Audacity, teacher audio editing tips

Stuart posted an introduction to Audacity in 2017, E-learning App of the month – Audacity, summarizing reasons and features that make this tool a realistic option for basic audio editing for educational developers. He mentions that editors can publish the final product as mp3, which is compatible with learning object editors. Application of equalization, compression, normalization, silences and even removal of unwanted sounds and long silences are a few benefits Stuart mentions. He also shared that there is a gentle learning curve with Audacity because there are so many features. However, if teacher developers stick to a few basic features, they can use this tool right away and free themselves of outsourcing audio editing. This post provides basic features that teachers can learn to manipulate audio to create simple dialogues and narrations for their learning objects. If required, they can add background tracks and sound effects as well.

Essential Features for Teacher Developers

Essential features that teachers require to record, manipulate and publish audio are listed below. These skills save teachers time when creating audio for their lessons. I have shared a “How To” guide for teachers wishing to use the online Audacity version. The key skills steps function the same way in the online and desktop version of Audacity. For comprehensive assistance using Audacity, please go to https://manual.audacityteam.org Β for an interactive help manual.

Digital Audio Manipulation Skills

Recording Audio-set up

The most common use of Audacity is to record audio, edit it and export it into a useful format. When setting up a recording session, a few consideration should be attended to before speaking into the microphone.

  • ensure the Audacity program is open
  • set the Recording Device is set to the appropriate microphone
  • set the Speakers (playback) to the appropriate headphones or speakers
  • set the Recording slider to a level that does not spike (display hot colours) the Recording Meter
  • be aware that the Audio host setting can be altered if there are issues (always try the default first – MME)
Recording Voices

Before you start to record, have the script in a close and readable place. Have it on paper that you will not move while you are speaking. if you need to move through pages, click on the Pause recording button, adjust the paper, click on the Record button and then continue recording. When ready to record your voice, follow these steps.

  • click on the record button
  • speak into the microphone
  • watch the Recording Meter for a level, (there should be no red or orange colours)
  • continue speaking until the script is finished
  • click on the Stop button (the Pause button can be used to intermittently take a breath or break during the recording process)
  • click on the Play button to hear the recording, if it is satisfactory move to the Edit recording phase
  • if the recording is very unsatisfactory, click on the Audio Track close button (an X in the top left corner), and record again
  • the recording should appear as a graphical sound wave
Audio sound wave
Recording Internal Audio

Internal audio refers to the sound playing on your computer such as a YouTube video, an educational lecture from a course page or an online discussion or meeting. Please respect copyright and the rights of those your are recording. Recording internal audio from a computer into an Audacity project an be completed on a Windows device by changing the Recording Device setting in Audacity. See more at the Recording Computer Playback on Windows tutorial.

Acquiring Audio files

Importing audio is simple. A simple drag and drop of file icons from the desktop onto an open Audacity project is the most efficient way. Audio can also be added to an Audacity project through use of the File and open or the file and import features. Once the audio appears in the Audacity editor, it appears as a graphical sound wave.

Cropping audio

Cropping audio? Yes, audio can be cropped in a similar manner that we crop digital images. Select the audio sound wave from the start or end of the audio track and press the delete key. The audio clip is shorter an more focused on the content that you require.

Multi Track Audio

When creating dialogues for listening activities, often the talent cannot be on the same place at the same time. This was very apparent during the COVID lock downs. To adapt to this, one person records their lines on a track. Others record their lines on separate tracks as well. The editor then pastes all of the tracks on one Audacity project screen and aligns them based on the script. To accomplish this a few techniques may be required,

  • select and delete to align the tracks
  • generate silence to remove sound in between utterances
  • select and copy then paste in a different part of the track
  • generate silence to add quiet time in between utterances while the other person speaks
  • normalize all of the tracks to a consistent level
Generating Silence

When recording or editing audio scripts for education, there are often pauses for learners to read or perform an action while the audio progresses.  For example: in exam instructions the narrator might say, “You have 30 seconds to read the questions now.”  Generating silence is a good way to ensure that there will be no static or noise in the recording when the students are concentrating on reading the questions. If a recording has stretches of background or static that is very obvious during intervals between speaking utterances, the pause intervals can be selected and silence can be generated, removing static or background noise.

Amplify

If an audio track is too loud or too quiet, the Amplify Effect can be used. The Amplify effect can be set to increase or reduce volume of a recording or imported audio clip.

Normalize

If audio tracks are unbalanced or they are too loud or too quiet, the Normalize feature can be used to set the sound to middle ground. This can also happen if different speakers record their parts of a dialogue on different computers or devices. The sound levels will sometimes vary based on the recording levels on different machines. This is obvious when tracks are parts are loud and others are quiet, the Normalize Effect can be used to level the audio in all tracks to create a more uniform sound.

Fades and Envelope

If an audio track starts off or ends to abruptly, it is possible to set a gradual fade in to normal volume using the Fade in or Fade out Effect. The Envelope tool allows you to manually adjust volume in small parts of the audio or throughout the audio track by setting points a long the track and setting rises or dips in the audio sound wave.

Exporting Audio

In an audio editor, it is a good practice to save the project file. In the case of Audacity it is the AUP format. To publish the audio file for general uses many teacher developers use the MP3 format. The Import option is used to ensure that audio projects are converted into different file formats such as MP3.

Final Thought

This is just a quick introduction to audio editing for teachers who develop their own learning objects. It takes time, practice and a few course modules or webinars to become seasoned with basic audio editing. It is worth the effort, if you are a require original listening activities or exam audio elements.

Resources

Audacity Online How To support document, https://www.slideshare.net/mrpottz/audio-eediting-basics-with-audacity-2021
Audacity Interactive Manual, https://manual.audacityteam.org
Audacity Official Tutorials, https://manual.audacityteam.org/man/tutorials.html
E-learning App of the month – Audacity, https://www.elearningworld.org/e-learning-app-month-audacity

John Allan
Latest posts by John Allan (see all)
blank

John Allan

John is a Canadian who writes about learning object development and online facilitation from a teacher's perspective.

One thought on “Audacity, teacher audio editing tips

  • 13th March 2022 at 8:47 am
    Permalink

    Wow – some great tips there John for Audacity !
    In fact, many of those concepts apply to any type of audio recording application that teachers might be using.
    As a musician, often recording and processing audio recordings, the one things I would stress is that you can never “fix” a bad recording.
    But you can always improve a good recording (as you say with normalise, trim, silence, fade, etc.)
    However, for any teacher regularly recording audio, my main tip is “Get a good microphone, and record in a quiet location.” If you can do that, and start with a good quality initial recording, any editing becomes much easier, and the final out put professional πŸ™‚

    Reply

Add a reply or comment...

%d bloggers like this: