Audacity Tour Guide
From Audacity Development Manual
There are many links on this page (highlighted in blue). Click the links to go to the more detailed pages in the Manual.
- Record, Play and Edit - the basics of Audacity
- Saving your work - audio formats
- Faster ways to do things - shortcuts and Chains
- Changing the loudness of your audio - fades, Amplify, pan and gain
- Noise in your audio - reducing, adding, fine tuning
- Navigation and changing speed and pitch
- Lots of things you might not know Audacity could do
Record, Play and Edit - the basics of Audacity
If you hold SHIFT while clicking Record the button will change to the Append Record button. This records at the end of the selected track(s) rather than creating a new track as you would for a mix.
Hold SHIFT down before clicking Play and the button will change to the Loop Play button. Click on this and you will get Loop Play where the audio plays over and over until you stop.
- Transport Toolbar with held down: Loop Play and Append Record buttons
For more details on Play, Record and Edit see the Getting Started section of the Manual.
Saving your work - audio formats
Audacity makes a distinction between saving audio in Audacity project format which only Audacity can open, and exporting audio in formats like WAV and MP3 for use in other applications. Audacity project format is made up of multiple small files which are stored in the _data folder for the project and alongside that, an AUP file which says what order the files are in. To reopen a saved project, open the AUP file, not the multiple small files.
Use Export if you want to create a file in an audio format for playing outside of Audacity.
- LAME: Do you want to convert a recording to compressed MP3 format? Audacity can, but it needs an add-on to do so. The add-on is a library called ‘LAME’. A free copy of LAME that is compatible with Audacity is available from the lame.buanzo.org site, as per these instructions (Buanzo is a technology and security consultant from Argentina).
- FFmpeg: The optional FFmpeg library allows Audacity to import and export a much larger range of audio formats including M4A (AAC), AC3, AMR (narrow band) and WMA. Audacity can import audio from most video files by using FFmpeg.
Faster ways to do things - shortcuts and Chains
- A fragment of the keyboard preferences dialog showing some shortcuts
Many buttons and menu commands have pre-defined keyboard shortcuts assigned. You can modify these or add your own with Keyboard Preferences (in the Edit menu on Windows and Linux or the "Audacity" menu on Mac).
Ever want to do the same thing to a large number of audio files, for example remove noise from them and convert to MP3? Chains is the feature for this. Give it a list of files to work through and tell it what sequence of things to do. Programmers may want instead to use Scripting, an experimental but more flexible version of Chains. This needs a free experimental module called mod-script-pipe and experience in programming.
You can save several audio files at once, rather than saving them one by one.
Changing the loudness of your audio - fades, Amplify, pan and gain
- Mono track showing an amplitude Envelope
- Envelopes provide a more flexible way to control loudness. You will need to select the Envelope Tool or Multi-Tool to use envelopes. With envelopes you can graphically control when audio gets louder and quieter.
These are the two sliders in the track's Track Control Panel. The Gain slider enables you to set the loudness for the track. The Pan slider lets you make the audio louder on the left or the right. You can move these sliders to affect the audio as it plays.
These two buttons are in the track's Track Control Panel. Click thebutton to silence this track when playing, click again to hear it again. Click the button to play just this track. Click again to release the button.
This reduces (ducks) the volume of one or more selected tracks whenever the volume of a single unselected "control track" placed underneath reaches a particular threshold level. It can be used to create voice-overs for podcasts or DJ sets, for automatic "ramping" of background music in radio productions and for turning down a voice in original language as soon as its translation kicks in.
An alternative view to the audio tracks in the main tracks window, and is analogous to a hardware mixer board. Each audio track is displayed in a Track Strip with its own pair of meters, gain slider, pan slider, and mute/solo buttons, mirroring that track's controls in its Track Control Panel.
Noise in your audio - reducing, adding, fine tuning
- Mono track in Spectrogram view showing a Spectral Selection
This is a special feature within Sectrograms, which lets you view the frequency content of audio then edit just selected frequencies. This is particularly useful for voice recordings. Among other purposes, Spectral Selection and editing can be used for cleaning up unwanted sound by removing particular frequencies, enhancing certain resonances, changing the quality of a voice or removing mouth sounds from voice work.
