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ENVIR 450B: Alaska Comes of Age Audio Production Tutorial In this tutorial, youʼll learn how to perform basic audio recording, editing, and mixing using the program Audacity, a freely available cross-platform sound editor. Iʼve chosen this software because 1) itʼs easy to use, 2) itʼs free, and 3) it is available for both PC and Mac. This means that you should all be able to download and install Audacity on your home computer. If youʼd like to use a different program to create your final radio spot, such as Appleʼs GarageBand, go ahead – but you still have to work through this tutorial today. Weʼll go through several steps in this tutorial, including importing audio, trimming audio tracks, shifting audio in time, working with multiple tracks, mixing, recording your own voice, and exporting. Importing audio from elsewhere (sound bites, music) One important component of producing a radio spot or podcast is importing audio content from outside sources. These can consist of recorded “sound bites” from political figures, for example, or music tracks that will serve as your “soundtrack” in the background. In this first example, we'll import a “sound bite” from the infamous former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). First, you must open Audacity – itʼs in “Applications.” 1. Click on this link to download an mp3 file of Stevens's testimony on the Senate floor in June 206 regarding regulation of the Internet (known as “Net Neutrality). This file should ...

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ENVIR 450B
:
Alaska Comes of Age
Audio Production Tutorial
ENVIR 450B
Audio Production Tutorial, Page 1 of 4
In this tutorial, youʼll learn how to perform basic audio recording, editing, and mixing
using the program
Audacity
, a freely available cross-platform sound editor. Iʼve chosen
this software because 1) itʼs easy to use, 2) itʼs free, and 3) it is available for both PC
and Mac. This means that you should all be able to download and install Audacity on
your home computer. If youʼd like to use a different program to create your final radio
spot, such as Appleʼs GarageBand, go ahead – but you still have to work through this
tutorial today.
Weʼll go through several steps in this tutorial, including
importing audio
,
trimming
audio tracks
,
shifting audio in time
,
working with multiple tracks
,
mixing
,
recording your own voice
, and
exporting
.
Importing audio from elsewhere (sound bites, music)
One important component of producing a radio spot or podcast is importing audio
content from outside sources. These can consist of recorded “sound bites” from political
figures, for example, or music tracks that will serve as your “soundtrack” in the
background. In this first example, we'll import a “sound bite” from the infamous former
Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). First, you must
open Audacity
– itʼs in “Applications.”
1. Click on this link to download an
mp3 file of Stevens's testimony
on the Senate
floor in June 206 regarding regulation of the Internet (known as “Net Neutrality).
This file should automatically be placed in your computer's “Downloads” folder.
2. On the menu bar, click “Project” -> “Import Audio”
3. Navigate to the “Desktop” folder to find the file entitled “stevens-on-nn.mp3.”
Then click the “Open” button.
4. The audio track will appear in your Audacity window – it looks like a blue blur.
Let's zoom in a bit – click on the zoom tool in the upper left (the magnifying
glass), then click anywhere on the blue blur. Click several times – until it actually
starts to look like an audio track, with peaks and valleys. Now click the “Play”
button (green arrow). You can watch the slider move along through the track as
it plays. Stop it by clicking the “Stop” button (yellow square).
Trimming audio tracks
Now that we've got eight minutes of Stevens blithering imported, let's trim it to the ~60-
second sound bite want for our radio spot.
1. Switch to the “Selection” tool by clicking on the cursor symbol (
I
) in the top let of
the Audacity window.
2. Use the slider at the bottom of the window to move to the right – watch how the
time counter above the track increases as you move right (format is min:sec).
Navigate until the four minute mark (4:00) is visible window.
3. Click your cursor on the track (blue peaks) under the four minute mark (4:00).
Then click the “Play” button (green arrow). Listen until it reaches about the five
minute mark, then click the stop button (yellow square). This 60-second piece of
audio will be part of our radio spot – so we need to trim all the other stuff away.
ENVIR 450B
Audio Production Tutorial, Page 2 of 4
4. Zoom out by using the zoom tool (magnifying glass) – you have to hold down the
“Shift” key and click on the track to zoom out. Zoom out until you have the 4:00
mark and the 5:00 mark visible in the window.
5. Switch to the “Selection” tool (
I
) again. Click on the track at the 4:00 mark,
hold
down
the mouse button, and slide to the right until you reach the 5:00 mark, then
let go of the mouse button. You have now selected just that part of the track.
6. Click the “Trim outside selection” button right above the time counter:
7. Now only the 60 seconds we wanted is left.
Moving audio around in time
We've got 60 second of Stevens hilarity but it doesn't start until four minutes into our
track. We want it at the beginning.
1. Click on the “Time Shift Tool” in the top left. It looks like this:
2. Now click on the blue audio information and slide it to the left, all the way until it
starts right at the zero mark. You might have to zoom out a ways before you do
this.
3. Click the “Skip to start” button (it's the one to the left of the play button). This
moves your cursor to the beginning of the track, where the Stevens sound bite is
now.
4. Click “Play” to listen to what we've done and make sure it's what you expected.
5. Go ahead and zoom in until only the first minute (where the blue audio track is)
appears in the window. We'll work only on this first minute from now on.
