Learning production in Audacity

I would like to learn how to use Audacity to edit/mix/etc podcasts that I want to record.

I have used Audacity for years to record radio shows online, but have never used it for what most people probably do which is creating produced output.

I decided to join this website to learn more, and I see there is a FAQs section, but am thinking there must be a better approach to actually learning on how to created produced podcasts.

There are pobably millions of books out tehre on podcasts and sound engineering, but what is the quickest way for me to learn how to use Audacity to accomplish my end goal?


Mac Audio

what is the quickest way for me to learn how to use Audacity

That’s stump the band, isn’t it? I think the best we can do without marrying you for a couple of weeks is the tutorials in the on-line manual.


Scroll down. Start with the upper left tutorial:

Editing an Audio File - Import the file, edit and export it

Next down is recording:

Your First Recording - Record microphone, guitar, keyboard

Behold the disadvantage of forum support for free software. There’s no corporation here to provide support and classes. We don’t recommend YouTube classes, either, because most of them are for the wrong Audacity, are misleading, awkwardly produced or have errors. Video classes are very production heavy and there just isn’t anybody available to do them and keep them up.

I write these repeatedly, so I started to collect them. I will eventually publish them in a formal document.

RecommendedPractices2-copy.txt (3.28 KB)

To avoid the “deep end of the pool” problem, it’s recommended that you record your initial voice performances in an actual professional studio and then produce the final show using their sound files at home. There is just nothing like struggling with all parts of the production at the same time. This way, you’ll just have to worry about editing and cutting the show together. Not that funny noise the microphone is making.

Then, after you get post production working, try recording it yourself. When that fails, continue to use the studio while you stamp out the bugs and operating problems with your microphone.

Then, just when you’re losing interest in the whole thing, get good at it enough to do the whole thing at home.

The longest message on the forum is Ian who just wanted to record audiobooks from his noisy apartment in Hollywood. 39 chapters and about a year. So while I know you want to get going by next week, it may take a bit longer than that.



So what do you do for a living?

How did you become an Audacity “elf”?

I showed up at the front door of the camper one dark and stormy night, skinny and malnourished with my fur all matted.

They took me in, gave me a bath, a proper meal and a strong, pot-brewed mug of tea. I’ve been here ever since.

As you may know, Audacity is developed in a camper on the south-west coast at Land’s End, UK. It’s not that far from Penzance to call a town you’ve probably heard of. That’s also the closest Tesco (7-Eleven).

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 19.56.20.png
Mrs. Raines who runs the Cornish Pantry at the Tourist Center lets us piggy-back on her WiFi and we keep her CompuServe account sorted. She texts one of us when pastys are fresh from the oven.

It’s snug with five of us in there, but we hope to have an annex shortly, if no other reason, so we don’t have to rotate sleeping on the roof.


Make a podcast about a popular subject, put it on YouTube and any other free hosting that you can find, and leave the comments open.
Join some specialist podcasting forums (there are a few big ones), and if allowed in their rules, tell them about your podcast and ask for reviews / criticisms.
Grow a thick skin as quickly as possible as you are likely to get a lot of biting criticisms.
Filter out the trolls and vulgarities, (these will mostly come from juveniles that have no real interest in podcasting), but take on board any genuine criticisms and find out how to improve.

Make another podcast and see if you get the same criticisms. If you get different criticisms, then that shows that you are making progress.
Don’t expect to get much, or any praise. If you do get praise, take it with a pinch of salt as they are probably just being nice - the first 10 podcasts by anyone are usually rubbish :wink:

If you get reports about technical issues, try to work out how to fix them, and use the documentation. You will learn much more quickly if you work it out yourself. If you can’t work out a specific technical problem, then start a new topic on this forum about that specific problem. The more specific your question is, the better the answers are likely to be.

So it’s:

  1. Make a podcast
  2. Get feedback
  3. Find out how to fix the problems (ask specific questions if you get stuck)
  4. Repeat

By the 11th podcast, you will most likely either be making reasonable podcasts, or will have given up.

It’s often said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. I’d guess that if you work at it every day, and if you have some aptitude, then you will be making reasonable podcasts after about 6 months, and some pretty good podcasts after about a year.

Have a thought about your target audience. “Everybody” is probably not going to be interested in your work. For a reality check, Google your topic.

Do you follow other people’s podcasts? How long are they? The forum gets postings from people whose presentations are too long for some of the Audacity tools and file management to handle. That’s probably not useful. You can’t follow several podcasts if each one is hours long.

