How to record and edit a podcast with Audacity – TAP060

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Back to basics! Learn what you need to edit your first podcast and some tips you may have missed if you’re already podcasting with Audacity.

Setup

  1. Download and install the latest version of Audacity.
  2. Download and install Chris’s Dynamic Compressor (optional, but recommended).
  3. Use an external mic.

Record

Into Audacity

  1. Ensure that Audacity has the right input selected from the device toolbar. Try a couple tests.
  2. Press the Record button or the R key to start recording.
  3. Press the Pause button or P key to temporarily suspend recording, but not completely stop it. You can’t edit while paused.
  4. Press the Stop button or Spacebar to stop recording.
  5. If you stopped your recording and want to start again from where you left off (called Append Record) without creating an extra track, hold down Shift as you press the Record button or press Shift-R.
  6. Press the Record button or R key again to record a new track.
  7. Go to Transport menu and enable Overdub if you want to hear previously recorded tracks while you’re recording new tracks.

Into an external device

  1. Follow your device’s instructions for connecting and recording. I recommend recording at 16 bits, 44.1 KHz, uncompressed WAV; or record in the highest-quality MP3 as possible.

With Skype

  1. Download and install MP3 Skype Recorder (free for Windows) or Call Recorder for Skype ($20 for OS X).
  2. Follow the instructions for recording with your choice of software.

As a double-ender

A double-enderis when all cohosts record their own audio themselves and then the producer pieces them all together.

  1. Everyone download and install Audacity.
  2. Everyone follows the above “Into Audacity” steps.
  3. Everyone gives you their Audacity recording .aup and accompanying “-data” folder, or else they give you an exported file from instructions below.

Edit

If you didn’t record straight into Audacity, create a new Audacity Project from File menu > New (Cmd/Ctrl-N) and drag your recorded files into the project.

How to edit

  1. Activate the Selection Tool if it isn’t already.
  2. Select an area with one of the following.
    • Click and drag.
    • Click at the start point and shift-click on the end point, or vice versa.
    • Expand any selection by moving your mouse toward its edge and drag left or right when you see the hand cursor.
  3. Perform an edit.
    • Cut to clipboard with Cmd/Ctrl-X and paste somewhere else with Cmd/Ctrl-V.
    • Copy to clipboard with Cmd/Ctrl-C and paste somewhere else with Cmd/Ctrl-V.
    • Delete and shift the following audio with the Delete key or Cmd/Ctrl-K.
    • Delete without shifting the following audio (Split Delete) with Cmd-Opt-K (OS X) or Ctrl-Alt-K (Windows). This is helpful in multitrack editing.
    • Silence the audio without moving anything with Cmd/Ctrl-L.
    • Trim everything but your current selection with Cmd/Ctrl-T.
  4. Move stuff around.
    • Cut, copy, and paste as above.
    • Split audio into clips by placing your cursor at a split point or selecting an area and pressing Cmd/Ctrl-I. You can also split this clip into a new track with Cmd-Opt-I (OS X) or Ctrl-Alt-I (Windows).
    • Join split clips in a track by selecting through them and their space between and pressing Cmd/Ctrl-J.
    • Move a split clip around by activating the Time Shift tool. This also works for moving a clip to a separate track.

What to edit

  1. Delete the silence at the beginning and end.
  2. Remove any “ums” or “uhs” if necessary. Remember that perfectionism kills podcasting.
  3. Shorten excessively long silences, but keep it natural and don’t make things sound mechanical. Effect > Truncate Silence can shorten these automatically, but don’t run this on multitrack projects.
  4. Remove mistakes that you self-corrected. For example, stumbling over words and then respeaking it clearly. Again, don’t be a perfectionist.
  5. Insert necessary clips such as corrections, sound effects, promos or commercials, or voicemail.

Perfectionism is an enemy to podcasting. So I recommend that you not get excessive with your edits and actually allow some “mistakes” or natural glitches. Some of them may be funny, all of them make you sound more human. Only remove distractions.

If editing multiple tracks

Editing a multitrack recording is a little harder because audio can get seriously misaligned with a single edit. There are a few ways to work around this.

