Audacity

Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform audio editing interface. The DH@CC Team encourages the faculty and students that we work with to use Audacity for any project that is going to involve non-collaborative audio editing because it is a robust and easy to use application.

For more information about using Audacity, or to set up a consultation, contact the DH@CC Team.


Quick Links

DH@CC Quick Guide to Audacity: A Google Docs copy of the Quick Guide provided on this page.

DH@CC Audacity Video Tutorials: A playlist of short videos created by the DH@CC Team to teach you the basics of Audacity.

DH@CC Quick Guide to Podcasting: A tutorial for podcasting created by the DH@CC Team.


Last Updated: 20 April 2020

Quick Guide to Audacity

What is Audacity?

Audacity is a free, open source, cross-platform audio editing interface. The DH@CC Team encourages the faculty and students that we work with to use Audacity for any project that is going to involve non-collaborative audio editing because it is a robust and easy to use application.

Minimal technical expertise is required to use Audacity.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already, check out the DH@CC Quick Guide to Podcasting. Then, contact the DH@CC Team about podcasting support for your research or classes, or to set up a consultation.

Because Audacity is not a web-based application, you’ll need to download and install the appropriate software on your device.

Importing Audio Tracks

Audacity converts your audio tracks into a waveform, a commonly used mode for representing sound. To import audio tracks into Audacity:

  • From the File dropdown in the Menu Bar, select Import.
  • Select Audio.
  • Find the file that you’d like to import.

The x-axis represents time as seconds and minutes. Sound begins at the far left of the interface and moves right. If you click the play button, Audacity will move accordingly from left to right over the sound, with a vertical line representing the current point in the audio clip.

The y-axis represents amplitude, what we experience as loudness or volume. The number 1 represents the loudest possible recorded sound without distortion, while 0 represents silence. Silence begins as a flat line, and the sound will get taller and deeper as it increases in intensity.

Tools

Audacity’s Playback Palette is located in the upper left-hand corner of the interface. The Playback Palette offers buttons that allow you to: Pause, Play, Stop, Rewind to the beginning of a clip, Fast Forward to the end of a clip, and Record.

Audacity - Playback Palette Screenshot

Playback Palette.

Audacity’s Tool Palette is located just to the right of the Playback Palette. The Tool Palette offers buttons that allow you to: Select, Envelop, Draw, Zoom, Time Shift, and Multi Function. The tools that you’ll need to master in order to understand the basics of Audacity are Select, Zoom, and Time Shift

Audacity - Tool Palette Screenshot

Tool Palette.

You are likely already familiar with many commands and keyboard shortcuts that will come in handy when you’re using Audacity. These include Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, and Undo. Other useful commands and keyboard shortcuts

  • To skip to the beginning or end of a track: 
    • Double-click the track.
    • From the View dropdown in the Menu Bar, select Skip to.
    • Select either Selection start or Selection end
  • To select everything from your cursor’s location to the end of the track:
    • Place your cursor in the appropriate location in the track.
    • From the Select dropdown in the Menu Bar, select Region.
    • Select Cursor to Track End.

Editing

Editing can help you turn your raw audio files into a professional sounding final product that you are proud to share. While there are many different editing techniques, the following instructions will walk you through some of the most common.

Removing Silences

Unwanted silences are often created at the beginning or end of an audio track when there is lag between when you start recording and when you start speaking, or between when you stop speaking and when you stop recording. By removing unwanted silences, you can create professional sounding audio clips with only a hair of silence on either end. To remove unwanted silences from a track:

  • Zoom in to the point in the track that contains the silence so that you can view it in the waveform (usually the beginning or end).
  • Click and drag over the silent sections of the waveform.
  • Press Delete.

Introducing Fades

Fades are gradual transitions in amplitude that ensure smooth transitions between tracks. Recommended best practice is to include a few seconds of Fade In at the beginning of a track and a few seconds of Fade Out at the end that carries you into silence. Doing so can help prevent clicks and glitches by keeping your sound from suddenly exploding in and out of existence. To add a Fade In to your track:

  • Zoom in to the beginning of the track.
  • Highlight a few seconds of the waveform, starting at the beginning and including just a hair of your target sound.
  • From the Effect dropdown in the Menu Bar, select Fade In.

To add a Fade Out to your track:

  • Zoom in to the end of the track.
  • Highlight a few seconds of the waveform, including just a hair of your target sound and ending at the end.
  • From the Effect dropdown in the Menu Bar, select Fade Out.

Moving Clips

When you’re editing multiple tracks, you may want to move a clip horizontally on the x-axis of the waveform and assign it to a new position in time. To move a clip: 

  • Select the Time Shift tool in the Tool Palette.
  • Click and drag the appropriate sound clip until it is positioned in the correct spot.

Balancing Volumes

If the volumes of your overlapping tracks seem unbalanced (e.g.: if the volume of your voice relative to the introduction music seems off), you’ll need to balance volumes to make them more equitable. To change the volume of a particular track, adjust the Track Volume Slider to the left of each track panel.

Additional Resources

Audacity Manual – A help site created and maintained by the creators of Audacity.

DH@CC Quick Guide to Audacity: A Google Docs copy of this Quick Guide.

DH@CC Audacity Tutorials: A playlist of short videos created by the DH@CC Team to teach you the basics of Audacity.

DH@CC Quick Guide to Podcasting: A tutorial for podcasting created by the DH@CC Team.

Audacity Video Tutorials

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© 2020 Digital Humanities at The Claremont Colleges.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials licensed by the CC 4.0 BY-NC License.

DH@CC has been made possible through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.