Non-destructive editing?

I am new to Audacity having only previously used SADiE.

In SADiE the original audio is never changed and edits are made through an EDL (Edit Decision List). Edits are simply pointers to the main audio track(s).

This means that if you change your mind and want to include something previously cut then it is easy to reinstate that clip. My impression is that Audacity works differently. It creates a working copy of the audio and edits change that copy. If you subsequently change your mind and want to include a clip that you have removed then that’s not possible. Is that correct?

A radio documentary may contain many elements: various interviews, actuality, music, efx. etc. A single interview may be cut into a variety of different sections and used throughout the programme. Can Audacity cope with this or is it the wrong editor for this sort of work?

Any advice gratefully received…especially if you are familiar with SADiE.

Yes that’s correct. Audacity is designed to act immediately on the audio in the track, so what you see in the track at any time is the actual edited audio data.

If you are editing an audio file, that is not correct because Audacity never changes the original audio file (unless you intentionally overwrite it, which we strongly advise against). You can therefore access the original audio at any time by importing it again.

If you are working on a “recording” rather than an imported file, then yes you are correct - you can only go back by stepping back through the Undo history.
It is highly recommended that you export a recording to create an audio file before you start editing it. This ensures that if you mess up, you still have the original audio data available.

Yes it can.
Audacity is a multi-track editor, so you can work with, for example, the original track at the top (muted) and then each of the “audio clips” copied from that track into new tracks. Then you can shift the clips around, cut them, copy them, process them, anything you like, and all the time you have a muted original track at the top.


That is really helpful. Thank you.

I will have to experiment but it looks as if the answer is to keep a muted, unedited ‘master’ track and then copy the good takes for editing. All material is recorded on location and would be imported as WAV files so if all else failed we have the audio rushes.

Lots to learn but looks promising.

if all else failed we have the audio rushes.

Exactly correct. I still have original performance archive WAV files from years ago.

We are horrified at New Users who shoot something and then lay corrections, edits, filters and effects on top of it and then save the changes in place of the original file. One glitch and they are instantly back to shooting the performance again.



Thanks for that. May I ask two quick questions?

Am I right in thinking it is not possible to ‘preview’ an edit before saving it?

And secondly does Audacity support scrub and scroll to help find the precise edit point?

Many thanks.

A “Cut / Delete” edit can be previewed:

  1. Select the part to cut / delete
  2. Press “C” key.

“Paste” edits can’t be previewed but there’s always “Ctrl + Z

Effects can all be previewed (Preview button).

Envelopes are non-destructive (“real time”)

Audacity has “Quick Play” (including looping quick play), “Scrubbing” and “Seeking”. Of the three I personally find Quick Play the most useful (YMMV)
Quick Play:
Scrubbing and Seeking:

I have recorded several interviews. The audio files have been imported into Audacity and occupy separate mono tracks.

I have selected various ‘clips’ of the interviews and copied those clips into a ‘master’ track. The original tracks are muted and remain as protection copies.

I now have a ‘master’ track with around a dozen clips. I now wish to combine some of those clips to create longer clips which will, ultimately, be linked by narration, music, efx. etc.

How do I combine the shorter clips to create the longer clips?


With the “Join” command:


That creates a single clip but with silence replacing the gap between clips.

Is there a way I can simply join the clips together to create continuous audio without the silence or do I then have to go through and remove the silence?

Many thanks.

Use “Truncate Silence” first to remove the gaps, then “Join”.


I’ve come from a SADiE 24/96 background too. So I understand how versatile and valuable non-destructive audio is.

Have you tried Ableton software? It’s non-destructive and very versatile for editing quickly. I never found it as robust as SADiE, but at fraction of the cost it’s worth a look-in.

The original tracks are muted and remain as protection copies.

Closer. Good computer hygiene tells us to be able to point to two different places that have valuable work. Thumb drives, external hard drives and Cloud Storage all count. That and don’t use MP3 for anything until somebody forces you into it. WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit is good for safety, archive and backup.


Is the a way to make Audacity work in a destructive way and directly edit a audio sample ? I am aware that this is dangerous for some

It is not possible to directly edit an audio file with Audacity.

Audacity copies the audio data from imported audio files as “blockfiles”, which are generally each around 1MB. This allows any part of a long audio track to be edited without Audacity having to write all of the modified track to disk - it only has to write the blockfiles that have been modified.