Creative

7 Audacity Tips for Better Audio Editing on a Budget

Dan Helyer Updated 29-06-2020

Audacity is a great tool for editing audio, whether you record directly into Audacity or download samples from elsewhere. You can use Audacity to record interviews, edit podcasts, and even produce music.

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Knowing a few editing tips can make Audacity a lot easier to use for simple tasks like touching up your recordings or trimming out silence. So, here, we show you the best Audacity tips to use when you’re editing audio.

1. How to Cut Audio in Audacity

Audacity window showing section cut out of audio track

One of the first edits you usually need to make to an audio file is cutting out the sections you don’t want to keep. This could include the silence at the beginning or end of a recording, or a section you don’t like in the middle.

All you need to do to get started is click and drag across a selection of audio in Audacity. If you can’t select any audio, press F1 to make sure you’re using the Selection Tool.

Then press the Ctrl + X (or Cmd + X on a Mac) to cut it. Alternatively, press the Delete key to delete the selected audio.

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After you cut audio, Audacity automatically closes the gap you created to eliminate any silence. It does this by moving the next audio file to play immediately after the edit point. To cut audio while keeping the silence it creates, press Ctrl + Alt + X instead (or Cmd + Option + X on a Mac).

2. How to Move Audio in Audacity

Audio moved across two tracks in Audacity

Audacity offers lots of different ways to move audio files around, although none of them are as intuitive as what you find in other free music production software The Best Free Music Production Software for Beginners If you're just starting out making your own music, here's the best free music production software money can't buy. Read More .

The simplest way to move audio files in Audacity is using the Time Shift Tool. Press F5 to switch to this tool, then click and drag on an audio file to move it left or right. You can’t make one audio clip overlap another using this tool; you can only move it up to the edge of each file.

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To make two audio files overlap each other, go to Tracks > Add New and move them onto separate tracks.

Alternatively, follow the instructions in our first Audacity editing tip to cut out some audio. Then use the Selection Tool to select a new position in the timeline and press Ctrl + V (or Cmd + V on a Mac) to paste that audio in the new position.

To move an entire audio clip, double-click it with the Selection Tool, then cut and paste it in a new location.

3. How to Remove Silence in Audacity

Truncate Silence window from Audacity

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When you’re editing voice recordings, there are likely to be lots of sections of silence that you need to remove. Rather than using the steps above to manually cut silence from your audio recordings, Audacity offers a tool to automate the process instead.

We don’t recommend this tool for musical tracks though, because it changes the timing of the performance. Although it is particularly handy if you’re using Audacity to record interviews 3 Audacity Tips to Enhance Your Recorded Interviews Clear audio is vital for any podcast or recording you want to publish. Boost your audio quality with Audacity in three easy steps. Read More .

Use the Selection tool to click and drag over the section of audio that contains all of the pieces of silence you want to remove. Double-click on a clip to select the entire audio file.

Then go to Effect > Truncate Silence from the menu bar. Tweak the settings in the popup window to make sure Audacity only removes silence from your audio.

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The Threshold determines the quietest piece of audio Audacity will keep. The Duration sets the length of time Audacity will wait before removing silence. Use the lower half of the window to choose how much silence remains after Audacity removes it: either a set period of time or a percentage of its original length.

4. How to Remove Background Noise in Audacity

Noise Reduction window in Audacity

If you recorded in a loud environment, you might hear a lot of background noise in your audio files. Fortunately, Audacity includes an editing tool you can use to make your recorded audio sound better by filtering out background noise.

This tool works best for consistent sources of sound, like air conditioning or white noise. It’s less effective at removing irregular sounds, like traffic or conversation.

To get started, find a section of audio that only contains the background noise. Then use the Selection Tool to highlight this section and go to Effect > Noise Reduction. In the popup window that appears, click Get Noise Profile.

Now that Audacity knows what the noise sounds like you can try to filter it out. To do so, select the rest of your audio track and go to Effect > Noise Reduction again. This time, use the lower section of the window to choose how much reduction you want to apply.

Be careful not to use too much Noise Reduction, since it can deteriorate the quality of your audio.

5. How to Amplify Audio in Audacity

Envelope tool in Audacity

Although it’s always best to record audio as loudly as possible—without distorting it—there are still times when you might find yourself working with a quiet audio file. Audacity makes it quick and easy to change the volume of your files.

Select an audio file and go to Effect > Normalize to amplify it as much as possible without causing distortion.

Alternatively, press F5 to select the Envelope Tool, then click and drag vertically on an audio file to dynamically adjust its amplitude. You can also click at different points in a file to create new nodes, then drag those nodes to gradually change the volume of an audio file over time.

It’s best to use this tool conservatively. If you need to make a lot of changes to make your audio a consistent volume, use the Compress effect instead. This automatically raises the volume of the quietest parts of an audio file without letting the rest get too loud.

