It’s great that you now have your interview file ready to be edited in Audacity. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.) Go to the project folder on the desktop, and double-click on the .aup file to open your project.
The blue waveform is the sound of your file (if you recorded in mono you’ll have only one waveform or track, as it is called). If you click on the green arrow Play button in the toolbar above the waveform, you’ll hear your interview. The black square button will Stop the “tape,” and the double vertical line button will Pause and UnPause the tape. The black left arrow returns the cursor to the beginning of the track, and the right black arrow sends the cursor to the end of the track. The red button, which we will not use at all, is to record directly into the program.
Click on the green Play button and you can watch the cursor move along the waveform as your interview progresses. Click the Pause button to pause the sound, then click it again to re-start the sound from where you left off. Then press Stop, which moves the cursor back to where you started at the beginning. If you now click the mouse anywhere within the waveform while it is stopped, the cursor will move to that part of the track; so if you now click Play again, the track will start playing from that new cursor position. If you click Stop, then clicking either the black left arrow or the right arrow will move the cursor position to either end.
Play around with these controls for a bit to get a feel for them. They’re really no different from what you would find on a CD player or in iTunes.
If you are conversant with any of the common word processing programs like Microsoft Word, you are already familiar with the way the basic functions of Audacity work.
Think of the blue waveform as the text of your document. Just as in a Word document, you can cut, delete, copy, and paste. Just as in a Word document, you can also do multiple undos and re-dos. It’s nice to know that you can undo any step that you’ve done, so let’s learn that first!
Click your mouse somewhere in the middle of your blue waveform. Now hold down the mouse button and drag over the wave form a bit, just as you would over a portion of text in Word in order to highlight and select it. (To deselect a portion of the waveform, simply click anywhere within the waveform.)
If you hit the space bar while a portion is selected, the program will Play the audio within the selected portion. Hit the space bar again or the Stop button to stop the audio.
You can now perform one of the basic editing functions on that selected sound. Let’s try Deleting that selected portion (don’t worry, we’ll bring it back in a moment). Simply press the delete button on your keyboard, and your selected audio is gone—the waveform no longer shows that piece of audio, but the rest of the audio remains untouched. It’s just as if you had snipped a piece of tape from a tape reel and spliced together the remaining ends.
Let’s bring back the deleted part now. Click on the top Audacity Edit menu, and then click on the top line of the submenu to Undo your Delete.
You’ll see your selection is back in your waveform, highlighted.
Now let’s try moving a piece of audio from one place to the other. Select a piece of audio by clicking in the wave form, holding your mouse button down and dragging it a short distance to highlight a section of audio. Then click on Edit—>Cut. Your highlighted section will be deleted, but the contents of the section are now stored in your Paste buffer. Move the cursor to a new place in the waveform—say, by clicking the mouse at the beginning. Now click on Edit—>Paste, and you’ll find you have pasted the selected audio into its new cursor position. If you begin the player now from the beginning, you’ll hear the selected part which has been moved from the middle to the beginning.
Now, let’s Undo that by clicking on Edit—> Undo. You can undo (and redo) multiple times as long as you do not save your work. Once you save the file, the buffer is cleared out and you cannot go back to a prior step.
Okay, one last function we’ll look at, the Copy function. Just as in a text document, sometimes you want to repeat a selection. For example, it can come in handy when you want to lengthen a silence. So, select a portion of audio, and then go to Edit—>Copy. Your selected audio will still be there, but a copy of it is now in the Paste buffer. Click in the waveform to where you would like the copy to appear—let’s say, this time, right after the selected audio. Click on Edit—>Paste. You’ll now have a copy of the selected audio at the cursor, but the original selection will still be in its original place.
And…let’s Undo that again by going to Edit—> Undo, and you should be back to where you started from at the very beginning.
Remember, even if you screw up somehow and the Undo isn’t working for you, your original recorded file is still sitting in your project folder. If need be, you can always start off from scratch by importing that file into a new Audacity project.
Play around with these functions for a while to convince yourself that you can recover if you make a mistake. It will give you the confidence to proceed further.
When you’re finished, go to File—>Save, and then quit the program with File—>Quit.
Next time, we’ll learn more about Audacity, and talk about some editing strategies. See you then.