Week 10 Practicum: Audacity


Audacity is the other practicum we are learning about this week, in relation to oral histories. Audacity is an easily downloadable program that you can use on your computer. The purpose of Audacity is to create an edited/final version of an oral recording.

While you can use Audacity to record, I would not recommend it. I have not used Audacity to record and most oral historians I’ve worked with would advise against it as well. You have to connect a microphone, instrument and mixer before you can start recording and that is all dependent on the sound quality of the equipment you are using. It is much easier to get a recorder and conduct your interview on that and then import it to Audacity. 

Once you have your recording and it’s on your computer, usually as .wav file you can import it into Audacity. Audacity will import files out into mp3 files, so you can use it for that if that’s all you need.

This is what Audacity will look like when you first open it. Once you import a recording it will look like this: 

To import audio, you’ll go to ‘File’, then ‘Import’ and select the audio you want to bring in. 

After you do that, you can add new tracks-this is under ‘Tracks’ and then you’ll select ‘Add new’. You’ll select ‘mono’ if you want to have a one new track. Stereo allows you to have more than one. This is the next step if you are planning on cutting and editing your audio, for example is there a part of your audio that you want to cut because your interviewee says something off-track, or there’s a really long silence. You can also move parts of the audio around-say take minutes “2:24 to 4:50” would have a nice lead in by minutes “8:16”, you can select and edit certain parts of the audio to sit right by each other.  Now this is all for one audio recording. If you have done three interviews and you want to have one final recording that includes all three, you’ll use three different tracks to come up with a final version.

When you’re working with different tracks, you can mute one so you can listen to the audio on just one track. It will look like this:

You are also able to zoom in on Audacity to see second by second plays which makes the selection and cutting of audio easier. 

An important tip about Audacity: you can’t start another function after playing the audio. If you hit the play button, and then pause, you must hit the stop button before Audacity allows you to do another function. 

When you are ready to export your audio from Audacity you will go to ‘File’, click ‘Export Audio’ and then you can export and save as whatever file you want.  

Unfortunately, you can’t save what you’re working on from Audacity. It does not allow you to save an edited audio file so make sure when you start using Audacity you have allotted a certain amount of time to complete what work you need to do, or you can export what you have completed and just re-insert into Audacity the next time to finish your work.

Audacity (like most of the practicums we’ve had) is hard to explain in a blog post. I’m a visual learner and so it’s easier for me to explain Audacity by walking through the steps. Audacity is also a program that is a lot of trial and error. I learned how to use Audacity by just consistently messing around with it. Even I still don’t know everything about it. I have found an Audacity Wiki tutorial page that goes through any problem you could possibly encounter on Audacity.  Feel free to use it for anything you’re doing on Audacity. There are also really good Youtube tutorials on how to use Audacity if you are ever feeling stuck.


P.S. I am including files of my first project using Audacity during my undergrad. It’s a compilation of different audio examining the memory of individuals on 9/11. You can browse through and see the different steps from my first audio to the final version. Please no judgement, I thought it might be helpful to see how I learned how to use Audacity.

Alright…well those are the two files of my mid-term project. The different final versions are too large for this site…oops!


One Reply to “Week 10 Practicum: Audacity”

  1. Great rundown on Audacity, Micaela. I’ve been using it to edit the NPR audio for practicum and I agree that there are some strange quirks (like how you can’t save the files directly in Audacity), but once you understand how to use it, it can be a really powerful tool for those interested in working with audio.

    For example, I used it to clean up some audio for a Presi presentation for AU Abroad, and it does a really fantastic job removing static and background noise on top of getting the voice to stand out. You can adjust bass and treble to the speaker and make the whole audio experience crisp and clean. You really do have to play around with it to get how easy it is to use, but once you get the hang of it, it is quite user friendly. Editing is a breeze. And when you’re ready for export, you can label the audio into segments, export the labels, and you have bite-sized chunks of the audio in whatever style you fashion. Switching between formats is also easy; most people won’t use .wav files because of their size, but converting to .mp3 requires checking a box on the export, simple as that.

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