste. The copied music clip will be inserted into your track.

If there is an overlay, use the Time Shift tool (a double-headed arrow icon) to arrange the audio files as needed. At the point you want to taper off the intro music, left click and select Effect > Fade Out.

Use the fade out tool to enhance your Audacity audio productions

You’ll see the amplitude of the music clip taper off as it approaches the end of the clip. If done right, this will create a nice fade into the interview itself.

Enhance Your Audacity Audio Project Today

With these simple tips, you can equalize voice volume, remove background noise, and fix distortion.

You can even embed 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. The results are great—in fact, you’ve created a podcast.

But what do you do next? Make sure people hear it! Here’s how to promote your podcast How to Promote Your Podcast and Win New Listeners How to Promote Your Podcast and Win New Listeners Newsflash: your podcast has not hit its peak. The audience is out there, waiting to hear your latest show. They just don't know it yet. Read More to make sure that happens.

Explore more about: Audacity, Audio Converter, Audio Editor, Podcasts, Record Audio.

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  1. Liz
    April 28, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    These are great tips and such an easy-to-read article. Thanks!

  2. Pauline
    November 13, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I conducted an Interview in a car while we were driving. Some of the words are inaudible because of the sound of the engine. Is there a way I can isolate the voice or get rid of the sounds of the car? Any ideas? thanks! Pauline

  3. Angie
    June 9, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you so much for this!!! So glad it's still relevant. Saved my life today!

  4. The Night Owl
    May 31, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Here's another tip for using Audacity with a podcast or similar program. I have a radio show and use this trick for all my top-of-hour station IDs Using Audacity's "auto duck" effect you can talk over the music and the level of the music will decrease for as long as you talk. For example, you can have, say, 30 seconds of theme song with something like "this is the so-and-so program, with your host..."

    Just put the music track in and insert the speaking part in the track below it. Slide the speaking track to where you want it and select the music track. Then go to "effects-auto duck" and hit it. The music will go way down a split second before the speech and but it back up a split second after the last word.
    I do manual ducking at the broadcast console but for short prerecorded bits auto duck does the trick.

  5. Jenny Barron
    January 14, 2016 at 2:04 am

    5 and a half years ago, yet applicable as heck today. I am trying to isolate my voice from my terrible apartment acoustics, so I can start recording training lessons and audiobooks. I had a grasp on the noise reduction, but it wasn't enough. Adding in Amplify helps a good bit! Now, I think, I just need to build some noise reduction screens to surround my little space with, behind and in front, to make it sound more closed, and closer. Thank you!

  6. mack
    November 11, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Is there anyway to amplify an entire file by a certain criteria. By this i mean can i select the entire file and then make it amplify only parts that are below a certain db. For example I click the file and then set it to amplify all parts of the track that are below 0.05 db

  7. Bill
    May 7, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you! From an audacity newbie. However, one question ... What's a "Olympic earpiece "?

  8. nastasi
    May 4, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Hey! I have a voice recording – a phone conversation and 1 of the speaker’s voice is very unclear. I have to transcribe it but I can hardly get a half of what he says. I tried removing noise but it didn’t work. I suppose it works only for the background noise

  9. Anonymous
    May 17, 2010 at 9:44 am

    thanks for info, useful for me

  10. David Peterson
    May 16, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    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.

  11. Jim
    May 16, 2010 at 12:47 am

    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.

  12. Jim
    May 15, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    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.

  13. Scott Fox, Author e-Riches 2.0
    May 14, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    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.

  14. Scott Fox, Author e-Riches 2.0
    May 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    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.

  15. Oron Joffe
    May 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    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.

  16. Oron Joffe
    May 14, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    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.

  17. Greg
    May 7, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Here's a link to an article on how to avoid "yes - no" answers when conducting an interview.

    http://makebettermedia.blogspo...

  18. Greg
    May 7, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    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

  19. Dammit
    May 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    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.

  20. Ryan Dube
    May 7, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    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
      May 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      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.

  21. Dammit
    May 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    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.

  22. Art Lader
    May 7, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Does this help?

    http://vistadesktopthemes.com/...

  23. Dammit
    May 7, 2010 at 12:00 am

    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?

  24. Dammit
    May 6, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    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?

  25. LaVonne Ellis
    May 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Great tips, thanks!