How can I edit audio recordings to sound more professional?
I've been using my Mac to record simple audio snippets, pretending I'm a radio announcer, but I want to trim them down to remove my stumbles, stutters, and breathing. How can I do that?
There's one amazing application that's available for Macs and PCs that make editing audio files not just pretty easy, but dare I say fun too? It's Audacity, and it's one of the best ways I know to waste hours of time fiddling. :-)
Let me show you the basics, by making a fairly crude audio recording, then using Audacity to chop it down, trim it, and make it tight and professional. I actually do this all the time as I have been doing some radio spots for different groups on the side. You'll hear, I have a pretty good voice for radio.
First off, gear: I am not using the built-in mic in my Apple MacBook Pro, but instead using the inexpensive Logitech USB headset (about $30, mine is the discontinued 0374A). That's it, no other fancy equipment.
Here's the basic recording I made by starting Audacity and clicking on the RECORD button, as shown here:
The result: click here to listen to "take 1".
As you can hear, lots of noise, breathing, and false starts. I could simple keep re-recording the same snippet until I said it perfectly, but that's a lot of work. Far easier to get all the words and chop out the unneeded parts.
To do that, I need to view the waveform and understand what it means. The first six seconds of the audio sample "take 1" look like this:
Where it's just a straight line is silence, and where the waveform looks like a roller coaster, that's audio content. The higher / lower the audio wave, the louder the material. When you see something quite spiky it's because there's a lot of amplitude mixed up (in human terms it's loud and soft, with lots of dynamic range).
To get rid of a segment of audio, simply click and drag the mouse to select that segment. Click "Play" to ensure it's what you want to zap and nothing else:
Here I've selected the phrase "Hi, this is Dave of Ask Dave Taylor and thanks for, umm, I dunno, what? something." then a silent passage, then "let's try that again". To delete this mistake, once it's selected, I simply choose Edit --> Delete and *poof* it's gone!
Now I'm going to get rid of the breath between "started out" and "we had", which is the portion selected below:
We don't want to delete this entire selection, however, just the breathing in the middle, which can be seen visually as the "thicker" line in the middle of the darker area. I'm going to reselect to just have that breath, then again use Edit --> Delete to get rid of it:
Once deleted, we'll get rid of the laugh, but not the "and a laugh" that I say (this'll maximize confusion, I'm sure, but that's okay):
I've fiddled with it a bit more and cut out short quiet passages and a few random words and phrases, and the end result is quite a bit shorter, more professional, and only took about 10-15 minutes total to edit down.
The final result: click here to listen to "take 2".
Listening to it, there's only one spot that didn't come out quite right, a word that I say a bit too brightly to fit neatly into the sentence it now finds itself in, but I could also re-record that word or phrase and splice it in (something I'll show in a different entry).
Hope this demonstrates to you how easy it is to work with Audacity and get pretty darn great results with your audio files!
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