Monday, February 3, 2014

Audio Editing for the Beginning Narrator

I have been asked from those beginning a career in Audiobook Narration and those just looking to record narration for personal project for gifts, podcast or even YouTube video, how to do simple recording and editing. Here brief overview on the simplest and fastest way to have a clean, professional sounding track.  

I will give a breakdown on how to use Audacity, this is a free, open source software that is excellent for recording and editing. As you grow in recording or maybe just wanting more options, Adobe Audition is also a fantastic recording and editing software, but we will dive into that another day. 

Set Up 

To begin with a great sounding recording, you must have a good mic and a quiet place to record. I use Auralex Studio foam to absorb sound, so I have a dry recording. Using a closet can also help to give you a dry, echo free recording.  There are plenty of cheap tricks that are on the internet that you can use to help make your recording space optimal for your recording session. 

There are also many decent, fairly cheap, USB mics out there, best place to buy them is on Amazon. Do your research and pick the mic that’s best for your project and price range. I use a Blue Yeti Pro Mic, this has excellent reviews and is not that expensive between 150-200$ on Amazon.  

Once you have all your equipment set up, download Audacity for free. Audacity can work on pretty much all operating systems, Windows, Linux and Apple OS, it does not however, work on Google Chromebooks or netbooks in general.  

Once you have downloaded Audacity, you will also need to download LAME software, this allows you to export your recording as a MP3, without this additional download you will not be able to save as MP3.  

You volume levels and audio setting will be personal to what you are recording. If you run into problems, there are excellent YouTube videos that can give you an general idea on what universal settings you can begin with.  

If you are beginning a career in VO work, then my best advice to you is to research, research, and network. Researching and educating yourself is a must in this business. There are colleges that offer course work, and you will always be able to find a workshop that is currently open. 

Networking with other VO artists is also essential to learn as much about this business as possible. 


There are those prefer to record straight though, meaning that as during recording, when they make a mistake, they do not stop but continue, leaving the mistake in the track. Those who do that sometimes clap, or make a loud noise, so when they go to edit, they can find the mistake and remove it. I personally would not record this way. This makes the editing process incredibility long and IMO stressful, however there are those who prefer it. It does have it advantages. It doesn’t have the start and stop, as with a punch edit, and therefor the chances of inconsistencies in sound is not there.
A punch edit is what I use. As I record if I make a mistake I pause my recording, using the space bar. I then highlight the mistake and then delete it. There is a trick in Audacity that you can use to continue recording on the same track. By pressing shift and R key, at the same time, it will start recording on the same track exactly were you left off. This makes editing a breeze, the only thing I have to look for is long pauses and removal of breathes. The advantage of this is you save a ton of time, the disadvantage to this is sometimes the recording might sound uneven in volume. If you look at my earlier blog on the Levelator, I explain how this simple free tool can level your audio track and give it a professional polish for the amateur.

To edit out breaths in your track follow the steps and screen shot below. I first suggest you change the track to view in WaveformDB  that way you can see the breaths and pauses clearly. Now although you can see the breaths, I would also listen before deleting, so you dont accidentally delete part of your recording. In time this will become faster and easier for you. 

 Here is what an unedited track in WaveformDB looks like,  see the little blue waves in-between the big blue, those little ones are breaths.

Highlight and copy a couple of seconds from the beginning of the track, you are copying the background noise. This is done AFTER noise removal has been applied to the entire track,

Then take what you have copied (not cut)  and  paste it over all the breaths. That way you are not deleting them but are covering them with the ambient noise in the background. See below. 

Now look at how the track looks after pasted what was copied over all the breaths. Then you can delete some of the space between pauses so that it flows nicely and there isn't too much time between, making it sound odd. Always listen to what you edit, make sure it sound solid and cohesive. 

It is very important to have breaths removed and this can go very quickly If you do it in a mostly visual way, that way you can shorten long pauses etc. Make sure you periodically listen to see that the speed and flow is proper.  I advise to make sure ,before you do anything, that a noise removal is applied to the entire track, and that you listen to the entire track to make sure there are no mistakes after you are completed editing.
After all is edited, again, I would use a levelator tool that can polish the track. If you have any questions please comment or email me anytime 

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