6. How to Rip Audio From Video in Audacity

FFmpeg Library download button from Audacity preferences

Ripping the audio from a video file is quick and easy in Audacity. The only requirement is that you install the FFmpeg library, which allows Audacity to work with common video files. You can find a link to install this library from the Audacity preferences.

In Windows, go to File > Preferences from the menu bar (on a Mac, go to Audacity > Preferences). In the Preferences window, select Libraries, then click Download next to where it says FFmpeg Library.

This opens a page on the Audacity Manual website with instructions to install the FFmpeg Library for Windows and Mac. Follow the necessary links to install the plugin.

After installing the FFmpeg Library, go to File > Open in Audacity and select a video file to import the audio from. Your ripped audio should appear in its own channel in Audacity.

7. How to Mix and Master Audio in Audacity

Volume and Pan faders for mixing in Audacity

After you finish editing in Audacity, you should mix all of the tracks together to create a good balance between them. To mix in Audacity, use the two sliders at the left of each track to adjust the Volume and Pan.

Generally speaking, keep bass-heavy and lead instruments panned to the center, then adjust the volume sliders so you can hear each track clearly.

When mixing, you also want to add effects to your tracks to make them sound better together. To do so, select an audio region, then open the Effect menu and choose an effect to apply. The best effects to use when mixing in Audacity include:

  • Graphic EQ: alter the tone by adjusting the bass, treble, and mid-range frequencies
  • Compressor: reduce the dynamic range to make the quietest sections more audible
  • Reverb: create a sense of space by adding a “room” sound

Audacity doesn’t provide an output channel, so if you want to master your project you need to export the mix first. After exporting, import your mixed audio file into a new Audacity project, then apply effects to the audio file as a whole.

When mastering, your aim is to make subtle adjustments to the entire mix. If you need to change a single track, return to the mix stage and export it again. As a final mastering step, use Audacity’s Limiter effect to make your project louder without distorting it.

Creative Uses for Audacity

With these Audacity editing tips, you should be well on your way to creating professional sounding music or recordings with Audacity. It might not look like much, but Audacity is a powerful piece of software you can use for a range of different projects.

Take a look at our list of creative uses for Audacity 12 Creative Uses for Audacity: Podcasts, Voiceovers, Ringtones, and More Audacity isn't just useful for podcasts and music production. Here are some creative ways to use Audacity and how to get started. Read More to get inspiration on how to use your new skills. There are plenty of project ideas to get you started with Audacity, including music production, podcasts, and even audiobooks.

Related topics: Audacity, Audio Editor, Music Production, Podcasts, Record Audio.

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  1. Mike
    September 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    HAHA, everything is wrong with that stock photo of a woman holding the microphone. First, she is holding a microphone that is on a shock-mount, producing unbelievable noises on the final audio, second she is talking on a cardioid microphone by the top, instead of using the correct frontal side... this photo gives me nightmares! :D

  2. AnonGuy
    March 9, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I used it a couple of times to cut program music.

    I ditched it for Sound Forge Audio Studio on Windows, and I think I'd rather pay 1-300 on my iMac for a decent commercial product than deal with Audacity's user interface and poorer documentation.

    I really wish they'd dedicate one release cycle mainly to polishing up the UI and making the app actually look native (or at least closer to native... or at least attractive) on the platforms it runs on. Also, some of the menus are beyond bloated. When you have to scroll a menu because it's twice the screen size on the average Notebook PC, something is seriously kind of wrong there...

    I continue to use Sound Forge Audio Studio 10 on Windows, but I am looking for a solution on Mac as the version of SF in the App Store is over 3x what I paid for the Windows Version (but I want the Event-based editing and easy cross fading! lol).

    I just cannot deal with Audacity's user interface. I cannot.

    • Joel
      March 12, 2015 at 4:07 am

      Unfortunately, you're right. Audacity is awesome with regard to the features you get for its nonexistent price tag, but the interface could use a LOT of work. It doesn't feel good to work in. It doesn't get me excited. At worst, it can impede productivity.

      Maybe there's a big interface revamp planned for the future? Let's hope so!

  3. Peter Sampson
    November 5, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Sorry but you are totally wrong about Amplify versus Normalize - they both perform amplification to the selected audio. The key difference is that Normalize also incorporates DC Offset removal (but note with a lot of modern computers there is onboard hardware/software to correct for that at source). If you want a more even loudness the you need a Compressor (not Normalize). Audacity has an in-built compressor but even better is a plugin you can use with Audacity Chris' Dynamic Compressor. See this page in the Audacity Manual on Amplify & Normalize: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/amplify_and_normalize.html and this page for Chris's: http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/chris_s_dynamic_compressor.html

  4. Dave
    October 28, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I use Audacity a lot. Still running an older, simpler version. Go easy on the noise removal tool though. It can make recordings sound "phasey" if overdone. I use it for noisy vinyl, using the technique mentioned by sampling a "blank" part of the disc and set the reduction at a very low level, which is normally enough to clean things up without wrecking the sound. The other tool I use extensively is the pencil tool for manually eliminating large clicks and pops that can't be handled by the built-in de-clicker. Expand the waveform at the point where the offending click is located until the sample points are visible and literally re-draw the waveform. A bit laborious if there are a lot of glitches but worth the effort. Copy-and-paste is always worth a try also for really vicious glitches. Again, expand the waveform and copy an equivalent section in time just before or after the offending item and paste it over the glitch. If it's small enough, the alteration won't be heard. Audacity is a great program for free. There are numerous plug-ins also available for the more serious worker.

