How to Record Audio with Audacity & GARAGEBAND

Need help with something you've read on this page or seen in one of our instructional videos? Waterloo instructors can email remoteteaching@uwaterloo.ca to schedule a live consult with a CEL multimedia developer.

 

Audacity (from http://audacityteam.org) and GarageBand (from Apple) are recommended free choices for recording audio for things such as podcasts.

On this page:

Watch Our Recorded Workshops

Relevant pre-recorded video workshops available on our YouTube channel:

Important Tips Before You Start

  • To record audio on your home computer, you will need headphones and a microphone. 
  • Instructional Technologies and Media Services (ITMS) provides best practices for video and audio recording.
  • Some students may require an accessible alternative, such as a transcript, to an audio-only presentation, .

Windows 10 Setup

Headphones

  1. Plug your headphones into the audio jack. Go to Settings > System> Sound. Under Choose your output device, select Speakers/Headphones.
  2. Under Device Properties tab ensure that Speakers/Headphones are enabled, and under Balance, move sliders up to middle of range.
  3. Click on Additional device properties link to get the Advanced tab, then hit Test button. If you hear a tone in the left side and then the right side of your headphones, your speakers are working correctly. Under Default Format, select the highest quality [1 channel, 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)]. Check the boxes under Exclusive Mode, so you can control the volume within Audacity, and hit Apply

Microphone

  1. Plug your microphone into the USB port, or the microphone jack. 
  2. Go to Settings > System> Sound. Under Choose your input device, select your microphone.
  3. Under Device Properties tab ensure that the microphone is enabled, and under Volume, move sliders up to middle of range. Hit the Test button and speak into the microphone. If you see the the bar move along the Volume indicator, then your microphone is working correctly.
  4. Click on Additional device properties link to get the Advanced tab. Under Default Format, select the highest quality [1 channel, 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)]. Check the boxes under Exclusive Mode, so you can control the levels within Audacity, and hit Apply.

How To Use Audacity (Windows)

  1. Download and install Audacity from http://audacityteam.org/.  (The instructions below are for audacity-win-2.3.3). Install on C:\Program Files (x86)\Audacity. For detailed instructions go to Help > Quick Help in the Audacity menu. 
  2. Launch Audacity. The recording window should appear. (If Audacity was running before you connected the USB microphone, you may need to close and restart to avoid an error message). 
    001-recording-window

Monitor Recording Level

  1. Click on the Recording Meter to start monitoring.
    002-record-meter
  2. Speak into the microphone and adjust the recording level using the slider next to the microphone on the Mixer Toolbar.
    003-mic-level
    Audacity Team (2019). Audacity(R): Free Audio Editor and Recorder [Computer application]. Version 2.3.3 retrieved from https://audacityteam.org/ and licensed under CC BY 3.0.
  3. The Recording Meter remains green until the signal reaches -12 dB then merges to yellow as the signal approaches -6 dB which is a good maximum signal level to aim for. If the signal exceeds -6 dB the bars merge from yellow to red. The red color warns that the signal is becoming too loud (approaching 0 dB) and clipping (i.e., distortion) may occur. Adjust the slider until only the loudest segments approach the yellow. Most can be well below -6 dB and still have good volume.
    004-recording-meter

Recording

  1. From top menu, select Edit > Preferences, click on Devices. Under Recording Channels: select 1(Mono). (Note that you may record in stereo, but mono is sufficient when recording from one microphone, and will minimize file size).
    preferences-devices-mono
  2. Click File > New or press the record button.
    005-buttons
  3. Speak into the microphone. You should hear your voice through the headphones, and see the waveform trace out on the timeline. After 10-20 seconds, hit stop and inspect the tracing. The waveform should be centred on 0.0, and never reach maximum amplitude (1.0 or -1.0 on the graph). Periods of silence should display as a thin horizontal line at 0.0. A fuzzy baseline means there is interference or ambient noise in the background. Move your cursor to the start of the wavform, and hit play to playback your recording and monitor the levels in the Playback Meter. Playback some “silent” regions (with headphones at maximum volume) to detect any unwanted background noise. When you are not speaking, this level should be as close to zero as possible. Although the microphone has a limited range, it might still pick up electrical interference from lights and fans, which may elevate background noise in your recording. Listen for background noise. Adjust the recording level, proximity to the microphone, or recording environment, until your recording approximates the picture shown below.
    006a-waveform-mono
  4. Adjust the position of the microphone to reduce unwanted noise (e.g., breathing, popping Ps, whistling Ss, or rustling sounds from clothing). If you are using a headset microphone, try angling the microphone so that it sits at a 45 degree angle above or below your mouth (at nose or chin level) but not directly in front of your mouth.
  5. Speak at a normal conversational voice level. Clearly pronounce each word. CEL can provide a quality check on your recording if you send in a sample (30 seconds minimum) before you bulk record. Developers are available to assist with complicated edits to your audio files, (e.g., deleting substantial mistakes, unwanted sounds, etc.). If you require support or trouble-shooting assistance with the recording of your audio file, please send an email to learnhelp@uwaterloo.ca with details of the issue you’re having.

