Product Review for Sound Editing: Audacity

A long time ago, I thought I wanted to be a record producer. I didn’t think it would be all that hard. Back in the 80’s I would do that extremely low-rent version of laying tracks: take one cassette tape player, press play, and sing along while another cassette tape player recorded it. Nowadays I carry on my dream using more up-to-date technology for sound editing that goes by the name of Audacity. And the best part about the program? It’s free.

Audacity is a sound editing program developed by a company called Sourceforge. Sourceforge developed this as a “free”, open-source program that allows any user to do basic sound editing with all kinds of sound-file types to include .wav and .mp3. You are encouraged to make donations to keep it free. Downloading the program from is a cinch and it’s only a bit over 2 Meg. The download link on the top of the screen leads you to several mirror sites that are free and take almost no time to start if you have high-speed internet.

Once you get the program started, you’ll notice that the button layout is fairly simple. To me, the best way to start experimenting with the buttons is to use your internet microphone. Make sure it’s plugged in and that the small drop-down menu in the top tool bar is set to microphone (it should be by default.) Click the red record button at the top and start speaking. You’ll see those nifty little sound wave graphics pop up. Once you’re done, press play and hear yourself!

I don’t necessarily like the sound of my own voice, but Audacity can help me manipulate and put in those nifty effects and use good sound editing to make me sound like gold. Let’s say you want to keep the same pitch of your voice, but want to slow it down or speed it up. This is great if you don’t want to sound like the Chipmunks or Barry White. Take your mouse and drag it across those nifty sound wave graphics. When you un-click, the track should be shaded. Now click the effects button in that top tool bar. Click on “change tempo”. It’s pretty self-explanatory from there: move the percentage bar to the right for faster and to the left for slower. Pick “preview” to hear it before you save it.

From there it’s just experiment city! You can easily pass 2 hours just putting effects to your own voice. But can you do it with other pre-recorded tracks? Absolutely. On that top tool bar, click “Project” and the “Import audio” from that menu. Pick a song, any song, and watch the sound layers pop up.

The possibilities are endless. There are ways to layer dozens of tracks on top of each other and save them as one huge .wav file. You can easily cut and paste parts of songs by highlighting and removing. If you select “Line In” from the drop down menu and play another song from another source (like internet radio), you can press record and capture that live source! The only thing you have to do separate from the Audacity program itself is converting to MP3. Nero and several other programs can be used for that.

Audacity is the best free sound editing program out there today on the web. I’ve used it to compose a capella tracks for my singing groups and choirs. I’ve also recorded my children saying things and set them to background instrumentals. No more using that dual-cassette tape recording technology from the 80’s to feel like an at-home producer; I can use Audacity instead!

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