I follow a video podcast which seems to be a scattered mess. Entertaining, but still. As I got into it, I got little hints that the Producer is actually following strict, clear theatrical guidelines. It only seems like a scattered mess.

Can you script your work? I’m not advocating scripting it, but could you? Aimless wandering is not entertaining unless you’re Robin Williams and even that gets old.

I found the best shows are translations or extensions of radio shows or actual theater where the Producers are working from a structure. Lot to be said for that.

Two podcasts I like vanished. Google hits are all months old. Producing is hard work. The Five to One editing rule applies. Prep takes five times the length of the show.

Are you Irish? The Gift of Gab is real and recommended.


I can’t believe I’m asking this…

You’re kidding, right??

Yes, my primary “target audience” is moms (and families).

As crazy as it sounds, no I am not listening to any podcasts currently. In fact, I’m not sure that I have ever listened to a podcast - technically.

Here is what I can say…

I have been a life-long radio junky, and I know the power of radio and the spoken word.

Everything from NPR and BBC-style broadcasts, to things I hear on U.S. rock radio - um, the old-school stuff and non of the iHeart crap!

I would like to start with a weekly 60-second segment. (Technically not a podcast, but that’s what I loosely call all of this stuff.)

I would be interested in doing like a weekly podcast-esque type thing that is maybe a little longer like 5-15 minutes, but not more than that.

It seems like it would be better to have a regular 5-minute digestable show than a once-a-month hour long thing. (Besides, do an hour or more than a week would likely take half a week to produce!)

I bought like $200 worth of books on the topic, so if I can ever get to reading things, I expect to learn a lot.

I have a clear vision of what I want, just have A LOT of learning to do - including learning how to make my Tab key work properly!!!

I have very strong writing skills, so I think the answer is “Yes”.

If I did a true podcast, I would just write something and then read it.

People say that isn’t natural, but I disagree.

You don’t think that famous Super Bowl ad took months to write and perfect and then the actor weren’t needled into learning it word-for-word? Nonesense!!

I would say you write out your ideas, refine them, make sure they sound good in your head, then rehearse them out loud until you can deliver them smoothly and so your voice sounds as good as your internal voice in your head when you read things.

I would agree with that.

That is why a 60-second weekly is enough for me to bite off!

Is that a book?

I have lots to say, not sure if that is the “gift of gab”?

And I think I have a lot to say that other people care about. Why? Because they told me so.


Mac Audio

Almost didn’t see this response?! :astonished:

I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all of this, BUT I have a website that I am finishing up, and that is what I plan on being my main “delivery engine” for my spoken word. (Probably not technically a “podcast”, but that’s what I call that sort of stuff.)

Can you recommend some sites that would be a good place to learn from experts like you all here?

That may be some of the best advice!!

Good point!


I was planning on just having .mp3’s that people can click on on my website for starters.

As I read some of these podcasting books I bought, and with time, maybe I can try and create a true “podcast”…

That is good advice!

Sounds reasonable.


That is good advice!

That’s why he’s a senior elf. I don’t get the robe and fuzzy slippers.

the first 10 podcasts by anyone are usually rubbish

The audiobook version of that is the realization you should read your first chapter over again because it sounds nothing like your last chapter.

I was planning on just having .mp3’s that people can click on on my website for starters.

That’s how I do it, but you’ll need special structure for comments. Are you writing your site HTML? Is your web page app up to it? Are you going to have a Captcha®?

Post an address when you get that far.

Keep raw readings and production masters in WAV. MP3s are listen-only and don’t edit well. Keep valuable work in two different places for when the dog eats your laptop.

The more specific your question is, the better the answers are likely to be.

Do a one or two sentence summary of your system when you post. “I’m speaking into a Blue Yeti plugged into a MacBook Pro with OS-X 10.11.x.” That will bring us up to speed rapidly without ping-ponging questions back and forth.

skinny and malnourished with my fur all matted.

You’re right, My fur wasn’t matted. That was theatrical license. I’m a short-hair.


That’s a major benefit in using a popular public platform like YouTube. It’s quick to set up, there are few security issues to worry about, it’s all set up for comments, and when you are thoroughly embarrassed by your early attempts you can delete them without messing up your website.
Be aware though that there are a lot of trolls prowling YouTube - that’s where the thick skin comes in, and the famous advice: “DFTT

Hi Koz!