Record, Playback, and Delete

  1. Hit record button to begin recording. Press the pause button to stop, and the pause button again to resume; or hit stop, and record to resume. Normally, the recording should continue on the same track. 
    005-buttons
  2. If you start on a new track by mistake, you can delete the track by hitting the X in the upper left of the track window.
    007-x-button
  3. Spacebar can be used to pause and playback. You may find it easier to alternate between spacebar and Record during your recording, rather than using the buttons on the toolbar.  
  4. Hit the spacebar twice (or the play button) to playback from the last starting point. View the speaker output meter.
  5. To change the starting point for playback, mouse click at your desired starting point, then hit the spacebar (or play button) to playback.
  6. The Skip to Start and Skip to End buttons can be used to skip to the start or end of the track respectively.
  7. Use the horizontal scroll bar to view segments within your recording. 
  8. To edit the waveform, click on the selection tool.
    008-selection
  9. Use mouse clicks to navigate to a point within your recording, to play or select
  10. Mouse click the desired “in” point and drag the cursor along the track to the desired “out” point. The selection will be highlighted.  To make fine adjustments to the “in” and “out” points, place the cursor near to the point, and when the cursor changes to a hand symbol drag the point to the desired location.
  11. Hit the space bar or play button to play the highlighted selection between these points. 
  12. To copy a selection, highlight it with your cursor, and select Edit > Copy from menu, or Ctrl+from your keyboard. To paste the selection, use Edit > Paste or hit Ctrl+V from your keyboard.
  13. To delete a selection, highlight it with your cursor, and hit the delete key on your computer keyboard.
    009-select
    For this work I used version 2.3.3 of Audacity(R) recording and editing software
  14. To add text labels to any selection, go to Edit > Labels > Add Label. You can type in a description for future reference.
    010-label

Save Project 

  1. Go to File > Save Project. The default is This PC/documents/Audacity folder, but you may wish to save to a different location. Save results in an *.aup file and a _data folder. Keep these two components together in the same folder. You can reopen this project file to continue working on it, and save. To save a project with a new name (or to a different location) select File > Save As.

Export MP3

MP3 is the recommended format for posting audio in LEARN courses, and on the web generally. This format generates small file sizes and is playable by a wide range of devices and applications.

  • When you have finished recording your piece in Audacity, go to File > Export > Export as MP3. Enter a file name denoting the lesson name and/or number so you can easily distingush between and sort files later. Save as type: MP3 Files. Hit Save. [Note: to skip the Edit Metadata Tags prompt, choose Don't show this when exporting audio]. 

Working with CEL on a fully online course development project?

If you are working with CEL on a fully online course development project your developer will advise you as to what format they require you to export your audio from Audacity and how to send it to them.

 

 


 

Mac Setup

Headphones

  1. Plug your headphones into the audio jack. Go to System Preferences > Sound > Output. Select Headphones as the device for sound output.
    headphones
  2. In order to test the sound, go to Sound Effects and select any of the sound effects. If you hear a tone in the left side and then the right side of your headphones, your speakers are working correctly.
    test
  3. Under Output volume move the slider up to middle of range.
    level

Microphone

  1. Plug your microphone into the USB port. The driver software will automatically install.
  2. Go to System Preferences > Sound > Input and ensure that the microphone you connected is selected. 
    samson
  3. Move the slider up to the middle of range. If the Input level moves and fluctuates when you speak, your microphone is working correctly.
    miclevel

    input

 


