Last week I was paging through the Internet, when I came across a programme called Audacity, which seemed to have a lot going for it.
It is totally free, firstly, and is a sound recorder and editor that can be used to record anything that you can hear on your computer’s speakers. I had briefly played with Windows’ own sound recorder and an ancient version of Cool Edit, but I could never get them to record bits off of the Internet or off of CDs.
The idea was not to record whole CDs but to cut and splice bits and pieces of sound together to create sound tracks for audio visuals that I want to put together. Thinking that I could learn a new skill and get a column out of the experience, I nipped along to sourceforge.net/projects/audacity/ and downloaded a copy.
While waiting for the download to complete, a process that didn’t take at all long, I had a look around the SourceForge site. It acts as the host to over 100000 software development projects and provides the infrastructure to allow numbers of people to work on these at the same time.
The software is all Open Source, meaning that you can not only use whatever you like for free and, if you’re a programmer, you can take the code and modify it according to your whim. Whole books can be written about why people would bother writing free software but a major reason is the desire to provide an alternative to expensive commercial software.
Anyway, back to Audacity, which had finished downloading and which installed quickly and easily on my PC. It will allow you to open sounds that you might have on your PC or choose the source of the sound you want to record, including your microphone, a CD or whatever happens to be playing through your PC’s speakers.
Recording is as simple as pressing a button to start and a button to stop and once you’ve got that right, the fun can really start. That’s because you can record other sounds on other tracks and get everything to play together at the same time.
You can copy sounds from one part of a track and paste them into other places, which should keep you occupied for quite some time. You can save your work as a project which will contain all the elements you’ve assembled, and still allow you to edit and move things around. When everything is to your satisfaction, you can export your groovy new sounds as a .wav file or as an MP3.
I freely confess that I don’t know enough about the finer points of recording and editing sound to know whether Audacity is missing any critical features. It seems pretty remarkable to me so far and, especially, when you consider the price. It’s great fun too.
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