Wow, this is turning out to be a crazy place - but fun nonetheless.

(Sort of a cross between “Mama Told Me Not to Come” and “I Had Too Much to Dream last Night”!!) :laughing:

I still impressed by you, either way!

Practice makes perfect!

Build using the MAMP stack. (That’s macOS, Apache, MySQL and PHP.)

All hand-coded.

Not to be naive, but why have CAPTCHA for .mp3 links? (I could put them in a “Member Only” area, but to start I was thinking of placing them in a public area so anyone could listen. Haven’t thought that far ahead!)

I’m shy, but we can talk if I ever get it done! (Seems like I have soooo much to do this will never happen! From learning the business in’s and out’s to all the coding, to working on content, to audio gear, and sound production, and so on and so forth. I don’t know how anyone starts a start-up and becomes a millionnaire in the first year or two, when I feel like I need another 5-10 years just to finish building all of this?!)

Is .wav what they call “lossless”?

Do you lose anything saving to .wav versus keeping the raw Audacity files?

Sure thing!

You’re too much!

So I’m confused…

Your story sounds like you are somewhere in the southwestern UK, yet your profile says LA, which I assume means Cali?!

Do tell!

This may sound dumb, but both you and Koz make it sound like allowing people to comment on podcasts/audio content is key?

I guess I was just to rely on web stats to determine if people like my content.

I have so much else on my mind I haven’t started to even consider that.

Although, the website I built does allow people to create accounts and post comments beneath articles that I will write. Guess I could do the same fo audio content. Or, I could just use YouTube.

Do you lose anything saving to .wav versus keeping the raw Audacity files?

Not quite the point. Audacity doesn’t save sound files. It creates and saves Projects.

Projects are collections of files and folders (that’s one Project) suitable for recreating the editing environment later. That is, in a practical sense the only way to save a multi-channel project with all the blue waves just as you left them.

Projects do not save UNDO. You need to know that.

Projects do have very slightly higher quality than simple WAV files, but they also come with rules. Count the number of posters who couldn’t open a Project. Projects are functionally brittle, and if you’re still using Audacity 2.2.0 or 2.2.1, they could be damaged because of a bug.

As far as I know, the only people having trouble with WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit are the ones trying to make long shows. Modern sound machines will handle stereo WAV files out to about six hours, but the older restriction was three hours and I have modern stand-alone sound recorders that insist on resetting and starting a new file at three hours.

You can send WAV files, stereo or mono to anybody on earth on all three computing platforms and they will play perfectly. It’s a terrific backup and production medium, and you can make WAV masters into the other formats with little or no damage.

Projects only play in Audacity.


you and Koz make it sound like allowing people to comment on podcasts/audio content is key?

I have no provision to write back or add comments. My goal is not entertainment production. You, on the other hand, are stuck. Your goal is consumable content.

We do have standards and tools for producing audiobooks. I’ve said if you can make it through the audiobook sound standards, you’re pretty much good to go for any kind of production. They’re even a very close sister to broadcast standards (having had to meet both).

We can beat you up until you either meet ACX AudioBook standards, or get good enough in your opinion to submit to your audience. Podcasts standards are loose. I have a sound clip here made by somebody whose microphone was completely taken over by rushing wind, and they published anyway.

I kept it as an example of what not to do.

Again in my opinion, I think it’s time for you to Do Something. Even if you have to borrow a microphone, or even record on your phone. There’s a reason classes include lecture and lab.

I can’t find the clip I recorded on that thing.


I feel like I need another 5-10 years just to finish building all of this?!)

That’s why I think you should Do Something even if it’s a recording on your laptop built-in microphones. I did one. I have a test clip for that here somewhere… It’s the difference between the college level course in audio production and getting a podcast out the door.

Is .wav what they call “lossless”?

Not exactly. It’s uncompressed. No tricks. It’s the worst you can do for data efficiency but the format rules are very clear and the work has very, very good versatility.

…OK, there is one trick. The way Audacity manages sound files, a carefully generated “dither” signal is added. Technically, dither has nothing to do with the show, but it keeps atomic level data errors from adding up and becoming audible.

Audacity works internally at 32-bit floating, not 16-bit. It needs to do that so it doesn’t destroy the show by accident.

When you finish and make a new sound file, you could have created new sounds that are unsupported by 16-bit. So a dither signal is added to hide the errors. You can turn dither off, and there are specific conditions when you would want that, but for most work, leave it alone.

