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Basic Podcast Recording and Editing in Audacity

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Basic Podcast Recording and Editing in Audacity

In this quick session, let’s look at basic audio recording into Audacity using our Scarlett 2i2 USB audio interface. 

Advanced audio editing will be covered in future specializations, so stay tuned!

 

Recording and Editing

Hi, this is Corey from Podfly Academy. Hopefully, by now we feel comfortable enough with our physical equipment to start looking into the digital realm of audio recording. Today we're going to be focusing on a DAW, which stands for Digital Audio Workstation, called Audacity. There are a wide variety of these available on the market, but we're going to look at Audacity because it's simple, it's free, and it's compatible with all computer operating systems.

 

Recording Into Your Computer

We've taken a quick look at the physical setup required to get the audio from the microphone into your computer. The next step is now looking at how we're going to actually record that audio in the machine. Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, they both come with audio recording programs built-in.

However, for podcasting we usually want something a little bit more sophisticated, as we're going to need to edit that audio. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular programs for podcasters when they get started, because it's free. This is called Audacity.

 

Audacity

The program Audacity has been around for many years. It's a free program because it's something called open-source. That means anyone can develop, improve, and work on this program. Downloading it is as simple as going to audacity.sourceforge.net and get the Mac or Windows version.

 

Recording Audio

Now that I’ve installed Audacity on my computer, I want to select both the input and output that I'm going to be using. Notice at the top I can choose my input device. In my case, I'm using something called a Scarlett 212 USB interface. Your USB interface or microphone will appear in this menu after you've installed it. In this case, I'll click on Scarlett 2i2.

I'm also going to listen back to my audio through the headphone jack on my USB device. So in this case, I want to select the same device. To the right, I have the opportunity to select whether my input is going to be mono or stereo. If I have one microphone plugged in, I want to select mono. Above this there's a little microphone icon where I can select enable or start monitoring. Notice you see here now that I am able to see my input going into Audacity. We want to stay at the negative 12 db or just slightly above level, since we've adjusted our microphone gain before we opened Audacity, we have a great level going in.

The most important part is to make sure that level never clips. Another consideration is you don't want  your level to be too low. My levels going in right now look great and you want yours to look similar. Recording your voice now is as simple as clicking record.

As I record my voice, you can see that a wave form is appearing. This is a visual representation of audio. To stop the recording, I simply press stop.

 

Playback Audio

At any point I can playback any part of the audio I recorded. By clicking in the project where I'd like the playback to start and pressing the spacebar, you'll see that I can playback through the audio.

Now that we are successfully recording our voice into our DAW, it's time to look at manipulating that audio. Quite often we have ums, and ahs, and breaks, and mistakes that we want to edit. These are very simple functions within Audacity. The great news is a lot of these skills that we're learning today are transferable to other programs as well, whether you're using GarageBand or Adobe Audition or Logic Pro. Any of the DAW's have a very similar layout and a very similar set of commands. We'll be looking really in depth at these down the road in specializations, but today let's make a couple of quick edits in Audacity.

 

Deleting Audio

I'm going to do a simple read and I'm going to make an intentional mistake. This mistake I'm going to repeat and then edit out. I'm going to click record and start my take:

“I would like to welcome John Smith to the program today. Take Two. I would like to welcome John Smithe to the program today.”

I've mispronounced the name of my guest, I thought it was Smith, but it's actually Smithe. So now I need to get rid of or delete the audio where I've made a mistake. So let's go to the point where I made the mistake and have a listen. By pressing space bar, I can play the audio.

I obviously do not want to have my first take or where I said take two. This is now as simple as grabbing and highlighting the area and pressing the delete key. Now the audio is gone and I only have the take that I want.

“I would like to welcome John Smithe to the program today.”

 

Removing Mistakes

In some cases we make a mistake during the recording process or the interview. We needed to look up a piece of information or simply stumbled over our words. When you're recording, all you need to do is take a quick pause and start again.

