Guest Author - Valerie Shoopman
Audacity is one of the best free software packages I’ve come across in quite some time. It is better than a lot of paid programs and offers such a wide variety of opportunities for recording and utilizing audio files.
The first thing you need to do is download the program at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ . I would not recommend downloading the Beta version unless you are an advanced computer user. I would recommend downloading the optional LAME MP3 encoder add-on to allow you export MP3 files from Audacity at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq?s=install&item=lame-mp3 .
Once you have the program downloaded, go ahead and run the executable file to install Audacity. It should take only a minute or two. Then, if you downloaded the LAME MP3 encoder add-on, go ahead and unzip that file now onto to your hard drive, taking note of where you choose to save the lame_enc.dll file.
When you first start Audacity, it will ask you what language you want and that is it for the set-up. Quick and easy - I love it!
You will need a microphone hooked up to the microphone jack (usually right next to the headphone jack) on your computer. I prefer using the headset microphones used for gaming and voice dictation myself, rather than a hand-held microphone.
Recording is as easy as hitting the red record button and talking into the microphone! The interface looks very similar to a VCR’s controls. You have the red record button, a stop, pause, and play button, along with skip to the start and skip to the end buttons.
As you talk into the microphone, you will see the sound waves being recorded, and the amplification of your voice oscillating on the screen. It looks very cool. Even better is the fact that you then have the ability to save whatever you recorded into an Audacity file format for further manipulation, or you can export it as a Wav or MP3 file. Then you can use the audio file in other applications.
You will have had to download the LAME MP3 encoder file up above to be able to export to MP3 file formats. The first time you try to export as an MP3 file, it will ask you the location of the lame_enc.dll file you extracted from the download. Simply browse to the location on your hard drive where the file is located and you’re ready to roll.
Editing the recorded file is very easy. If you have a chunk at the beginning or end that you don’t want, just highlight it and hit the delete button on the keyboard. Poof! It’s gone. Yes, it really is that easy.
You have a variety of more advanced controls that allow you to import multiple audio files, create new audio tracks, and generate silence or white noise in addition to having the ability to add a plethora of special effects to your audio. There is even a way to analyze your audio to find dead spots and plot the audio spectrum.
I use Audacity for a number of special projects and I find it very easy to use and adapt to almost any audio editing need I might have. Audacity is simply outstanding, especially for a free piece of software. I highly recommend it.