I need to go play Real Life.


That is what I meant.


For me, that wouldn’t be an issue, because I always keep a “raw” source file of whatever I am working on (e.g. spreadsheet, source code, picture, audio) and then I create tons of “versions” as I develop things. Of course, that probably isn’t practical when it comes to Audacity projects, and since any “editing” have done thus far is radio shows, I guess I might have to tweak my workflow with podcasts.

To date, I record a radio show in Audacity, keep the raw as-is, and then create a new file which I edit. If I screw things up, just start over with the raw file. Of course that is a simpleton workflow I suppose.

Sounds like using .wav files is the way around all of that.

Anyone who is making 6-hour podcasts should be shot! :laughing:

I may be dating myself, but it sounds like .wav is the .tiff of the audio world?

Are there any newer and better “lossless” audio formats in 2018?

If so, can I use those with Audacity as well?


Wow! Thread has more branches in it than a 100 year old oak tree! :smiley:

(Some day I will go back, do forensics on this thread, and start a bunch of new threads.)

So, going down the rabbit hole some more…

At a high-level, what are the “standards for audio books”? (Not sure I follow what that means…)

And what about “broadcast standards”?

Yeah, there is an endless supply of “crap” on the Internet… (All the better for me if I can produce quality and differentiate myself with quality content!)

Oh, don’t worry… I am RUSHING as fast as humanly possible, it’s just that I have 10,000 competing interests!!

My goal over the next weekend or so is to get a basic recording studio set up. That includes learning some 101 stuff in Audacity - which is why I am here! - and getting my gear set up so I can properly record.

Then, while I hate to go, I really need to turn my attention back to getting my website set up. (I have an ecommerce module I need to finish writing and testing, and then I need to QA over 50,000 lines of code that I wrote a few years ago and which got shelved when some life emergencies came up. Suck a PITA to remember what you did years ago?!)

Once I have an “avenue” for people to find me, and a “home” for content, then I can turn back my attention to writing, producing, and publishing about 20 years of ideas in my head so it is consumable to read and listen to.

Of course, like most, I have a day job that consumes 50-60 hours a week of my life.

Maybe I can start another thread and discuss my gear there. (Just got a boom arm last night, and I am pumped!)


Mac Audio

If I screw things up, just start over with the raw file. Of course that is a simpleton workflow I suppose.

Also the recommended one. Retakes may be possible with a home producer, but the grownups frown on it—sometimes to the point of never calling you back.

Anyone who is making 6-hour podcasts should be shot!

The joke is they don’t need a microphone since they’re only entertaining themselves. Their equipment lists can be really affordable.

.wav is the .tiff of the audio world?

Not exactly. WAV doesn’t have a million user options nobody ever uses.

At a high-level, what are the “standards for audio books”? (Not sure I follow what that means…)

They seem simple.

They run smack into recording device problems. Home recording microphones typically record at low volume. That’s to keep you out of trouble since high volume and overload is immediately fatal. However, low volume recording is a time bomb. It puts your voice close to the microphone noise level.

This is a noise example. It’s a tiny sound mixer I designed a built using early, poor electronics.

In that example, the background noise volume is -46dB. That’s much too loud. It needs to be at least -60dB and preferably quieter to pass ACX conformance.

All microphones and microphone systems make that fffffffff background sound, some more than others. It’s a juggling act. In addition, the type of noise can be important. It’s possible to have ocean waves and a baby screaming on a jet to be the same technical volume…

I’m shy, but we can talk if I ever get it done!

Post the internet address so we can hear the work. You can post sound on the forum, too, but you can only post 10 seconds stereo and 20 seconds mono. I wrote a forum test clip format.


Yeah, there is an endless supply of “crap” on the Internet… (All the better for me if I can produce quality and differentiate myself with quality content!)

But content is important. I follow a podcast whose audio is sometimes impossible to hear. But it’s theatrically engaging.

And what about “broadcast standards”?

That tends to revolve around the behavior of the transmitter and audio system. No zero carrier (AM) overload—ever—and -60dB noise limit from the microphone system to the demodulator output, etc. I have to look up the distortion spec. FM and television are even wackier because they have intentional distortion (emphasis) you have to work around. Blast from the past…

getting my gear set up so I can properly record.

The gear doesn’t effectively matter if you have a quiet room.

The important part is what you don’t see. That room has carpeting and Home Depot sound tiles on the walls and ceiling.