PD: Editing Audio in Audacity

Having earned a spot on a training design collective, I thought it would be a good idea to bone up on some other applications that they asked me about.

Wouldn’t it be nice if being a freelance ID required knowing only one authoring tool and a little MS Office? (Actually, that sounds boring!) Depending on your role and contract, you’ll be asked to do any number things using any number of tools. Besides, one of the things that attracted me to being an ID was getting to learn new things, including how to use new software!

Audacity, a free open-source audio editor, has been around over 20 years. It’s evolved with the times and, as far as I know, has few rivals. As a Mac user, sometimes I feel bad not using GarageBand, but then I open Audacity and breathe a sigh of relief. (One day, GB~!)

I used Audacity way back when I made my first podcast and even now, I’m impressed by how well I threw that together in a week, having never done anything of the sort before. And, to be honest, I don’t remember much of the “struggle” to create it. I remember being able to minimize noise, cut and paste, move tracks and parts of tracks, and make a fade.

My very first podcast!

As I look at it now, I would want to clean up my track a little more, although maybe some people don’t mind my “mm!” and “uhuh!” I also hear my computer fan in the background, so I could use the new noise gate or something to minimize. There’s also a slight…(I wish I knew more about acoustics to know what to call these things)…Once in a while, it sounds like Justin could be in a large room (reverb? Not really echo? Hollowness? Argh.) and it would be nice to minimize that sense.

But it’s also true that different ears will detect different things, and people also have different tastes in voice and audio. It will be up to the client to decide what is appropriate, and I would need to train my ears to make that happen.

What are some cool features of Audacity that could come in handy for me?

First, shout out to VoiceOverMaster, aka Josh Meyer, who has an extensive YouTube library of Audacity tutorials. I seriously watched him two days straight. His tutorials are easy to follow, address every need I could think of… He updates you on what’s in the new releases and versions… Highly recommended.

“Noise Gate 2” because this is the patch from the developers.

One of Audacity’s newest features is “Noise Gate”. Josh is in love with this and I am in love with the concept, but #1, there is a bug that you may need to get patched if you’re on a Mac and #2, my ears are not as well trained so I’m like “Wait, that does sound better…? I think…?” Ha! Seriously, noise gate tells Audacity to only allow sounds within a certain dB range to be heard, so it instantly gets rid of any residual or background white noise or sounds you don’t want. AMAZING.

Also, you can change the color of the tracks. It is primarily an aesthetic thing, but think about if you’ve got a lot of tracks and you don’t have the brain power to remember which is which AND you can’t be bothered to look at the teeny-tiny track name on the upper right corner. Could be huge!

Another cool feature is “Loudness Normalization.” Remember how you used to be watching your favorite show and then the commercials come on and blow you out of the room? That’s what this is supposed to prevent, should you set the parameters correctly. They explain it on their wiki:

When preparing audio for television or radio programs, podcasts and some websites you may be subject to loudness restrictions on the audio. Loudness is usually measure in LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale). The LUFS level restrictions can vary by application. For example, the level for television in the US is normally -24 LUFS, the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) recommends -23 LUFS. Out of all the standards this one is the most serious in that a television network can get its broadcast license revoked for a violation.


Another tool that isn’t new but that I wish I had known about earlier, is the envelope. This is what you can use to decrease the volume, for example, if you’re fading from intro music into the meat of your podcast. It’s a bit tricky, but with enough practice, I’ll get it.

The process of enveloping.

Anyway, it’s been fun learning more about Audacity and playing around with it. I’m going to challenge myself to do another episode of my podcast within the month.

If you were to interview anyone, who would it be?