- Is this a stupid method and I’m missing out on a better way to do this?
If you get the results you want it’s not stupid! But selecting part of the file and amplifying or normalizing can create sudden, unnatural sounding jumps in volume.
Making volume adjustments like this manually by-ear if often the best way. But it’s usually better to use the Envelope Tool to fade-up and/or fade-down so there are no sudden jumps. (That’s more time consuming).
- Does repeating the amplify/normalize effect somehow degrade the track
No. Audacity uses floating-point internally which is very precise and for all practical purposes has no upper or lower limit. If you save-as WAV you can get rounding errors but you can probably do it 100 times without audible damage (as long as the adjustments are not too extreme). Volume adjustments are not considered lossy, although in some cases they are mathematically imperfect and not perfectly reversable.
(for example as if I was saving an mp3 and repeatedly opening it for editing)?
Right. Every time you export to MP3, you go through another generation of lossy compression and the damage does accumulate. If you are going to save the file and them come-back and do more edits, you can save the Audacity project (which retains floating point), or export to WAV. Floating-point WAV is “best”, but 16-bit or 24-bit WAV is OK too.
If you want an MP3, export ONCE as the last step. (If the original was MP3, just try to minimize the number of times it’s compressed/decompressed/compressed.
- Is there anything wrong with using amplify and normalize on the same track?
I admit that I don’t really understand the difference between amplify and normalize
They are mathematically the same. Amplify has an “extra feature” that allows you to normalize to a desired peak level, and this is exactly what Normalize does. And, the Normalize effect offers a couple of “extra features” such as adjusting the left & right channels independently and removing DC offset.
other than that normalize increases the output of a track and also increases the volume of the quiet parts more
No, they both make ONE adjustment to the whole file (or whole selection). Normalizing to 0dB does the same thing as the Default Amplify setting. And, running either one twice with those settings does nothing the 2nd time.
Of course if you amplify (attenuate) BY -3dB (not TO -3dB) twice you have changed the volume by -6dB.