Audacity….forcing me to hear my own voice

Cost: Free
Type: Software (download)
Rating: 5/5

 

audacity_logoThis is an oldie, but goodie. I’ve been using Audacity since the very beginning of my digital media adventures (about 10+ years ago). Beyond just a free tool to record audio narratives, this software has had a more significant impact on my life. Ultimately, after creating and editing hundreds of audio files, this software helped me accept my nasally, mid-western voice as it is. Sometimes I sound like a smoker (which I’m not). Sometimes I sound sick (which I’m generally not). Most times, as students have noted, I sound like a documentary narrator…soothing, but not generally sleep-provoking (which I suspect is not entirely true based on my in-person lecture experiences). The software is easy to use, so I had no choice but to continue to create audio narrations to my videos without excuse. Its’ free, but it looks like software you might pay to use.

Goal: find stand alone software to record audio narration for my slide presentations (…this goal was set when PowerPoint was quirky with recording audio in presentation mode)

Benefits:

  • Totally free!
  • Easy to use….just have a mic and start recording. You may want to double-check sound levels at some point since I often record too low.
  • There is a wiki help website, though I have not needed to use it.
  • It’s easy to chop parts out of the recording, such as the beginning (when you’re taking a deep breath) or the end (when you’re saying something like, “Finally! I got through this without the dog barking.”). Just highlight the section to remove and press the Delete key on your keyboard.
Audacity workspace view

This is the workspace, where you can see a recorded file. I don’t know what many of the buttons do because once I set up my mic and volume, I didn’t have to fiddle with anything. Editing as I go is very easy so that I can quickly remove flubs, rerecord that section, and paste the revised version with the first version.

Drawbacks:

  • It glitches and crashes sometimes without saving the recording, thus you can start all over again recording that clip. The most recent version of the software has addressed over 50 bugs, so perhaps the glitch has been fixed. (Recent use has not resulted in crashes.)
  • It probably doesn’t have the audio fine-tuning and editing options as other software. So, if you are planning on submitting your vocal recording audition to America’s Got Talent, then you may need more specific software (and a recording studio).
  • Exporting to MP3 is a total pain the first time, since you need to download more software (plugin) from an external site, and that site often has misleading links, though the author has recently provided insights on navigating the site. Once you install the plugin, you shouldn’t need to do it again unless you move the file.
  • There is one extra screen that I don’t feel is relevant when I’m saving a file…I just dislike having to click more than I have to.

Insider View: As with any digital media project, having a plan, and in this case a script, is ideal. My narrative scripts break down information into separate chunks (e.g., individual slide narrations) to allow for easier editing while creating the video. I prefer to rerecord sections that I screw up and paste the good sections together, rather than editing later. Another thing to consider is the type of microphone you use. A headset type will likely pick up your breaths on certain letter or between sentences, but there is less background noise. A stand alone mic (e.g., Blue’s Snowball Ice) may make your voice sound like it’s in a large room (not up close and personal). The options under the Effect menu might help edit out some of these qualities.

Audacity workspace view

This is the extra pop screen the appears when saving the recording. I always click okay because I’m not particular about any of the information.

Final Thoughts: This software has served me so well that I haven’t looked around for other options (yet). I would certainly recommend it for teachers and students looking to add audio narration to videos or create individual podcast clips. Free and easy to use are it’s primary qualities from my perspective.

Link: http://audacityteam.org/

Samples: I didn’t include any audio samples since the quality of the clip would be based more on my microphone than the software, but if you’ve viewed any of my videos that have audio narration, then you’ve heard the product of Audacity.

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