In this blog post we are going to show you how to record audio, then edited it, to create an great episode. 🥳
What is Audacity?
Audacity is a free audio software that has powered independent podcasters for decades. It is open-code and updated regularly. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
The only downside is that Audacity doesn’t have an intuitive interface and can be a real challenge to audio beginners. But, guess what, that’s why we have written this guide! 🤓
The easiest way to learn is to go ahead and download Audacity so you can actively follow along.
Ready to harness the magic that is Audacity? Let’s go! 🚀
Audacity Podcast Tutorial: Recording Audio
First we will cover how to record your audio on Audacity. We start with how to connect your microphone. We take you all the way through to saving the project and exporting the file.
Step 1: Physically Connect Microphone
If you have a USB microphone, this should be very simple. Plug your mic into the computer that has your downloaded Audacity on it. 🔌
The USB mic should automatically show up as a recording, or ‘input,’ device on your computer. To check, go to your computer settings, find the sound section, and look under ‘input.’ You default might be the built-in computer mic. If that is the case, simply click on your mic’s name to make it your audio input.
If you have an XLR microphone, it won’t physically plug into your computer. You will need to either purchase an adapter or a mixer or some other go-between mechanism. Be sure that your go-between mechanism is able to not only transmit data, but also power if your mic needs it. ⚡
For the purposes of this Audacity podcast tutorial, we’ll say that you are using a mixer that connects to your computer using a USB.
Step 2: Select Microphone and Channels
Open Audacity. Go to the top toolbar. Click on “Audacity” or “Edit” (depends on if you are using Mac or Windows) and then “Preferences,” then “Audio Settings.”
Find the section that says “Recording.” You will see a drop down menu for “Device.” Your mic may already be selected as a default. If not, select it on the drop down menu. 🎤
If you see your recording device’s name with “MULTI” next to it, select that option. When Audacity recognizes a recording device as having multiple inputs, then it may automatically adjust the number of channels for you and you can skip the below information about channels.
Next, right below “Device” you will see “Channels.” If you are just using a simple USB microphone or a XLR microphone with an adapter, you don’t need to adjust this (default: 2 (stereo)). However, if you are using a mixer because you are recording from multiple mics, you want to adjust this. ⚒️
Set it to “Channels” to however may your mixer can record, even if you are not using all of them. For example, if your mixer can record to four channels, but you are only using three mics, still select at least “four” under Channels.
You need to do this because Audacity kind of flies blind in this regard. It looks for any and all possible channels it can record, and not even in a particular order. So, going back to the example, if you only select three channels in Audacity settings, Audacity might take in two channels that have active mics and the one that does not, leaving the third mic out in the cold. 🥶
Better to select too many “Channels” and have to delete a bunch of silent tracks than to miss a channel that has a microphone on it.
Click ‘OK’ and your changes will be saved. And you will be taken back to Audacity’s main recording page. You should see as many track rows as you have selected channels. Remember, if you are recording in stereo, each track will have two different sound waves as you record– so don’t confuse that with having two different channels/tracks. 🎧
In the same area you see “Device” and “Channels” you will also see “Playback.” This is just where you will be able to listen to the playback of your recording. Defaulting to your computer speakers or headphones is usually the best way to go.
Step 3: Test Mic Level
When you are on the Audacity main page, up in the right hand corner you should see what look like little rulers with the numbers -54 to 0. Those are your microphone levels. When recording, you want those levels to hit around -12 most of the time, with -6 being the max. You never want to hit 0. Hitting zero means you are blasting out your microphone and it is going to sound bad. 😫
To check your levels before recording, right click on the ruler. Click ‘Start Monitoring.’ Then speak into the mic just as you plan on speaking during recording. Watch the level. If it starts turning orange or red because it is hitting close to -0, then you need to turn your mic level down.
There’s a little square slider button on the ‘ruler.’ Slide it to the left to turn down your microphone level. Slide right to turn it up. 🔊
Once you are happy with your mic level, it is time to start recording!
Step 4: Record!
