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Make Good Recordings with Audacity

It’s possible to make professional or almost professional quality .MP3 audio recordings with relatively simple equipment.

Here is what you will need:
1) M-Audio MobilePre USB Interface with Microphone Mic Preamp or a comparable unit such as: Edirol UA-25 or Presonus AudioBox USB or Lexicon Lambda, to name a few. This will remove any buzz from the signal. Buy this from a good music supply company.

2) Shure Beta 58 Microphone. This is an economical professional quality microphone. Buy this from a good music supply company.

3) Audacity Audio Recording and Editing Software (Free on the Internet)

4. An XLR microphone cable. This is a standard three wire microphone cable. You may also want a microphone stand but a stand isn’t essential.

5. If you can’t get a audio interface box and a good microphone, it’s possible to improve your recordings quite a bit by using a laptop running on battery power. Unplugging your laptop will at least eliminate the main electrical power noise from your recording.

SETUP PROCEDURE:

1) Download and install Audacity. Also download and install the LAME mp3 encoder from the download area of the Audacity site.


2) Install any drivers necessary to use the M-Audio MobilePre or the audio interface box you purchased.

3) Connect the M-Audio MobilePre to the computer via the USB port

4) Connect the microphone with an XLR microphone cable to the M-Audio MobilePre

5) Open Audacity

6) Go to Preferences

7) Under File Formats locate the MP3 Export Setup area near the bottom of the window.

8) Select Find Library and navigate to the location where the LAME Library is located and select it.

9. At the bottom left of the Audacity screen select a project rate of 96,000 Hz.

9) Go back to the MP3 Audio Export Setup area and next to Bit Rate select 96 from the drop down menu. On a Mac you will select a bit rate of 96 under preferences. File size and final audio quality is determined by the export bit rate. For use on this web site always select 96. Lower numbers produce somewhat small audio files.

Where to record.

0) If you have access to a silenced studio recording room that is the best place to record. However if you don’t there are still many things that can be done to reduce the background noise.

Choose a quiet place to record that has a small amount of reverb or echo. A heavily carpeted room is much better than a room with hardwood floors.

Close the curtians. Soft curtain material has less echo than hard glass. this will also prevent your neighbors from thinking you are strange.

If you are recording with a laptop, put a book under each end to get more air under the computer and help it cool better. This will make the noisy fan run less.

Shut off all computer programs except Audacity. This will help your computer run cooler and not need it’s noisy fan so much.

If you have an assistant to help you, locate the computer and any noise sources as far away as possible from the microphone.

Consider doing your recording while sitting up in bed with a couple of blankets pulled over your head. This looks very silly, which is why I said to close the curtains, but it can dramatically improve the audio quality. Building a box from the cushions on the couch that you climb in to make your recordings in should also work.

The recordings of your voice for use on language101.com should make your voice sound warm. Experiment with different distances of the microphone from your mouth, and different setups until you achieve a slightly warm sound.

We do NOT want any echo type sounds in your recordings.

RECORDING:

1) Open Audacity

2) On the upper right area of the window is a microphone icon. Next to it is a drop down menu. Select Monitor Input from the menu.

3) Speak into the microphone and adjust the level on the M-Audio MobilePre so that
the red meter moves as far to the right as possible, but never goes to zero. The zero mark on meters like this is on the right.

4) Hold the microphone (or put it on a stand) about 5 or 6 inches (14 cm) from your mouth. The sound becomes warmer if you move the microphone a bit closer to your mouth and less warm as you mover it farther away from your mouth. Try to maintain the 5.5 inches (14 cm). Speak over the mic slightly so that the explosive sounds like B and P do not cause a popping sound.

5) Press the record icon (the one with the red circle) and speak.

5a. Wait one full second after Audacity starts recording before you start talking. Note that it can take a second or so after you click on the record button before Audacity starts recording. It’s easy to trim off extra silence from the recording later.

6) When you are done, wait one full second in silence after you quit talking then press the stop icon (the one with the yellow square).
7) Play back by hitting the space bar or pressing the play icon (the green right pointing arrow).
8) If you like the result, name and save the file.

You will want to edit your recording before uploading it to the web. Here are the most important points.

1) Place the cursor to the left of the start of the waveform and select all but 1/2 second of silence that is closest to the audio in the blank area to the left of the audio. Hit the delete button.

2) Do the same on the right side of the waveform towards the end of recording. Leave 1/2 second of silence after the audio stops and trim off the rest.

2a) Select the first 1/2 second of silence before the audio then click on effects and select Fade In. Now Select the last 1/2 second of silence and select Fade Out. You can skip this step if you really are in a real sound proof studio, otherwise make sure to do it.
3) Do Not Save yet.
4) Listen to the entire recording again to be certain you have all of it still. If you do not, you can open the saved original recorded file or use the Edit Menu/Undo function.
5) If it’s ok then save with a different name so you always have the original to return to if a problem crops up. You may also use the Edit Menu/Undo function.
6) Click on the area to the left of the waveform that has words on it: Audio track, Mono, 44100Hz, etc. – anywhere in the gray area.
7) Go to the menu at the top of the program and open the Effect menu. Select Compressor.
8) Move the slider next to Threshold to –10db.
9) Make sure that the box is checked next to Normalize to 0 db after compressing. The ratio and attack should be set to: Ratio 2:1 Attack .2 Then press OK.
9a. Audacity has some noise removal features. These produce slightly strange results so I suggest you ignore them. If you have too much noise on your signal, find a quieter room.

10) Save

EXPORT:

1) Go to the File Menu at the top of the screen and select Export as MP3. Follow the prompts and save.
2) You now have an MP3 file of the recording to use.

Troubleshooting:

1. It’s easy for Audacity to select the wrong microphone or no microphone at all. If you aren’t getting any audio at all check the manual for your audio interface box and follow any suggestions it offers. It’s easy to select the wrong channel or to accidentally mute the audio.

2. If you are getting low quality audio check the Preferences menu to see if you have the right mike selected. It’s easy to accidentally use the built in mike of a laptop when you think you are recording with an external mike. If the mike you have plugged in doesn’t display in the Audacity, try shutting Audacity down and restarting it.