  5. Saturday
    October 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    "Manually recording" what you hear from your computer is a terribly desperate strategy. Having digital audio converted to analogue , transferred through some cheap (split) cable, then reconverted to digital is probably the farthest thing from ideal. At best you're going to get inaccurate sound, at worst you're going to get heavy feedback. A better solution is to purchase Virtual Audio Cable, or use "stereo mix" if your sound card supports it. You can also use Open Broadcaster Software (or most any screencast software) to record, then rip the audio from the resulting video file. Virtual audio cable is ideal because it will let you record the same bitrate of audio that your computer is playing, while OBS forces you to lossy encode one extra time. Still a better option than converting to analogue and back, imo.

  6. suzybel
    October 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Years ago, I transferred cassettes to cd's using a software program. I really didn't know much about what I was doing and they all ended up as one track per cd with a lot of hiss at the beginning and in the silent spots. I later replaced many of the cds with purchased ones, but a lot of music I couldn't find. I used Audacity to remove the noise, clean up the tracks and separate into individual tracks , worked great. I also use Audacity to remove the vocals from tracks to make Karaoke tracks and to change the tempo faster or slower. a great free program.

  7. John
    October 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    You need to be careful with the "remove background noise" function. I tried it on some records, and it made them sound like they were recorded in deep caves with the squeaky artifacts you get from severe processing. I tried the same function in the commercial program Adobe Audition (Cool Edit Pro) and I got a much cleaner, more natural sound.

    You should always test and tweak, but I was surprised how "destructive" the sound removal preset in Audacity was as opposed to that in Audition.

  8. AussieintheUSA
    October 28, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I found an old WAV of a demo song I did years ago. Listening to it, I wished I'd done a key change towards the end to give it some life. Chucked it into Audacity, found the point where I wanted to go up a tone and hit "Change Pitch". Sounded fantastic!

    • Joel Lee
      October 28, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      It really IS that easy. :)

  9. RWD
    October 27, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    May also need to go into Windows Control Panel, Sound, right click an open area and check "Show disabled devices". Then the sound card can be set as the default recording device.

  10. Henk van Setten
    October 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Update to my previous post:

    I forgot to add that to get the Audacity settings right for direct loopback recording, under Edit -> Preferences -> Devices, you may also need to check the Host dropdown: make sure it's set to "Windows WASAPI" (on a Windows PC, that is).

    But that's really all there is to it.

  11. Henk van Setten
    October 27, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Yes, Dave is right about recording. Joel Lee hasn't done his homework here. Even with the latest Audacity version, such a messy cable setup isn't necessary at all. You can use Audacity for recording directly, just by choosing the correct software settings.

    In Audacity, under Edit -> Preferences -> Devices, in the Playback device dropdown make sure you select the audio device you normally use, and in the Recording device dropdown make sure you select the same device (with "loopback").

    That's all. Next, just Press Audacity's red Record button, then in your PC's music source (browser page, media player software, whatever) start the music and it will be recorded. While it's being recorded, you will hear it being played as usual.

    With this simple setup, there's just one important thing to keep in mind. The volume level of this kind of direct recording cannot be set from within Audacity itself. Due to the direct data loopback, the recording sound level will depend from the sound level of the music source (such as your media player).

    All this is explained extensively in the online Audacity tutorial at manual.audacityteam.org under "Choosing the recording device in Audacity".

    I just tested this setup in Win 8.1 x64 with Audacity 2.06, using Audacity to directly record a song played by my media player. It works fine. So there's really no need for that hassle with cables.

    • Joel Lee
      October 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you, Hank. There are some sound card setups where "Record What You Hear" is not possible OR the quality is too poor. Your way doesn't require any extra hassle and should be the preferred method, but in cases like mine, the cable technique is a viable workaround. :)

  12. Dave
    October 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    with older versions of Audacity you used to be able to set the input to "record what you hear" without the need for the setup described above to capture what was playing on your computer. I'm not sure if newer version allow this configuration.

  13. peter
    October 27, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I love using Audacity when I make music clips for quiz nights.

    Being able to fade in and fade out songs to make a shortened playlist of, say TV themes or pop hits, is really easy and being able to burn them to a cd is really easy.

    I have also made (fake) interviews using sound clips from samples sent by my friend via email and cut and pasting them together to make seamless sounding clips.

    It really is a great tool considering it's free.

    I'm sure I will be able to make use of these tips.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Joel Lee
      October 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      It's a wonderful tool, definitely. Free and powerful. I hope the tips prove useful to you! :)