I'm going to make a really simple mistake during my recording and then I'm going to edit it out.

“I think it's great that you're here today, ummmm....John Smith, I appreciate you coming in.”

Notice that I made an intentional mistake in the middle of the recording, where I forgot the guest's name. Editing this is quite simple. Again, I can listen to where that point is, highlight the area that I want removed, and click delete. Notice that mistake is now gone.

“I think it's great that you're here today…..John Smith, I appreciate you coming in.”

If I want to fine tune this edit, I can magnify in closer and make what we call a tighter edit.

“I think it's great that you're here today John Smith, I appreciate you coming in.”

 

Keyboard Shortcuts

As you become more comfortable with the editing process, there are a couple keyboard shortcuts that we recommend you learn. We noted during this processes hitting the space bar stopped and started the playback. Highlighting the audio and pressing the delete key obviously gets rid of audio. But sometimes we make an edit, and we listen to it and we don't want it. Undo is as easy on a Mac as hitting Command + Z or Control + Z on a PC. Another important keyboard command to remember is Control + S, or on a Mac, Command + S. This saves your audio and saves your work.

In many cases we do a long audio recording and our computer suddenly crashes. In these cases we can lose minutes or sometimes hours of audio recording and editing. Getting in the habit of every other edit you do, hitting Command + S or Control + S means that if your computer goes down, you've not lost your audio or your work.

 

Practice First!

Today we went over some of the most basic functions of getting a microphone connected to your computer, recording that audio, and doing some basic editing. We strongly recommend you spend some time before you even think about recording your first show getting familiar with your gear. Understanding how you to use your microphone can save you hours and hours of time editing down the road.
 

We've seen a lot of podcasters setup, record, and then find at the end the audio quality is not good enough for release. Doing a couple dummy episodes to get comfortable with the way that it works is not only going to help you with your voice training and help you with your recording, but it's going to ensure that you don't waste time every time you setup your microphone.

 

Conclusion

Some of these DAWs can seem a little bit complicated at first, but once we get comfortable with them we see the basic functionality of them as relatively easy to master. Some rookie mistakes tend to happen though when using these DAWs. We want to make sure that we definitely have the right microphone plugged in and that we have the right sound sources. We at Podfly have seen many times people recording their podcast and end up realizing that they were using their laptop microphone or something else. This can be a complete waste of audio and a terrible waste of time.

We strongly recommend that you create a checklist for the beginning of each and every show. Checking to see if your microphone is plugged in correctly, that you have the right input, and more. This checklist can save you hours of time and tons of headache. Look in the specializations down the road in creating these checklists and how to make sure you have the right equipment setup each and every time you record.

 




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Quick and Dirty Guide to Audacity

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Quick and Dirty Guide to Audacity

Audacity is an excellent free alternative to anybody who is looking to do simple edits or record their voice in no time. GarageBand or Audition are great products to use if you want something more complex done to your audio, but you will have to pay to use those software products. Despite Audacity being free, there are a ton of great options for the everyday audio editor and it has even become a preferred editing tool for many podcasters who need simple, clean, and quick editing work done.

Getting Started

To begin, it's best that you have Audacity already downloaded. Here is a quick link to their download (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/) page. Once done, do a quick audio test using your preferred microphone. If you have more than one microphone, it's recommended that you go into properties and name your devices accordingly to prevent you using the wrong microphone to interview people and to save you any confusion in the future. We will show you just how to do that in just a moment.

Recording

The buttons to record are pretty straight forward. You can press the record button and then pause button if you plan on using the same track later on. If you press record and then click the stop button, then it tells the program you're completely done with your first audio track. You notice that if you were to click the record button again, there will be a brand new audio track and you may even pick up some of the first track's audio recording if you're not wearing headphones.

