Course:FNEL 382/Audacity

From UBC Wiki


A brief commercial message

Who gets credit for Audacity?

  • Started by Dominic Mazzoni and Roger Dannenberg in the fall of 1999 at Carnegie Mellon University.[1]
  • Currently 11 team members responsible for care and feeding (AKA development and support)
  • Scores of people outside the core team volunteer time and energy to development, translation, and bug-fixes
  • Audacity benefits from the work of countless others participating in projects on which the software depends for features
  • I helped build Audacity and SO CAN YOU! [2]

How does Audacity get paid for?

  • NOT by you! Software is free and open source[3]
  • Development is done by volunteers (Translation: It's paid for through the time and expertise of generous people who expect nothing in return)
  • Donations gladly accepted[4]
  • Just enough advertising is done to "keep the lights on" (e.g., pay for bandwidth; secure namespace)[5]

The user experience

Who's using Audacity?

  • NOT professional recording engineers - they're probably busy with Ableton or its highly advanced ilk[6]
  • People who may have a limited budget but a wealth of... independent spirit!
  • People who want to do basic recording and editing (e.g., Putting lyrics over instruments; Shortening a "raw" interview)
  • People willing and able to "fiddle" with third-party add-ons (Read: "The more you want to do, the more computer-literate you must be")
  • Hardcore DIY[7] nerds who prefer to use Linux[8] and/or build their own features

What skills will I need?

A reasonable question to ask. And in some cases it's easily and objectively answered. This is not one of those cases, although it is possible to state generally that experience using software applications for audio, video or image editing will arm you with transferable skills.

In this case the question is akin to asking, "How long is a rope?"[9] The person being asked would try not to furrow her brow as she guided the one inquiring with probing questions of her own meant to reveal the more specific goals and requirements[10] underlying the question.

But here's something slightly more tangible to consider:

  • If you can install software on your own, you can probably record someone's voice and play it back
  • If you can navigate online user communities[11], and are willing to struggle, you can probably "multi-track" and use effects
  • If you can answer questions for other users and point out problems, you can probably use advanced features and third party add-ons
  • If you can build your own drivers and features, you can probably help improve the software as a volunteer developer[12]
  • If that sounds daunting and/or the work is mission critical, reconsider DIY; you may wish to pay for software that comes with a support contract[13] or hire a technician

Use case scenario for linguists: Translation

Plan the interview

  1. Identify your TO and FROM language
  2. Choose a word/phrase for translation
  3. Identify a willing victim... participant... interviewee... you get the idea

Obtain the audio

  1. Sit with the interviewee and begin recording (Any device will do, but we'll assume it's your smartphone)
  2. Ask them to translate the word/phrase you've chosen FROM language x TO language y
  3. Explore common uses of the word and/or probe for the nuances that literal translation misses
  4. Stop recording when you have 2 to 4 minutes of content

Play with the software

Tip: Anything in bold and italic below is language used by Audacity in the software, and it is central to achieving what is described (REMINDER: A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF STRUGGLE IS INHERENT IN DIY LEARNING)

  1. Find the import function - move your recording into Audacity
  2. Choose a name for the project - save project as that name in a deliberate location
  3. Play the raw clip and YOU DECIDE on key information - select and duplicate those pieces
  4. Find the name function - change the name of each duplicated audio clip
  5. Place tracks in desired sequence - locate move track up (or down) to achieve this
  6. Remove unwanted empty space - select and cut are used for this purpose
  7. Record a track explaining what your audience heard in the appropriate place - find and use add new for this
  8. Create an MP3 containing what you want that flows logically - export audio is required (Caution: Don't forget to mute the raw/master track)
  9. Say "Tada!" out loud
  10. Look for tutorials provided by Audacity that may align with your scenario[14]


Oh, and here's a link back to the FNEL 382 homepage in case you don't want to scroll all the way back to the top