You have a great soundtrack you want to add to your PowerPoint presentation but it’s just a tad too long. Or perhaps you need to record a narration and edit it to fit the presentation. Or perhaps you want to combine the two. Audacity is a powerful tool for this. What’s more, it’s open source!
I could not and will not try to cover all that this feature-rich application has to offer. But if, for example, the only suitable sound track is on an old vinyl LP, you can rest assured Audacity can remove all the pops and crackles. That’s if you want to, of course.
So let’s get started.
In Part One I will run through installing Audacity and its basic features and in Part Two we will look into some basic editing and filtering, etc.
Audacity can be found at audacity.sourceforge.net/download. Select the version that matches your system specifications (this tutorial is for Windows 1.3.13 – Windows 7 ). Once downloaded, installation is a simple process. Clicking on the 1.3.13 link takes you to the download page proper which gives a run down on the latest versions.
Above is the download screenshot for XP as well as older versions.
- If you have XP or older you need Audacity 1.2.6
- If you have Vista or 7 you need Audacity 1.3.13
There is one more download I would recommend. Look for this plug-in on the download page.
If you want to save your files as MP3s (and I imagine you will) you will need this plug-in. Note that you will not be ‘saving’ your files in ‘MP3’. They will be ‘exported’. Clicking on the link will take you to an introduction page which explains why Lame is required and there you will find a link to the download page.
Download the file and install in the usual manner. It takes seconds! If you have Audacity loaded please close and reopen it.
To confirm that Lame is installed correctly you should see the ‘MP3’ option available as an export when you have a sound track to save/export. For a quick test, if your laptop comes equipped with a microphone, follow these simple steps.
Open Audacity. At the top of the screen you will see a set of buttons much like tape recorders of days gone by.
Here they are. The red button is the record button and all you need do is click it and a ‘Track’ will immediately begin recording. Give it a few seconds to record and then stop it with the square orange button. Your first audio recording! What could be simpler? If you use an external microphone the procedure is essentially the same apart from plugging in a microphone.
Now click the Menu option ‘File’ and about halfway down you will see ‘Export’, click that, the ‘Save’ dialog opens and ‘MP3’ should be available as an option under the ‘Save as type:’ drop-down box. If not then your Lame plug-in is not installed correctly. Rinse and repeat :-).
To clear the recorded track from the window simply click the ‘X’ at the top left of the waveform window.
That, in a nutshell, is all there is to recording a sound track. Let’s face it, though, you will need to know a bit more than a record and stop button, so let’s have a look at the interface. By the way, all the icons and tools come with tooltips, which makes life a lot easier all round.
Here we have the VU meters. When recording or playing, these show the level of the tracks recorded. The left pair shows the playback meters and the right the recording meters. The red bands are the recording levels. The thin red vertical bar denotes the peak and the blue line the optimum target level before clipping takes place. You don’t want clipping!
Hint: If you pause your recording you can watch the VU meter dynamically displaying the record level. This is a handy way to tweak the levels before committing yourself to an actual recording.
In this screenshot you can see a microphone and downward pointing arrow. Clicking these offers options such as the meter display orientation (horizontal, default) or vertical and various others. The ‘Play’ meter is essentially the same.
This panel provides options to adjust both the record and playback levels. The icons indicate which is which. The green arrow and slider adjusts the playback speed. This button works independently of the main play button, meaning that you can play at normal speed with the regular play button and compare it to a user-selected speed with the other. To reset the speed to normal simply double click the slider and set to ‘1’. This double click option is standard on all adjusters.
Here we have the track control panel.
- Audio Track – This is the name of the track, and clicking the down arrow opens a set of controls for the track, one of which is to name the track.
- Mute – This will silence the track when playing. Click to make it live again. If you export a set of tracks those that are muted will NOT be exported.
- Solo – Clicking this button will deactivate all the other tracks, allowing only the Solo track to be played.
- The first slider (-/ +) is the gain slider. If the recording is too loud or soft you can adjust it here.
- Below that we have the Pan slider. If you need to adjust (balance) the left or right channel this is the slider to use.
- The vertical scale on the right edge provides an indication of the amplitude of the track.
- At the bottom is a small upward point arrow. Clicking this will collapse the track. Click again to expand.