How to use Chains in Audacity to save time – TAP095

How to Use Chains in Audacity for audio-editing Learn how to simplify repetitive tasks editing audio by making custom Chains in Audacity. A Chain in Audacity is a script that performs a series of tasks on tracks or files. You can save a lot of time performing repetitive tasks with Chains. Chains also work great for remembering effect settings that can't be saved (like for Chris's Dynamic Compressor).

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How to add own chains

  1. Go to File menu > Edit Chains.
  2. Click “Add,” enter a name, and click “OK”
  3. Insert commands by clicking “Insert” below the commands list.
  4. Double-click a command to show its name in the top window.
  5. If you want to edit the command's/effect's settings, click “Edit Parameters” and set everything as you normally would with the effect.
  6. Click “OK.”
  7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 as necessary to include your desired commands or effects.
  8. Chang the order of the commands with the “Move Up” and “Move Down” buttons.
  9. When you're finished, click “OK.”

How to apply chains

  1. Select the audio you want to modify. This can be a small selection, an entire track, or a selection across multiple tracks.
  2. Go to the File menu > Apply Chain.
  3. Click the Chain you want to apply to your selected audio.
  4. Click “Apply to Current Project.”

How to create a keyboard shortcut

Audacity-set keyboard shortcutIf jumping through menus is too much, make a keyboard shortcut that will be more convenient.

  1. Go into the Audacity Preferences (On Windows, Edit menu > Preferences; on OS X, Audacity menu > Preferences).
  2. Click “Keyboard” in the list on the left.
  3. With the “All” category selected, scroll down to “Apply Chain” (about a single screen down).
  4. Click in the blank space below the list.
  5. Enter your desired keyboard shortcut and click Set. Audacity will warn you if there's a conflict with another command.
  6. Click “OK” when you're finished.

Some notes about Chains

  • Chains do not currently support export as AIFF, Other uncompressed files or any formats supported by FFmpeg.
  • You cannot set export format options or export sample rate in the Chain. If you need to specify export options other than the current default, import or generate some audio, File > Export, select the audio type, click “Options…” then choose and save the option and cancel the export.
  • (Linux) When configuring effect parameters in “Edit Chains”, the “Preview” button is not intended to be functional. Pressing it may cause a crash.
  • Chains only use built-in commands or Nyquist Effect plug-ins (as of Audacity 2.0.1).

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About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.

20 comments on “How to use Chains in Audacity to save time – TAP095

  1. Robert Williams says:

    Hey, Love the podcast! I got the “chris compressor” and installed into plugins, but when I record something and go to “effect” I do not see “Chris’s Compressor” what I do see is “compressor dynamics 1.2.6” is that Chris’s compressor? I just want to make sure I did everything right. Thanks for your patience and help.

    1. Hi, Robert! Thanks for listening!

      Yes, “Compress Dynamics 1.2.6” is Chris’s Dynamic Compressor.

  2. Robert Williams says:

    SWEEET! thanks! one more question, what effects DO you recommend? I am recording sermon for church through a sound system. Sorry if you already answered this, you could just point me to podcast if you want, I have tried to go back and listen to as many as I can.

    1. I’m a big fan of natural voices. I recommend effects only for intentional effects (like audiodrama) or if an affect can “fix” a problem (like removing noise or restoring a recording to its original sound).

      But I do definitely recommend a compressor—not a bass-boosting multiband compressor, but just something to even out the loud and quiet spots a little. Depending on your denomination, the sermons may be monotone, up and down, or a constant loudness. I’ll leave you to assign denominations to each of those. 😛

      1. Laughing outloud! 🙂

  3. Curbuntu says:

    Chains — how liberating! Thanks for a great tip, Daniel!

    1. Thanks! Version 2.0.1 really made Chains more useful. You should’ve seen the commands list before then! It was much shorter and included almost no effects.

  4. Curbuntu says:

    Chains — how liberating! Thanks for a great tip, Daniel!

  5. Brian Wallace says:

    Great show. Thanks, I am learning so much! One question. I’ve been using Chris’s compressor normally. For some reason it doesn’t show up when I press insert for my chain. It’s in the plugin file for audacity and I’m using the latest version of audacity. Any thoughts?

    1. Brian Wallace says:

      Ah I found it. I was accidently using an old version of audacity even though I had downloaded the new version. Thanks for all your hard work.

      1. Great! That’s what I was going to suggest double-checking.

  6. Roki says:

    Thanks dude. Really helpful. I just have one question. I need to give my voice power. Unless yours in that video, my voice is too shrill. Thank you…

    1. You could try a basic bass boost or some EQ. The Heil PR40, which is the mic I currently use, is good at giving any voice some more boom. But then again, don’t feel like you have to sound like a radio show.

      Sometime, check out the Geek News Central podcast. I wouldn’t call Todd’s voice “the voice of angels,” but he has a massive audience because of his content and presentation.

  7. Donna Brooks says:

    Daniel, I thought the Leveler that is built into Audacity does what the Compressor you spoke of does? It’s supposed to even out the sound so that the volume stays consistent throughout the project. Why do you need Chris’ Compressor? Also, have you ever use a freeware app called Levelator? I love freeware and have had this app for a long time but have not used it because I only started editing audio fairly recently and if needed I just used the Audacity effect.

    1. Chris’s Dynamic Compressor processes things differently and gives you a bit more control. Levelator is dead and has no controls. Now, you could check out the web service Auphonic that has some powerful features.

      1. Auphonic tests out great for the online version. Great to be able to ‘test’ it out for 2 hours of content a month. Seems to be far better then Levelator and far easier to use then Audacity for ‘simple’ levelating and gain management.

        1. In several of my tests, I’ve seen Auphonic to be better than even Adobe Audition for noise reduction!

  8. Shimon Cohen says:

    Hi Daniel, I’m so glad I found your website. I’m planning to start a podcast and am intimidated, but feeling better as I read and watch your stuff. Do you have a recommended chain sequence for basic editing such as normalizing, Chris’ compressor, and then exporting to mp3 in iTunes? Or would that not work? My plan is to use Zoom for video conferencing and record, import only audio to Audacity, edit, and export. I’ll need to add in some theme music, of course. Thank you in advance.

    1. You can do some of that with Audacity, but peak normalization in Audacity is almost useless. Listen to for how to loudness normalize your audio. It’s more steps, but it produces industry-standard loudness.

      1. Shimon Cohen says:

        Will do. Thanks. I used Zoom for my first interview last night. Selected to have the audio tracks recorded separately. Ironically enough, in Audacity, when I used Chris’ compressor, it sounded worse. It seemed to raise some levels that caused more noise. Normalization definitely did not help. I might just go with the Limiter, but each interview will be case by case.

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