Thursday, April 02, 2009

Home recording can be fun!

If you sing or play an instrument, you can enhance your learning while having some fun by using the freely available digital recording soft ware “Audacity.” Audacity® is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. You can download and install it for free from You can use the program to record a performance, record accompaniment on one track and then solo on another track, record duets and quartets by yourself, or try your hand at multitrack recording. Audacity is also popular for recording voice, lectures and podcasts.

One of the things I like about the Audacity software is the availability of instructions and tutorials from the same web site. Click on “Other downloads” and then click on the “Help” tab, and you can access the FAQ, the user manual and quick reference, the Audacity Wiki, step-by-step guides on performing common tasks in Audacity, such as making ringtones, removing vocals, mixing, creating podcasts and transferring tapes and records to computer, tips, and even foreign language tutorials.

From the “Download” tab, after you select your operating system, you will have a link to download and install the software. You will also need to download and install the “LAME MP3 encoder” if you want to be able to save your recordings in the popular MP3 format.

Audacity is very easy to use. Just plug in a microphone or instrument, start the software, click the record button, and you’re in business. Click the stop button when you are finished recording the track. The next time you click the record button, it will open up a second track and you can record a second part while listening to the first part. You can continue to add as many parts as you need. I could not find anything in the documentation that explains how many tracks are available in total, but I imagine that the number of tracks would be limited by the amount of memory you have in your computer, the speed of the CPU, and the amount of available free space on your hard drive, not to mention common sense which dictates that the more tracks you have, the easier it is for something to go wrong! The tracks can be either mono or stereo.

You can plug microphones or instruments into the microphone input on your computer’s sound card, but the sound cards on computers tend to add a lot of hiss and noise to the mix. If this is something you are serious about or want to do on a frequent basis, you should invest in either a USB microphone which converts the signal to digital before it enters the computer, therefore, less noise, or even better, get a digital microphone mixer such as the Digidesign M-Box or the more capable (and more expensive) Presonus FireStudio.

Once you have recorded your tracks, you have many built in “filters” available, such as a noise removal tool, equalization, reverb, echo, and even pitch correction tools to fix bad vocals. You can change the volume of any track, or “normalize” all the tracks so that they are balanced with each other. You can save your project and add more tracks later. When you export your finished work as a WAV or MP3 file, it mixes it down to two-track stereo. You can control the placement of the tracks in the mix before you export.

Once again, there is a lot you can do with this program, and fortunately, there is good documentation and a lot of great tutorials to help you master the process.

I’d sure like to hear what you’ve done. When you finish your project, export it as an MP3 file and email it to or .



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