  • Use Audacity’s Sync Lock tracks so changes in one track affect the other sync-locked tracks. This only works if there isn’t something important in the other tracks in that selection.
  • Whenever deleting audio, select across all tracks and press delete. This only works if there isn’t something important in the other tracks in that selection.
  • Use Split Delete (Cmd-Opt-K or Ctrl-Alt-K) instead of delete, so audio isn’t moved when you edit. This is useful for editing something happening in one track while the audio in another track must remain.
  • Activate and Envelope Tool to selectively increase or decrease the volume of tracks over time. This is perfect for adjusting intro and outro or background music and effects
  • If editing a double-ender, bring your tracks together before you start editing each other’s audio.

Make it sound better

You can do many things to make your audio sound better. I recommend only using Chris’s Dynamic Compressor to even out your loud and quiet spots. You can also apply Normalization (I recommend a -1 value) on your sound clips to raise them to the same volume.

Export

Audacity can make its own MP3s with LAME, but I don’t recommend it.

  • LAME works best for music encoded at variable bitrate (VBR). This isn’t good for podcasting.
  • Constant bitrate (CBR) is best for podcasting, but LAME’s CBR is terrible.
  • LAME doesn’t accommodate mono files well when you set the bitrate. LAME will make mono and stereo both use 128 kbps when it should split the selected bitrate in half for mono (64 kbps).

iTunes is free software for Windows and OS X and it uses the Fraunhofer software for making MP3s. Fraunhofer is better at CBR, so we’ll use iTunes to make our podcast MP3.

  1. Download and install iTunes if you don’t already have it.
  2. Go to iTunes > Preferences (OS X) or Edit > Preferences (Windows).
  3. Under General, click Import Settings.
  4. Set Import Using to “MP3 Encoder.” Change the Setting to “Good Quality (128 kbps).”
  5. Press OK twice so you’re back to your library.
  6. Export your finished podcast episode from Audacity as a “WAV (Microsoft) signed 16 bit PCM.” There are no options.
  7. Don’t add ID3 tags, because you would tag your MP3 later.
  8. Import this WAV file into iTunes.
  9. Right-click on the file and click “Create MP3 Version.”
  10. Drag the resulting file out of iTunes so you can add the ID3 tags.

You’re done editing!

Now all you have to do put your new podcast episode on your website for people to download. I’ll address this more in a future episode.

New podcast about Once Upon a Time

We’re launching an exciting new podcast to talk about ABC’s TV show Once Upon a Time. We’re still in initial production, but watch for future announcements.

What do you do when you don’t feel like podcasting?

I’d like a future episode to share how we podcasters give ourselves a kick in the pants to podcast when we don’t feel like it, or how we refocus, or how we get new inspiration to keep going.

I can help you launch or improve your podcast

I'm available for one-on-one consulting to help you launch or improve your podcast.

Ask your questions or share your feedback

Please connect with me

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Disclosure

This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive comissions or bonuses from your actions on such links

  • http://basicblogtips.com Ileane

    Hi Daniel, this is just dynamite! In fact this is exactly the type of information I was looking for when I first found your blog. I didn't realize there were so many keyboard shortcuts available for Audacity. Thank you so much. I do have one request though – is it possible that you could cover some of the more advanced material in video format? I would absolutely be willing to help in any way! Thanks again!

    • http://noodle.mx Daniel J. Lewis

      Thank you, Ileane! I will someday cover the advanced topics in my video training product.

  • http://twitter.com/timarthur @timarthur

    Good morning Daniel!

    I had a chance to catch you demonstrating many of these techniques during your live feed of this episode. Great content and very useful explanation of several key Audacity features. I look forward to your training product.

    Audacity has gotten it's share of knocks for being too basic to be really useful. There are several highly advanced and incredibly useful audio editing / production software apps and suites that can get very pricey. As a free alternative to what can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, Audacity is pretty functional. Certainly there is a lack of documentation and pro features, but for a free app, it's terrific!

    I'd encourage those just starting out to take a look at Audacity and give it a spin. You may migrate to more advanced editors like Adobe Audition, Reaper, or Logic Pro in the future, but Audacity may suit your needs for quite some time!

    Thanks for the great topic!