Adding a second track
Probably the most important element of audio production is “multitracking” - that is,
having more than one audio track overlapping. Once you have that, you get into
“mixing,” which is adjusting the relative volumes of your multiple tracks so that they
blend nicely (e.g., the music soundtrack is quieter than the narration). So let's bring in a
musical background and mix it with the Stevens sound bite.
1. Click on this link to download a
musical track
for which I've obtained permission
for us to use in this class session. This should download to the Desktop.
2. Back in Audacity, import this track as you did with the Stevens file – click on
“Project” � “Import Audio,” then choose the track, which is titled
“ANNA_MINERMARK-Believe_Live_.mp3.”
3. Click play. Now there is music in the background, but it's way quieter than Ted
and it's much longer. We need to pick which part of the track we want. In order
to do this easily, we need to shut Ted up for the time being. So click the “Mute”
button in the menu for the Ted track, on the left. It looks like this:
4. Now we just have the music track. We need to select 60 seconds
of it to use for our radio spot. We could listen to the song, and the
lyrics, and pick the best part. But to save time, let's just 60
seconds from near the beginning, but skipping over the really
quiet part that is the first 30 seconds. We can tell this part is
ENVIR 450B
Audio Production Tutorial, Page 3 of 4
quieter by looking at the track image – smaller blue lines mean less volume.
5. Use the “Selection” tool to selection about 60 seconds of the music track, from
about 0:30 to 1:30. Then click “Trim outside selection,” followed by using the
time shift tool to move the music track to the left so it is right under the Stevens
track.
6. Click play to see how it sounds – but remember to un-mute Ted first. Nice to
have both tracks overlapping, but this mix isn't quite right – Ted is too loud
relative to the music.
Mixing
1. In order to change the relative volume levels of different tracks, use the volume
sliders for each track – these are near the mute button you used earlier:
2. Probably best to turn Ted down, instead of turning the music up, so the
overall track volume doesn't get too loud. Then play the track and check the new
mix. You can even adjust the volume sliders while the track is playing.
Recording your own voice
Recording your own narration will be a critical part of making your radio podcast. We'll
explore this a bit in this tutorial.
1. Mute both tracks – Ted and the music.
2. In the top right, click on the arrow next to the picture of the microphone:
then click “Monitor Input.”
3. Now you should see a moving red bar that shows you the decibel intensity of the
sound currently being picked up by your computer's microphone. It's important to
set this level correctly – if the mic level is too high (“hot”), the sound it records will
be maxed out and distorted. If the mic level is too low, it's not as bad, but can be
hard to work with.
4. To adjust the mic level, use the slider right under the play button. Talk into the
microphone (which is hidden on your computer – so just talk at your computer)
and adjust the slider. It is important that even at your loudest, the red slider does
not pass the zero mark on the right. Play around with this until you're sure the
mic level isn't too high.
5. Now you're ready to record! Click the “Record” button – the red circle – and then
say something – anything, really. I find that it is very difficult to think of what to
say on the spot, so it's best to read something aloud that is already written. So
read a paragraph from a book or whatever you have handy. Watch as your audio
is recorded in a new track, and try to time the length of your narrative to be the
same link as the Ted track.
6. You can trim, time shift, adjust levels, etc., with a track that you've recorded with
a mic, just like you can with audio tracks you've imported from elsewhere.
The final mix and export as an mp3 file
Ok, so we've got three different audio tracks (Ted, the music, and your narration), and
we can mix them so that the relative volumes are where we want them. Go ahead and
ENVIR 450B
Audio Production Tutorial, Page 4 of 4
do this – you'll want your narration to come out on top, with the music in the
background, and Ted's voice somewhere in the middle.
Once you've got your final mix, it's time to export your mix as an audio file – an mp3
track. This isn't as simple as just clicking “File” -> “Save,” because saving an Audacity
file (or a file in any other audio editing software) saves all the information – the tracks
are saved separately so you can come right back to it and keep editing. You'll want to
do this kind of save, of course, but when you are all finished, you'll want to export your
final mix in a common audio file type (like mp3), so you can share it with others.
To do this, follow these instructions:
1. Click “File” -> “Export as MP3..”
2. Choose a file name and location.
3. Next, you'll be asked where the LAME MP3 encoder is. This is an additional bit
of software that has to be downloaded and installed separately from Audacity.
I've already done this for you on these computers, but you'll have to show
Audacity where this is. When it asks you, you can probably solve this by clicking
on the “audacity” folder that appears, then clicking on the file in that folder. I can
come around and help with this part – it only has to happen once.
4. Next, you'll be asked to edit the ID3 tags for your file. These are little bits of
information that are attached to the file which affects how it appears in a music
program like iTunes. So you can give your track a title (this can be different than
the file name), and an artist name, and even an album name and genre. . . most
of this doesn't apply in our case. But, you should put some information in so that
if you send the file to someone (like me), it shows up in an informative way in
iTunes. So put your names in for the Artist, and give your track a name.
Check it out
Finally, find your newly created mp3 file and open it in iTunes to make sure it worked
out.