This is probably the easiest step in our Audacity podcast tutorial. Just look for the button with the red dot in the middle of the main toolbar on the home screen. Click it and you are recording! Click it again to stop recording. 🔴
At this point, it is best practice to export the whole audio file in a high quality format (such as WAV). Then make a copy of the exported audio file. Save this somewhere safe. That way you have the original recording in case something dramatic happens in the editing process and you part of it (it probably won’t, but just in case).
Note on Export vs Save Project
Exporting is not the same thing as saving your project. When you export, all your tracks get mixed together as a single track. In other words, you can’t then use that file to edit each track individually. ↔️
To save it as a whole, multi-track project, go to the “File” menu and select “Save Project.” This will save it as an Audacity file. Audacity files will only work on Audacity.
Yaaaayyy! Now you are ready to edit! Now to the second half of our Audacity podcast tutorial… 🧑🚀
Audacity Podcast Tutorial: Editing Audio
For this section of our Audacity podcast tutorial, we are going to talk about editing audio that you recorded on Audacity, as well as bringing in outside audio.
Step 1: Sweeten Audio of Each Voice Track
For a lot of traditional editing projects, like editing audio for a long video, you should wait and sweeten the audio as the last step. That is because you don’t know what sound bites are going to make the final cut. However, with podcasts, especially basic interview podcasts, you already know that you are going to use most of the audio. So that’s why we suggest sweeten each track as the first step. ☝️
What do we mean by “sweeten” audio? It is when you get each voice sounding just right. For example, one of your guests may have been sitting very far away from their microphone while another one sat way too close. They may have been using different types of microphones too. Or maybe their voices are just super different from each other. The bottom line is that you want to go on to each track and make individual adjustments.
To do this, select the track you want to work on. Then click on “Effects” in the top toolbar. Then select the effect you want to apply. At that point a small window will pop up so you can adjust the effect exactly how you want it. Click the “Preview” button at the bottom to listen to how the track will sound once you apply it. Then, if that sounds good, click “Apply.” 👍
Common Effects for Podcasting
**Note: Effects for podcasting are NOT the same thing as podcast sound effects. If you want to learn about how to find free podcast sound effects, check out our blog post on that.**
Here are the fundamental Audacity effects you should consider applying to any vocal track. These come as part of Audacity when you download it.
Noise Reduction: If your recording picked up a bit of steady background noise, consider using the Noise Reduction effect. It will prompt you to select a “Noise Profile,” which means a section of your recording that only has the background noise. Then you chose how much of a reduction you want. Don’t over do it or your track will start sounding weird. 👽
Noise Repair: Let’s say that you dropped a pen on the desk while you were recording. Now you notice the distraction and want to get rid of it. With “Noise Repair,” you select the tiny bit of audio where the sound happened. Then Audacity will do its best to recreate those few miliseconds to be more like the audio that comes right before and right after it. That way the pen drop noise either be dampened or gotten rid of altogether.
Compressor: Its a good idea to always choose the “Compressor” effect on Audacity for each of your tracks. Basically it just makes sure nothing on the track is too loud or too quiet. You don’t need to adjust anything, just click “Apply” to use the default settings. 🎛️
Graphic EQ: This effect is where you can turn up or down certain frequencies, using sliders. Think of it like turning up the treble or the bass when you listen to your car radio.
Normalize: Like “Compressor” this effect is just a way to make sure all your tracks stay around the same loudness. You can just use the default “-1.0″dB and click “Apply.” 😀
There are a lot more effects that Audacity can do, but they do not come with the program when you download it. Instead you have to find and download them separately. You can find them on Audacity’s website or search for them anywhere on the internet.
These plug-ins often do a lot of effects steps for you, making it easier for beginners to get their audio sounding the way they want. 🙏
Step 2: Edit in Music (works for voice audio edits too!)
The next step in this Audacity podcast tutorial is adding music. You can also use these steps to add other audio files like a phone recording from a remote guest or an intro clip that you use in each episode. 👈
First, you need to bring the music into Audacity. Go to “File,” then “Import,” then “Audio.” Find your music file and import it. Audacity will automatically open it as its own track and place it on the home page with your other tracks.