 

How to use Audacity (Mac)

  1. Go to the Mac Download page of the Audacity site.
  2. On the download page, click the 'installer' link, the Audacity 2.3.3 .dmg file. This takes you to the FossHub site where the downloads are hosted.
  3. On the FossHub Audacity page click the Audacity macOS DMG link. This will start the download.
  4. Once the file has downloaded, open the application (.dmg file)
  5. Copy the Audacity folder to your Applications folder, or another location on your hard drive.
    NOTE: if you have changed your Mac's app security settings (Settings > Security & Privacy) to only allow apps downloaded from: 'Mac app store' or 'Mac App Store and identified developers', you will need to grant permission for this program to open.

Audacity Configuration

  1. Launch Audacity. (If Audacity was running before you connected the USB microphone, close and restart to avoid an error message).
  2. From the Menu Bar, select Audacity > Preferences. In the panel that opens, choose the Devices menu item from the list on the left.
    device-pref-updated
  3. Ensure that the USB microphone you have connected is listed under the Recording > Device pulldown menu. In the same menu, make sure to set the Channels to 1 (Mono) [The Audacity default is 2 (Stereo)].
    • Troubleshoot: If your device is not listed as an available option under the Recording > Device pulldown menu, quit Audacity and relaunch.
      If this still does not work, restart your computer while leaving the USB microphone connected. Relaunch Audacity and try again.
  4. Once you have verified that the microphone is connected, click OK to close the Preferences window.
  5. Select the dropdown arrow beside the microphone icon, and select Start Monitoring (or click the text that reads 'Click to Start Monitoring' over the volume levels bar). This will show you the relative volume of the sound being captured by the microphone.
    audacity-bar-01
    • Levels should be above -12db while speaking at a normal volume, but should not reach 0dB (when pronouncing T's, P's, or K's). If levels are below -12dB or reach 0dB, adjust the input level using the Input Level slider for the microphone. 
      To help with the monitoring, you can enlarge the bar where the relative volume of the sound is being displayed.

Monitor Recording Level

  1. Click on the Recording Meter to start monitoring.
    audacity-011-click-to-start-monitoring
  2. Speak into the microphone and adjust the recording level using the slider next to the microphone on the Mixer Toolbar.
    audacity-013-recording-volume-slider1
  3. The Recording Meter remains green until the signal reaches -12 dB then merges to yellow as the signal approaches -6 dB which is a good maximum signal level to aim for. If the signal exceeds -6 dB the bars merge from yellow to red. The red color warns that the signal is becoming too loud (approaching 0 dB) and clipping (i.e., distortion) may occur. Adjust the slider until only the loudest segments approach the yellow. Most can be well below -6 dB and still have good volume.
    audacity-012-recording-level

Recording

  1. Click File > New or press the record button.
    bar-front
  2. Speak into the microphone. You should hear your voice through the headset, and see the waveform trace out on the timeline. After 10-20 seconds, hit stop and inspect the tracing. The waveform should be centred on 0.0, and never reach maximum amplitude (1.0 or -1.0 on the graph). Periods of silence should display as a thin horizontal line at 0.0. A fuzzy baseline means there is interference or ambient noise in the background. Use the instructions below to playback your recording and monitor the levels in the Playback Meter. Playback some “silent” regions (with headphones at maximum volume) to detect any unwanted background noise. When you are not speaking, this level should be as close to zero as possible. Although the microphone has a limited range, it might still pick up electrical interference from lights and fans, which may elevate background noise in your recording. Listen for background noise. Adjust the recording level, proximity to the microphone, or recording environment, until your test recording approximates the picture shown below.
    Good-Audio-Timeline
  3. Adjust the position of the microphone to reduce unwanted noise (e.g., breathing, popping Ps, whistling Ss, or rustling sounds from clothing). If you are using a headset microphone, try angling the microphone so that it sits at a 45 degree angle above or below your mouth – but not directly in front of your mouth (for example, at nose or chin level).
  4. Speak at a normal conversational voice level. Clearly pronounce each word. CEL can provide a quality check on your recording if you send in a sample (30 seconds minimum) before you bulk record. Developers are available to assist with complicated edits to your audio files, (e.g., deleting substantial mistakes, unwanted sounds, etc.). If you require support or trouble-shooting assistance with the recording of your audio file, please send an email to learnhelp@uwaterloo.ca with details of the issue you’re having.