    • http://noodle.mx Daniel J. Lewis

      Great comment, Tim! Indeed, Audacity is great for starting out. Actually, I think that most podcasts don't need anything more than Audacity since podcasts are fairly basic audio.

      I sometimes think about upgrading to Adobe Audition, but then I can never answer my own question of "Why?"

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  • http://twitter.com/rwootenits @rwootenits

    Great podcast! I have been using audacity for about 2 years now and I learned tricks that I never knew about. Thanks for sharing! #ipoducate

    • http://noodle.mx Daniel J. Lewis

      That's wonderful! Thanks!

  • Jamie

    Thanks for this podcast – I'm learning a lot! I also would like to start adding video to my site (book reviews, short how-to's, etc). Do you know if there is an open source "Audacity-like" app for video editing?

    • http://noodle.mx Daniel J. Lewis

      You're welcome! I'm glad you're learning.

      Are you on Windows, OS X, or Linux? If you have OS X, then you probably already have iMovie.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/dify.ltd Cd MaN

    Regarding the Audacity / Lame issues:

    – if I understand correctly your issue is that when you select 128 Kbps and mono it uses all that bandwidth (128 Kb) for one channel instead of halving it – personally I find this behavior more logical and intuitive than the presented alternative (setting 128 and getting 64)

    – CBR issues: I couldn’t find any other references (or maybe I was just using the wrong search terms :-)) to substantiate the claim that LAMEs CBR mode has quality problems. In fact in every article I found the claim was that LAME is better than anything else (CBR/VBR/ABR) – a little slower maybe, but better quality

    I’m asking because if we can narrow it down to a specific issue we could send some info to the developers to improve the program, but as I see it the iTunes exporting / importing isn’t really bringing anything substantial to the process and it overly complicates it.

    • http://theRamenNoodle.com/ Daniel J. Lewis

      Thanks for raising these issues!

      Honestly, I think both approaches to the encoding rate are logical. iTunes’ method is focused on the resulting quality, i.e., 128 kbps stereo has essentially the same audio quality as 64 kbps mono (the audible “surrounding” difference of stereo vs. mono aside). 

      But Audacity and LAME’s method is focused on the actual number, i.e., you tell it 128 kbps and you get 128 kbps no matter how many channels you have.

      Unfortunately, they’re both “right.” I prefer a quality-focused setting, like iTunes’, so I don’t have to change my settings if I switch from mono to stereo.

      The differences between LAME’s CBR and Fraunhofer’s CBR are only noticeable at the lower, recommended quality levels, like 64 kbps mono / 128 kbps stereo. I can hear the difference and others can, too.

      However, the quality issues aren’t as noticeable if you’re not encoding high-quality audio. I didn’t notice this same thing until I upgraded my mic.

      LAME was designed for VBR and it is the best MP3 encoder for VBR. VBR is perfect for music. But CBR is better for voice, especially for podcasts (because of compatibility with several software and hardware players, and other odd glitches with VBR), and Fraunhofer was designed for CBR and it excels at that.

      Take a look back at my explanation of using iTunes to encode the MP3s or when I told how to make MP3s with LAME and I played some sound samples of different qualities.

      As I also discovered, iTunes encodes the MP3 eight times faster than LAME, even when accounting for the extra workflow steps (Audacity > WAV > iTunes > MP3 vs. Audacity > MP3).

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  • Maritza Breitenbach

    Brilliant! Thank you so much! I am no computer fundi, but the instructions were clear and easy to follow. Well done and thank you!

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Great! I’m really glad these helped!

      Soon, I’ll be releasing a digital product that will be a lot more thorough and easier to follow. Would this interest you?

  • Aaron

    Thanks!

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  • http://www.starwalkerstudios.com Lex Starwalker

    I realize this is an old post, but isn’t your dislike of using Audacity’s LAME with VBR to compress to mp3 a moot point, as these days all mp3 players can handle VBR?

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      It’s not whether they can handle them that matters but it’s how it handles them. For example, even the latest Podcasts app for iOS can’t appropriate handle VBR files. If I pause while listening and resume, it resumes in the wrong place.

      Many apps still don’t properly calculate the episode length on VBR files.
      But if you listen straight through with these apps or devices, you’ll never notice a problem.

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