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.
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:
- Background noise
- Quiet voice
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 to make sure that happens.