If you don't want to have two different audio tracks on the same playback time, it's easy to move a track in to its desired time slot. All you have to do is click the TimeShift Tool located to the right of the red record button. It's the icon with two black arrows sticking out in opposite directions. See below image for a clearer idea:

This Timeshift tool can detect where the end of your first recording is, so that you can perfectly align the two recordings together without skipping a beat.

Now referring to the above image, if you click the Selection Tool; the capital I shaped icon on the left hand side, you can also decide where you want your second recording to start. If your first recording is 6 seconds long for example, take your mouse and click anywhere in the light gray area of Audacity. For this example, let's say around the 7 second mark. Once done, you'll see a black line where you just clicked. When you press record, that's where your second audio recording will begin.

Recording Sounds From The Computer

Some podcasters would like the ability to record sounds coming from their computer instead of their microphone. Obviously, if you use your microphone to record sound coming directly from the speakers, you will lose an enormous amount of quality in that recording and it simply won't sound great. This process can sometimes take people a couple of hours to figure out, but lucky for you we're going to get it done within a couple of minutes.

For Windows:

Looking at your computer's toolbar, click on the little speaker icon located on the far right hand side near your time clock. You should see your sound levels and a blue text link that says Mixer, click on it and then click on the System Sounds icon. This should lead you to a popup window.

If you do not see this speaker icon and it's not in the hidden icon section, then go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > and then click the Sound option. This will take you directly to the popup window.

Once this window appears, you should see four tabs. Playback, Recording, Sounds, Communications. Click on the recording tab and look for the Stereo Mix option. If you do not see it, then right click in the box and check the “Show Disabled Devices” and the “Show Disconnected Devices” options. There you should be able to see the Stereo Mix option. Enable it and restart Audacity.

Since you're here, it'll be a good time to name the various microphones you might have to something more memorable. All you have to do is right click your desired microphone, click Properties and then type in a name into the input box.

When Audacity has started back up, go to your microphone drop down, located in the near center of your Audacity toolbar, and click the 'Stereo Mix' option. This option will now help you record sounds generated from the computer and not from speaker-to-microphone.

For Mac:

The Audacity team have already written a great tutorial on how to record sound from your computer using a Mac. Click here (http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/tutorial_recording_computer_playback_on_mac.html) to follow along.

Headphones

When you're recording over tracks, it's important to wear headphones so that the microphone doesn't pick up any playback from your original recordings. This is also an important tip to keep in mind during Skype interviews. In fact, wearing headphones is the best way to make your audio sound crystal clear and professional.

Editing

Audacity is great for simple touches and little edits here and there. They have made such a great tool for quick editing off the bat that it's almost troublesome opening up heavier products like Audition and GarageBand to do simple work.

You can find these editing tools on the upper right hand side. Make sure you have the Selection Tool selected before you begin trying to use these icons or else it simply won't work. Drag your mouse and select sections of your recorded audio that you wish to delete, then once the pieces are highlighted, click the scissor button to remove the excess or Ctrl+X. You can also take the same highlighted audio and click the copy button or Ctrl+C. Respectively, you can select elsewhere on the audio track and click the paste button or Ctrl+V.

If you just like one section of your audio, then you can highlight it and click the Trim audio button or Ctrl+T, which will remove all the non-highlighted parts of that audio. The opposite is true with the Silence button. When you highlight a section with heavy audio, the Silence button or Ctrl+L will automatically remove it and replace it with a single line. There are Undo and Redo buttons right after the Silence button, however you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Z to Undo and Ctrl+Y to Redo.

Ending Thoughts

We hope this quick introduction to Audacity has been helpful. Remember, it's best to save your audio files in WAV format. However, WAV can take up a lot of space. An alternative to this and to save you some hard drive space is to save your files in .mp3 format. When you export your audio file out of Audacity. Select 'Save as Type: Mp3 Flies' and then click on Options on the right hand corner. This will bring up a MP3 Export Setup popup window where you can set the quality. 320 kbps is the maximum that it can go, so select that and continue on to saving your file the way you would normally.

 

See you next time,

Ayn. 

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