Record, Playback, and Delete

  1. Hit record button to begin recording. Press the pause button once to pause recording, and the pause button again to resume. Your recording will continue on the same track.
  2. If you hit stop, and record, the next recording will begin on a new track. To continue on the same track, use key command Shift+R, (i.e., Transport > Append Record) instead of record.
  3. If you start on a new track by mistake, you can delete the track by hitting the X in the upper left of the track window.
    arrow
  4. Spacebar can be used to pause, stop or play. You may find it easier to alternate between spacebar and Shift +R during your recording, rather than using the buttons on the toolbar.
  5. Hit the spacebar (or the play button) to playback from the last starting point. View the speaker output meter.
  6. To change the starting point for playback, mouse click at your desired starting point, then hit the spacebar (or play button) to playback.
  7. The Skip to Start and Skip to End buttons can be used to skip to the start or end of the track respectively.
  8. You must press Stop if you want to edit a track.
  9. Click on the selection tool.
    audacity-014-selection-tool1
  10. Mouse click the desired “in” point and drag the cursor along the track to the desired “out” point. The selection will be highlighted in dark grey. To make fine adjustments to the “in” and “out” points, place the cursor near to the point, and when the cursor changes to a hand symbol drag the point to the desired location.
  11. Hit the space bar (or play button) to play the selection between these points.
  12. To delete a highlighted selection, hit the delete key.
    audacity-015-select-span
  13. To add text labels to any selection, go to Edit > Tracks > Add Labels at Selection. You can type in a description of the segment for future reference.
    audacity-016-label-track

Save Project

  1. Go to File > Save Project. The default is User/Documents folder, but you may wish to save to a different location. Save results in an *.aup file and a _data folder. Keep these two components together in the same folder. You can reopen this project file to continue working on it, and save. To save a project with a new name (or to a different location) select File > Save As.

Export MP3

MP3 is the recommended format for posting audio in LEARN courses, and on the web generally. This format generates small file sizes and is playable by a wide range of devices and applications.

  • When you have finished recording your piece in Audacity, go to File > Export > Export as MP3. Enter a file name denoting the lesson name and/or number so you can easily distingush between and sort files later. Save as type: MP3 Files. Hit Save. [Note: to skip the Edit Metadata Tags prompt, choose Don't show this when exporting audio]. 

Working with CEL on a fully online course development project?

If you are working with CEL on a fully online course development project your developer will advise you as to what format they require you to export your audio from Audacity and how to send it to them.

 


 

How to use GarageBand (Mac)

Create a New Recording File

1.     From the File menu, select New

2.     Under New Project, select Voice from the options available (this opens a new recording file)

Please Note:

  • Avoid using special effects
  • Ensure that "Narration Vocal" is selected

 

 

Screenshot demonstrating how to create a new project in GarageBand

Recording Audio

Steps:

  1. Set the play head marker to the “home” position (indicated by an arrow with a line at the “1” position in the screenshot).
  2. Disable the metronome garageband-metronome (if you leave this enabled, your track may contain clicks as you record)
  3. To begin recording, click the Record button garageband-record.
  4. To stop recording, click the Stop button garageband-stop.

Please Note:

  • The play head position remains where you stopped recording
  • Moving play head backwards records over previous recorded material
  • Moving the play head forward creates a gap (silence) in your recording

 

 

Screenshot illustrating the play head marker in GarageBand

Save Audio to File

1.     From the top Application menu, select Share, then Export Song to Disk…

2.     Select a destination folder and name your file (e.g., module1-lecture1)

3.     At the bottom of this dialog box:

  • Select MP3 format
  • In the Quality dropdown box, select Medium Quality (128 kBit/s)
  • Do not check the “Export cycle area…” box

 

 

Screenshot of the Export Song to Disk window in GarageBand

 Additional GarageBand Resources

 

1 Audacity® software is copyright © 1999-2019 Audacity Team. Web site: https://audacityteam.org/. It is free softwaredistributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.The name Audacity® is a registered trademark of Dominic Mazzoni.