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Thing 47: Audacity

Page history last edited by Helen 9 years, 4 months ago Saved with comment

By Madeline Moya


Although editing audio files is not within the strict purview of archives (preserve the original!), nor is it something archivists are traditionally trained for, but being able to work with audio to enrich the context of materials or enrich your archives' website is useful for reaching new users.  


 Audacity audio editor is an open-source audio editing software for recording, slicing, and mixing audio. Although there are more advanced options that could be explored for work with audio records, Audacity tools most likely to be used by archivists are recording, splicing, clip creation, and noise and volume adjustments. This archivist has used Audacity to create podcasts, record research interviews, record donor interviews, and, in one case, edit clips of a very unique donor interview to layer over silent film footage to create a new work that greatly enhanced the donor’s collection. 


Audacity has a very simple interface complete with basic controls (pause, play, stop, rewind, forward, record), microphone controls, volume adjustors, the file’s waveform, and selection time codes. 



You can record in Audacity by simply pressing record. If you have an external microphone connected to your computer, it can be used, but your computer’s internal microphone can pick up sound quite well. Files recorded on a handheld recorder can also be opened and edited in Audacity. It is a simple process to highlight a selection of the recording in the waveform window (zoom in for more precise selections) and either delete it if it’s a goof or paste it into a new project if it’s a clip you would like to save separately. Standard cut, copy, and paste shortcuts can be used, and multiple samples can be added to one project to make a cohesive audio file. Audacity can import and export WAV, MP3, AIFF, AU, and FLAC files and supports 16-bit, 24-bit, and 32-bit samples, which means audio files can be saved to preferred archival standards. When you export a project, Audacity automatically prompts you for metadata associated with the file. 


Some of the easiest-to-use effects that really clean up your audio are Amplify, Noise Removal, Equalization, and Compressor, all found in the “Effects” menu. During quiet sections of a recording, the volume can be matched to the rest of the recording by using the Amplify effect. To remove noise, select a sample of the noise to create a noise profile (found in Noise Removal), then you can remove that noise from the entire track. Equalization is used to improve sound and tonal quality throughout the entire track, and Compressor can be run to bring the volume of loud and soft speakers closer together. But these effects are just a start! Audacity provides extensive documentation and tutorials online. 



  1. Record an audio sample of someone speaking and try out the Amplify and Equalization effects 
  2. Try two speakers to play with the Compressor effect 
  3. Using either of those samples, either highlight or use timecodes to designate selections for deletion--try to cut out excessive “ums” or irrelevant statements  
  4. Record a sample in a noisy place and use Noise Removal to create a noise profile and remove noise 
  5. Record in WAV format and export to an MP3 
  6. Go through Audacity tutorials and find new tools!  


Blog Prompts 

  • What other Audacity tools do you find useful? 
  • How can archivists use audio to enrich collections?
  • What are some specific project ideas for your archives’ collections? 



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