Recording Music Using Audacity Part III

First check out Part I and Part II of this video series here.

In the final installment of this series we're finally going to record a track!!


Press the red record button as shown above, and then play some notes or sing.


Awesome, we made a small track! Do you see my two shaky drawn arrows at the upper right on the picture above? Always try for your loudest track to have some clear space in the meter here. Flashes or “peaks” are ok in this section but if your meter is more solid in color here, that means that your instrument (input) volume is too high and will sound like distortion.

There are two manual ways to fix this issue. The first one is turn your volume knob down on your instrument, or back away from your microphone a bit or sing softer. If you do not want to record your track over again, you might be able to correct the overly loud track by reducing the volume level decibels (db) by moving the top slider down to the left (as shown on the left hand section of the picture above). Also to note you can control left and right pan of the volume as well.

Let's leave that track up there and try recording another track. Do you notice that another two tracks appear but it looks like there isn’t anything on the other track, like a plain line and no recording? That’s because I (and most likely you) are recording a “mono” signal into a stereo track.


This does not matter as in the next step we will be exporting out tracks to a single mixed file. If you want, you could set this to record all the time as a mono input channel, but if you use a USB Audio Interface box, you probably do not want to touch this setting as you need stereo input for recording on both input channels.

Let’s save our file by going in the “File” on the very top left of the Audacity application window:


After clicking on “File” from the drop down menu, let’s click on “Export”.


We are going to save the song as an .MP3 file. For a helpful tip, I usually save my song in both .MP3 and also .WAV files. WAV files are an uncompressed file format and some retail music sites such as Bandcamp and CDBABY prefer .WAV or AIFF files because they are “lossless” file formats.

However, because they are not compressed like .MP3 files, they can get rather large in size, but it’s just good to have a the song in that format. The .MP3 files are good for Soundcloud and for your social media sites. So pick either inside a hard drive or a folder, or you can choose your own desktop to save the file. Name the song and also if needed you can increase the quality of the bit rate, in this case, on our .MP3 file. Higher quality sounds better however a larger file will be produced. Press OK and then the “Save” button (not shown in the picture above).


Next, fill out the Metadata form. DO NOT skip this step! It’s very important as you are the content creator. Some social media sites actually read this information, some computer media players will show this information in the media player, so fill it out with your info. For the comments section I like to put my web site in. You can also fill out the genre manually. You can also save this as a template (XML file) and then load the same file when needed, or set it as a default. Press the OK button to begin the export.


Oh YES! We know that both our mono tracks that we recorded will be mixed down, press “OK”. If you get an error that the LAME Encoder is not installed, you missed a step in the beginning install instruction on the actual Audacity site. For Windows, click here to get help with this issue.

You may see a green status bar when exporting, it was too quick for me to capture here. Now, instead of closing the program and losing the data, let’s save the entire project, so we can work on it at a later time. Doing this a few times when you are working on a song will save you A LOT of headaches. Computers “DO” freeze up and fail. So remember to get in the habit of doing this next step!!

Go to File, and then “Save Project As” (Also note, there is a Open selection here which you use to open the project file that you are saving).


Yes, we know that we are saving our song as a project file so we can open it up again with Audacity. We also know about the “File, Export” commands as we have done that already with the creation of our .MP3 file that we did prior. Click the “OK” button.

It a good idea to save the project in a new directory folder on your hard drive, just to keep things organized and easier to find. Name the project and then press the “Save” button.


Above is the new directory / folder that I created manually, and look! Here is the main .aup project file and also another folder that has all of the needed data for Audacity. If we click on the main .aup file, because the file is associated to Audacity, Audacity will open up with our project ready to be worked on again.

Conclusion

It was a great pleasure to write this article series in regards to Audacity. It's a terrific application that you will find useful even in regards to editing .MP3 and other files. There are A LOT of features that we have not covered in this article (like plugins and fine editing) but this is enough of the basics to get you up and running.

I hope you come back for more helpful articles and tips here on Musicians Unite!! Until then, good luck and have fun!!



-Thomas Rawding - MU Columnist


*Thomas Rawding (AKA: Mr.Tom) is an multi-instrumentalist, singer and a registered songwriter currently under BMI, Inc. He has been playing and recording music for more than 20 years and continues to write and record songs in South Carolina, for both retail sale and commercial licensing.


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