Creating Audio with Audacity

Why this Quest

You want to create audio for your class, profession, or hobby.

This quest will let you say “I Can:”

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  • record audio
  • edit recorded audio
  • combine multiple audio tracks into one
  • Publish podcasts

Overview: A Week-Long Project

Breaking computer projects into small pieces is a fundamental skill in computing. This project has several parts, designed to give you little successes along the way and to give you multiple “podcasts” to show that your podcast feed works. Do not plan to do this quest in a single sitting.

  1. record some audio for your proof of concept podcast
  • modify your original audio by adding to and deleting from it
  • post again with your edited (but still not final) version
  • add sound effects and/or music

Getting Started – Install Audacity and LAME (1 hour)

First you need to record some audio. The point of this section is simply to use Audacity to record a few seconds (10-30) of audio and save it as an MP3 file to prove to yourself that you can do it. I encourage you to start doing that as soon as you think you can. You might do that now without reading the rest of this section and when you have skip to the next section about posting your audio.

Though you can use any tool that you deem appropriate for this work, Audacity is what most people use. Audacity will run as a portable app, so you can keep it on a USB flash drive so that you can use it on computers that do not have it installed. There are also instructions on that site for installing LAME as a Portable App; they might look a little complicated, but it is worth a try, especially if you need or want to use a computer where you do not have administrative rights (and hence cannot install programs).

If you do not have a good reason not to use Audacity (e.g., you know it already and want to try something new, you have access some professional software that you would like to learn), then you should use Audacity.

Installing Audacity and LAME (which is required to export your podcast as an MP3), recording a minute of audio, and exporting it as an MP3 file should take about an hour. NOTE: If you can create an MP3 with Audacity, then you have successfully installed LAME.

As a rule, you should always get software from the people who make it or sourceforge.net (which is really a bunch of mirrors, often provided by universities). Generally, Google will point you there (e.g., the first hit for “download audacity” is http://www.audacityteam.org/download/ . You almost never want to get any Open Source Software from anyone other than the original publisher.

Posting your Audio File

If you have installed Known or Wordpress.org on your own host (the free wordpress.com sites will not allow you to post MP3 files), you should post your audio file there and ignore the next paragraph.

If you do not have access to your own Known installation, there are more complicated alternatives. Though Google drive is one place to host your files (note if you use your Jagmail account your files and links will go away when you leave USA), a couple better places to put your audio files are Soundcloud and Archive.org. There is some Wordpress support for SoundCloud.

Audio Challenge 2: Learn to delete and insert audio into an existing track (2 hours)

Just like you can copy and paste in your word processor, you can copy and paste in audio (and video) editing programs. A confusing thing about how audacity records audio is that by default it will record a new track with the audio from other tracks (overdubbing), so want to make sure you learn how to turn overdubbing off.

A good place to start would be to look for some audacity tutorials to get you started. A tutorial about Mixing a Narration with Background Music would probably be a good place to start.

Podcasting with Wordpress (2 hours)

Now that you have created a couple of audio files, you can turn to the task of learning to create a “feed” that will allow people to download your podcast. If you have not already, go to the plugins section of your Wordpress installation, and search for “seriously simple podcasting” to install and enable the plugin. You should then use that plugin to create an RSS feed for your podcast.

What should my podcast be about?

Your first demo podcast, in which you just make sure that you can record some audio with Audacity and export it as an MP3 file might be pretty trivial. That is, maybe you say something like “Uh, I am talking now. I hope that this is working,” and in the next revision, you take out the “Uh” and insert “really” in between “I” and “hope.” By the time you get to the third part, you will want to start over and make something that you can use for your final product.

Once you have figured out some of the technical pieces, you can start to think about what your podcast should be about.

Here are some suggestions:

  • An introduction of yourself for your students, parents, or classmates
  • A one-minute synopsis of an article (See “Stopwatch Science” below). If you have summarized an article in your course, this is the option you should choose.

Making good and engaging audio is difficult; your finished piece should be no more than one minute.

Stopwatch Science

The Hidden Brain is a podcast that I enjoy. It has a regular feature called “Stopwatch Science,” in which a social science study is described in only a minute. This podcast has a description and an example about nine minutes in to the episode.

Additional (optional) Thoughts: Instructional Uses of Podcasts

Explain or illustrate how and why you would use podcasts in your own teaching or instructional design. For example, are there particular topics or institutional settings that you think would be especially appropriate for podcasts?

See also: Can Creative Podcasting Promote Deep Learning? The use of podcasting for learning content in an undergraduate science unit (Pegrum, Bartle,& Longnecker, 2015).

When You Are Done

When you are done you will have at least three short pieces of audio, the first two will be mere proofs of concept that you can make and edit audio. Your third piece should be polished, contain edited audio (no “uhs” or “ums”) and include music or sound effects.

If you decide that you love podcasting and are interested in buying a microphone so that your podcasts sound better, The Wire Cutter, my favorite review site, has a review of USB microphones. Your reply-as-linked-topic should have links to your three podcasts and should also tell us what you learned along the way.

Because this project has lots of pieces, I encourage you to post questions, successes, queries, pleas for help, offers of assistance in your course’s help category.

Evidence of Success

Reply-as-linked-topic to this message put it in your course’s “completions” category, tag it “podcast”, and include:

  1. Learning narrative of how you solved the problems herein
  • link to your podcast feed on your Wordpress site
  • embedded link to your final podcast
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