Pro Tip: If you want to only listen to one track, click the “Solo” button on it. You will find that button all the way on the left side of the track (as in it is on your left when you are facing your computer screen). You will find the “Mute” button right next to it. Select that if you want to mute that track. 🤫
Cut, Move, and Delete Clips
Let’s say you have a two minute song. You want to use a few seconds of it for your intro and a few seconds of it for your outro. That means you need to cut these clips and then place them at the beginning and end of your episode.
To cut, or split, an audio clip from the song, click on the waveform where you want to split it. Then right click and select “Split Clip.” ✂️
If you want to then shorten that clip just a little bit or make it a bit longer, hover your cursor on the edge of the clip, near the top of the track. Then click and drag your cursor to the left or right to shorten or lengthen the clip.
To move the music clip, like to the beginning of your episode for your intro, click and hold the clip near the top of the track, right where the clip name is listed. Then drag it to where you want to put it on its track. 📍
To delete the music clips you don’t want, simply click on them and press “Delete.” If you only want to remove part of a clip, click where you want to start the delete and then drag to where you want to start the delete. You will see a highlight showing you your selection. Then press delete. And poof it is gone. 🪄
Adjust Gain of Whole Track
The next step in our Audacity podcast tutorial is how to adjust gain and fade.
To adjust the gain of WHOLE track you want to make sure that your voice audio can always be easily heard over your background music. That means you need to lower the gain (basically gain = volume) of your music. 👂
To adjust the gain of a clip, go to the left side of the track, where the Solo and Mute buttons are. Below them you will see a horizontal slider that looks like a little ruler. On one side there is a minus sign and on the other end there is a plus sign. To turn up the volume of the track, slide the slider towards the plus (+) side. Slide the slider towards the min (-) side if you want the track to be quieter.
Adjust Gain of Whole Track
To adjust gain in PARTS of the track: Even though you want your background music to play quietly as you are talking, you might not want it to be quiet the whole time. Maybe you want it to play at a normal level at the beginning of your intro before you start talking. To do this, use the Envelope Tool. (confusing name, we know 🤷♀️)
The Envelope Tool can be found as a small icon near the top of the home page. It looks like two dots connected by a line. Click on the icon and your cursor becomes the Envelope Tool.
Go to the place on your track where you want the volume to start to change. Click and you will see four dots emerge on the track, align vertically. Then go to the place on your track where you want the clip volume to stop changing. Click and you will see four new vertical dots. Click and drag these dots up or down depending if you want to raise or lower the gain. You’ll see that the blue line from your first set of dots to your second set of dots. That indicates how the volume will steadily go up or down starting at the first set of dots and stopping at the second pair of dots. 🏁
To fade your music clip all the out, you will need to use the “Fade” effect, not the Envelope Tool. Make sure you have the Selection Tool icon pressed, not the Envelope Tool. The Selection Tool icon is right next to the Envelop Tool one. The Selection Tool icon looks like a typical cursor, a capital “i.”
Then go to the spot in your clip where you want the music to reach absolutely zero gain (or volume) and click there. Next go to the “Selection” drop down menu at the top of the screen and click on “Region,” and then “Cursor to Track End.” Then press your delete key. 🗑️
Next, go to the spot in your clip where you want the music to start fading and click there. Then go to the Selection drop down menu, click on “Region,” and then “Cursor to Track End.” Then go to the “Effects” drop down menu and select “Fade Out.”
Boom. Faded out. 🛬
Final Notes of Audacity Podcast Tutorial
Yay! Now you know how to record and edit your audio on Audacity… all for free! 🎉
You will have to practice until it becomes more natural for you, especially the editing parts. It helps if you learn the keyboard shortcuts too, instead of having to click everywhere.
There are a ton of different workflows and personal preferences so don’t feel like you have to stick to our exact instructions. 🧑🏫
Get in there and just start playing with all the tools and features you can!
Whenever possible learn from others— podcasting is a team sport! 💪
Finally, if you figure out that podcasting editing is just not for you, consider hiring a podcast agency.
And that’s all for our Audacity podcast tutorial article. Hope you have enjoyed the read!TOFU
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