Audacity can remove some kinds of noise from a recording. Noise Reduction is an ‘audio effect’, one of the fiddlier audio effects to use. This effect works best with fairly constant noise like background hiss. You first select audio that is just the noise and create a ‘noise profile’. Once Audacity knows the noise profile, it can reduce the loudness of noise of that kind in audio you select.
This can be used to help you remove mains hum or electrical whistle with minimal damage to the remaining audio, by cutting a "notch" out of the frequency spectrum at that point.
Audacity can add noise to a recording too. Three different types of noise can be generated. White noise has the greatest ability to mask other sounds, as it has similar energy at all frequency levels. If you want to add some room noise to make silences more realistic, try adding it at 0.001 amplitude.
If you Zoom in enough on the audio you can edit individual samples of audio. Usually there are 44100 sample dots for every second of audio. This gives you an idea of how the audio is stored in the computer. Very occasionally there may be a click in the audio which is better removed with Draw Tool than with Click Removal or the Repair effect. Repair is best used when zoomed in a lot as it only works with short pieces of audio.
Audacity has a Transcription Toolbar with a small button with green arrow pointing right, looking like the larger button with green arrow for ‘Play’. Set the speed to go faster or slower using the slider to the right of the button. You need to stop and restart playback for the new speed to happen. The speed change also changes the pitch. This is a temporary change during playback. To make a permanent change to speed and pitch use the Change Speed effect (below).
This is the action of moving the mouse pointer right or left so as to adjust the position, speed or direction of playback, forwards or backwards, listening to the audio at the same time - a convenient way to quickly navigate the waveform to find a particular event of interest. When Scrubbing or Seeking you can also use the mouse wheel to change the speed of the scrub or seek so this is another way to change playback speed.
You can speed audio up or slow it down by applying an effect that changes the audio:
- Use Change Speed to make audio faster or slower and higher or lower pitched.
- Use Change Pitch to change the pitch of a selection without changing its tempo (speed).
- Use Change Tempo if you want the pitch to stay the same when speeding up or slowing down. Change Tempo does not always work so well with large changes in speed and the end result may sound a little strange.
A Time Track is a graph line you drag on to change the amount of speed-up or slow-down over time, instead of it having to be a constant speed change. As with Play-at-Speed the speed changes immediately without waiting to run an effect, but the changes do apply when exporting unless you delete the Time Track. So export a copy of your work to WAV format before using Time Track to be safe.
Lots of things you might not know Audacity could do
- A pair of Sync-Locked mono tracks: selection extends automatically to the second track
When you have a mix (several tracks above each other which play together) and everything is nicely lined up, an edit in one track such as cutting a piece of audio can cause the mix to no longer to play in sync. To keep tracks aligned despite cutting, pasting or shifting audio, use Sync-Lock Tracks.
Use a Label Track to mark or annotate audio. In conjunction with Sync-Lock you can keep the labels and audio in step.
These are most useful when working with effects. After you have applied an effect you might change your mind. The History menu item lets you look further back in time and undo more changes in one step.button or menu item will let you undo the change. The
A convenient effect to apply to recordings of interviews and speeches that removes long silences. You can tell it what to count as a long silence, the loudness level and duration, and how much of each long silence to remove.
When making selections it sometimes is helpful for the selection boundaries to be automatically moved to the nearest second (or some other unit of time measurement). If you ‘snap-to’ seconds your selections will always be whole numbers of seconds - you can’t select half a second of sound for example. Set the time format to seconds or frames or whatever unit of time you want to snap to as well as enabling snap-to.
You can add to the effects available in Audacity using plug-ins. Some of these have very nice looking interfaces with graphs and buttons and provide similar effects with different features, or effects that Audacity does not ship with. There are several types of plug-in. The Nyquist type of plug-in, for example, is Audacity's own plug-in format. Nyquist plug-ins can be made just by writing text in a file, so contributors to Audacity often use this format to create new effects. Thoroughly tested plug-ins are available from Download Nyquist Plug-ins. Experimental plug-ins, such as those for the hard task of removing pops, clicks and "ess" sounds from a voice recording, can be found on the Nyquist board on Audacity Forum.
Many people have a single piece of audio on each audio track. However, you can have multiple pieces of non-overlapping audio on the same track. These are called clips. Clips can be created with Split and joined back together by clicking on the dark line boundary between clips. If you click the Time Shift Tool you can drag clips around to different positions on the track, or drag them to different tracks.