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Jumpstart your recording career for free with Audacity

Brad Chacos | Aug. 20, 2013
This handy-dandy beginner's guide walks you through the basics of getting started with Audacity.

Next, you'll want to fiddle with the options in the options in the Device toolbar, which holds several buttons that turn into drop-down menus when clicked. If you're on a Windows PC, leave the Audio Host option as MME unless you have a very specific reason to change it. The Output Device button affects how you hear the audio playback.

From the Input Device options, you'll select the input you're using, whether it be a USB turntable, a gaming headset, or a discrete microphone. If you connect your device when Audacity is already up and running, you may have to restart the program to make that device option appear. Internal microphones show up as Integrated Microphone Array'. Finally, the Input Channels option lets you choose between stereo or mono recording.

Before you start recording, click the microphone icon in the Audacity Meter toolbar--next to the bar that shows the sound output levels when you're playing back a track--and make sound with your input device to confirm that the audio input is recording properly. If it is, the L/R bars above the microphone icon should start flickering in response to the sound. The Input Volume and Output Volume sliders in the Audacity Mixer toolbar let you fine-tune the volume of the sound that's coming in and going out, respectively.

When everything's good to go, click the big red Record button to get the action started! The Stop and Pause buttons do exactly what you'd expect. If you accidentally click Stop when you meant to click Pause, hold down the Shift key and click Record again to continue recording at the end of the existing track.

Saving your work
Don't let all that hard work go to waste. Select FileSave Project to save the project in a file format that only Audacity to read. This approach is handy if you're editing a complex project across several sessions or if you want to keep, say, your Label Data.

Click File Export to save your project in a format that other programs can read. Choose a location on your hard drive, give the track a name, and save it in whatever audio file type you want. You'll need to install the LAME library plugin if you want to save your track as an MP3.

On your way to the top
Once you've mastered this process, you have everything you need to start recording, editing, and producing your own music, podcasts, and audio projects.

Of course, the information in this article is but a drop in the ocean of Audacity's functionality. We didn't even consider mixing multitrack projects, the Solo button, sound-activated recording, or stereo panning options, for instance. If you find yourself straining to advance beyond the basic tips in this beginner's guide, the Audacity team maintains top-notch manual, wiki, and forum resources that should shed light on deeper functions and features.


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