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This article by Bethany Hiitola, author of Getting started with Audacity 1.3, provides some practical instructions to get you started using Audacity to record voice tracks. We will discuss how to actually record the script, save it, and learn some tricks about adding more to an already-recorded voice track, record additional tracks, label and delete tracks.
Recording voice tracks
With your material—script, story, or notes—you're ready to go, right? We shall start with a standard manual recording session.
The simple voice track
This is the simplest recording session. When you're ready, carry out the steps below:
- Open any Audacity project that you created previously (if it isn't already open) on your computer.
- Take a deep breath, and then click on the Record button, as seen in the next screenshot, and start speaking aloud your script.
- Immediately, you'll see the project view portion of your Audacity window change. A voice track will appear, showing your recording, live!
- The left (L) and right (R) channels show the volume of your voice (shown in the bars in the upper-right-hand of the previous screenshot). The digital interpretation of your voice is shown in the audio track portion of the project view (the blue "lines", or sound waves, that you see on your screen). Don't let this make you nervous; just focus on delivering a great voice track.
- Keep reading your script or sample piece as naturally as possible.
- When you're done, click on the Stop button.
- As soon as you click on the Stop button, you'll see that the recording stops, all activity in Audacity stops, and recording is over.
- Save your track to the project folder so that you'll be ready to start editing it. From the main menu, select File and then Save Project.
Keep any paper (your notes or script) in a place that won't interrupt the recording session when you lip the pages—preferably away from the microphone, or already spread out in front of you so that you can refer to them without touching them. We will learn how to "silence" these sounds later on, but having a clean initial recording always makes it a little easier.
That's it, you've just completed your first recording session with Audacity! It really is as simple as that. But, as with the first time I used the software, I know there are likely things that you would like to change.
So let's discuss some additional techniques for recording voice tracks.
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Adding to a voice track
When you first install Audacity, it is set to always start a new voice track session each time that you click on Record by default. This means that, right now, after just finishing your first full recording session, if you clicked on the Record button again, it would start a new voice track below the one that you just recorded (giving you another set of blue lines in the project view, as shown in the next example).
You can change one setting so that you can add to a voice track that has already been recorded. Technically, this is called appending a voice track. Once this option has been set, recording will automatically begin at the end of where the previous voice track ended (as seen in the next screenshot).
You can set up Audacity to append to an existing recording as follows:
- First, in the Audacity project view, select the voice track to which you want to add content. This is important because immediately after you perform the next step, Audacity will be recording.
- In the main menu, click on Transport and then select Append Record. Audacity begins recording immediately.
- When you are done appending the voice track, click on the Stop button.
Similarly, you can always record a separate voice track that begins where the first ends, and then combine them manually. This is essentially the same as appending, and may be a bit easier to do.
To record an audio track that follows a prior recording, there is a setting that you need to change. By default, Audacity has overdubbing set to On. To turn this off, use the following steps:
- Go to the main menu, and select Transport and then Overdub. You'll notice that the check mark will disappear. This means that overdubbing is turned off.
- Next, go to the audio track timeline into which you want to insert this new recording. Place your cursor on the timeline where you want the new recording to start, and then click on it.
- Next, click on the Record button. Recording will start right away, at the exact timeline location that you selected.
- When you are done, click on the Stop button to stop recording.
- To play the entire sequence—the first and second tracks together—just click on the beginning of the timeline, and then click on the Play button.
Always remember that the timeline begins at the 0.0 mark which is likely to be at the beginning of the irst audio track.
Always keep in mind that audio is recorded and played back based on a timeline in Audacity. So in this case, it starts at 0.0 and moves forward. Tracks that you record on the same timeline will play in parallel. You can use this to overdub, or record another track "on top" of what you have already recorded (say for background music) when you want to. More on overdubbing shortly. Let's first discuss how you can label recorded audio tracks for easy identification.
Labeling recorded audio tracks
Now that you have an audio track or two recorded and present in the Audacity project view screen, let's give them proper names so we can tell them apart and prepare them for future editing work. To label a track, click on the down arrow to the far left of that track's timeline, and select Name from the context menu.
A new window will appear, containing a field in which you can enter the name of the audio track.
Do this for each audio track that you have recorded so far. Be descriptive here, so that you know at a glance if this is an introduction track, or just an added explanation for the story you just told. The next time that you open this project file, it will be helpful to know what each track is without having to play it back over and over. This is especially important when you work with large projects.
To be on the safe side, let's save our work again. Go to the main menu, and select File and then Save Project.
Deleting an audio track
There may be a time when you record an additional audio track and then decide that it didn't work out well, or that it is extraneous. It's very easy to delete tracks. Directly to the left-hand side of the track name is a small X (close) button. Click on this button to delete the track from the timeline.
Just remember that when you click on the close button, there is no recovering that audio track. It is deleted permanently.
An alternative to deleting the track would be to just mute the track (click on the Mute button below the close button). The track then remains within the project, but won't be heard during playback, and can be un-muted at any time.
We described everything that you need to know about recording voice tracks. We learned the basics of a recording session and how to save it. We also learned how to append to the initial recording, add another recorded track within the timeline (or immediately after it), recording additional tracks to merge, and the steps to label tracks for organization, or to delete them. In the next article we will learn all the details of using third-party internet telephony software such as Skype to record telephone interviews. We will also cover how to set up a timed recording.
If you have read this article you may be interested to view :
- Importing and Adding Background Music with Audacity 1.3
- Recording an Interview with Skype using Audacity 1.3
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About the Author :
Bethany Hiitola is a working writer and technology geek. With a degree in Scientific and Technical Communications, she's worked as a technical writer and multimedia developer for over 12 years—she spends the rest of her time as a wife, mother, gadget geek, and Master of the Household. She's written more user manuals than she can count, essays, novels, and a few technical books—including Inkscape 0.48 Essentials for Web Designers. More details are at her website: bethanyhiitola.com