Processing Field Recordings Using Audacity

audacityWant to capture the sounds of nature and then make a great-sounding soundscape recording?

Here is how I do it using Audacity software:

Last updated: 02-April-2018

  1. Capture the sounds of nature, etc. Here is a link to another post that tells you how I do that.

    IMG_20180401_115002

    DR-05 recorder with ears. The battery pack is behind the recorder and plugged in via the USB on the side. The battery pack is attached to the recorder via the 1/4″ screw on the back. The battery pack is attached to the tripod via the 1/4″ screw on its back.

  2. Open the captured files in Audacity, a free sound processor. Get it at this link.
    audacity
  3. You shouldn’t have any clipping, but if you do, lower the gain slider until it is not clipping.
    1. But clipped audio can still be in your recording so then fix the clipping.
      1_clip_fix
    2. Or, normalize it. This sometimes works better, but try clip fix first.
      3a_normalize
  4. Remove the clicks and pops in the recording using the click removal tool.
    2_click_removal
    4a. Click removal may not work to get the subtle pops. In that case, zoom in and select, then cut the audio there. Select this “seam” where the cut audio was, and crossfade.
  5. Noise reduction may be needed if the background sound is just too much. Use the noise reduction feature of Audacity.
  6. Normalize if needed to bring up the levels. Try not to normalize, but do it if it is just too quiet of a track (usually recorded too low – go back and record better next time).
  7. Danger, you can ruin your dynamic range if you do any of these, so try to skip this step if possible:
    • Do not compress the dynamic range because this will bring up the noise level. But if you want higher noise by bringing up the lows and down the highs, then compress gently.
    • Also, consider using the leveler on either the whole track or selected portions. Use moderate or sometimes light works better. Experiment. This is both a compressor and limiter.
  8. Repeat the track some number of times get the overall length up to where you want it.
    5_repeat
  9. Find the seams where the repeated tracks meet up with each other and trim out some of the mismatches where one ends and the other begins using the cut tool and/or the crossfade tool. Do this for each seam. Cut first then select just beyond that same area and apply the crossfade. Or, if not cutting, just select beyond the areas of the two parts and apply crossfade. It doesn’t have to be exact. Try it until you get something that sounds good, natural, and without pops.
    6_cut
  10. If needed, use the leveler (or normalize) tool but this time only on the seam portions that don’t quite match each other in level. This will further smooth out the seam transitions. Do this for each seam just as in the step above.
    4_leveler
  11. Select a portion at the beginning and ends of the overall recording and apply fade in or fade out appropriately.
    7_fade_in_out
  12. Export as MP3 with these options (bump up the quality to 320kbps if you are a purist and want the absolute highest quality sound in an MP3 file).
    8_mp3_export_options
    11a. Better yet, get the highest quality using FLAC!

Then sell or give away a great sounding soundscape!

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