Podcasting on the cheap 2: Super Basic Audacity Effects

So, last entry I talked up Audacity a little bit. A simple, not particularly powerful, but free as fuck audio editor. It's the one I use and has been sufficient for me. If you're just starting out, I recommend it. But what if you're really just starting out. Like, super really just starting out. Hey Gary, what's a volume? Who is this audio fellow? Why sound, Gary? Gary, why sound be? Well, I'm here to help with that too.


Here's a real solid little number that can help shore up other equipment deficiencies. If you're just starting out and you don't have a good mic, this will save you some grief. Obviously, you need to reduce noise as much as possible in advance of recording (no fans, place your mic away from your computer, no smelting) but when that fails, we use this guy. The way it works in audacity is you select an area to serve as a noise profile, then highlight the rest of your audio and apply it. You want to select a good, decent length noise profile that is free of other sounds. When you're just starting out, give yourself about 15 seconds of "silence" (aka room noise) when you start out for this purpose. This will be your noise profile. Make sure it's free of voice sounds or those will be included in the effect. You're essentially telling Audacity what it should consider noise.

When you fire the effect, you're given an option of how severe to make it. In most cases, you can stick with the default but listen to it first. Too much noise reduction sounds like super shit, at least to my ears. So, test and adjust until it sounds good.


You guys know what these words mean but since I use it all the time, I wanted to talk a little bit about how. Podcasts need a little music to break up the talk and you can cross fade talk into music to make professional sounding transitions. So if you have your talk track, move your cursor where you want it to start fading in, import your music and highlight the portion that overlaps with your talk. Then click fade in. There, you go!

If you want to get fancy, you can use the envelope filter instead. This gives you a visual indicator of the volume at any given point in the timeline. You can then adjust the wave form by creating points of articulation and dragging it, creating a sharper or softer fade in and then have the music play softly under the conversation for a time. We do this all the time. It's a little hard to explain in words, but it will make sense when you start fucking around with it.

Here's a picture:

 The bottom track has been envelope filtered. I chose a point of articulation at the end and then one where it's at max volume and adjusted it to overlap with my main track. 

The bottom track has been envelope filtered. I chose a point of articulation at the end and then one where it's at max volume and adjusted it to overlap with my main track. 


Audacity has a sort of shitty built in reverb that I find hard to use. I've used reverb in bands before and it's just a fucking knob. Here, we're given a panoply of options and frustratingly, the default option is sort of garbage. When I'm going for a certain effect, like a space voice or something, I just have to adjust until it fits.

If you're just trying to make something softer (perhaps because of intrusive noise reduction), try using these settings... Room size: 40 Reverb Time 4 s Damping .9 Input Bandwith .75 Dry ignal level 0 Early reflection level -22db tail level -28db


This is, again, self explanatory (unless you are a dumbdumb. You're not a dumbdumb, are you?) but the uses for it aren't always obvious. If you're inserting commercially produced music, you'll likely need to reduce the volume a little bit. Modern music is ultra compressed and the volume is often pumped up to make things sound loud and clean. This will contrast quite a bit with conversation which has peaks and valleys. You can also use this to fix some of those peaks and valleys, if someone says something a little too quiet or loud.

Further, reducing the volume to the minimum is the quickest way to silence something. You use this for coughs and overtalks and when you accidentally say Lovecraft six times in a row.

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll talk about getting music for your show.