Join Garrick Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video Using common effects, part of Up and Running with Audacity.
If you look under the Effects menu, you'll see that Audacity has no shortage of effects and filters you can apply to your projects. I am not going to go into every single one here, but in this movie I would like to show you a few of the effects that I think you'll find to be the most useful the most frequently. I've opened up the file music_bed_nofade from the Exercise Files folder. But, if you don't have access to the Exercise Files, you can open any audio file you have if you want to work along with me. Now, in the previous movie we looked at the Envelope Tool, which lets you automate the volume level of tracks. And I mentioned that you can't use Envelope Tool to create complete fade ins or fade outs, because it can't take the audio level all the way to nothing.
If you want to create a Fade, you have to use the fade effects. Let's listen to the end of this track. (music playing) So, that just kind of ends abruptly. It will sound much better with a fade out. Now, as with just about all edits, before I can apply an edit, I need to first select the area I want to effect. I'll select from about the 1 minute 15 second mark and just drag that all the way to the end. If I didn't make a selection, Audacity would start fading the song from the very beginning of the track.
Now I choose Effect, Fade Out. And that's all there is to it, there are no parameters or other options to set. But you can see that the Fade has been added just by looking at the waveform. And I'm actually seeing a bit of a problem with this Fade, and maybe you do too. Let's Listen. (music playing) So, that definitely faded, but I could still hear the original abrupt ending of the song, but just at a lower volume.
That's because this audio track includes a second or two of silence at the end. And since I included that in my selection, Audacity included that time in the Fade calculation. It doesn't reach silence until the very end of the selected area, and by that time the actual ending of the song has already happened. So, I'll undo that. And this time I'm going to chop off the tail end of the track. So, I'll just make a selection here. In this case, I don't really care that I'm including a little bit of the waveform itself, because I want to chop that off. And I'll hit Delete, and now it's a really abrupt ending.
But now I can select the last couple seconds again. And again, I want to make sure I lock right up to the end, and not go beyond that, right there. And then I will apply the Fade Out Effect again. And in fact, Audacity remembers the last effect I applied, so I could just choose Repeat Fade Out or press Command+R or Ctrl+R. And let's listen now. (music playing) So, that Fade Out sounded much better, and the same applies for the Fade In Effect.
I could just select the portion of the beginning of the song, or anywhere else for that matter, if I wanted the song to suddenly drop out and fade back in, and then choose Effect > Fade In. (music playing) So, now I have a more gradual Fade In to the song. But the way the song opens, I kind of like it the way it was so I'm just going to press Command+Z or Ctrl+Z to Undo that. So, those are the Fade In and Out Effects. Now, I do kind of wish there was a way to control the attack of the fades.
In many other audio editing applications you can choose how quickly or gradually a Fade occurs within a given time. But, as you saw there are no settings for Fade Effects here in Audacity. Now, one way you can kind of get around this is to combine the Envelope Tool with the Fade Effect. Let's come back to the end of the song. Now, I mentioned before that you can't just use the Envelope Tool to create a fade, because it doesn't take the audio down to absolute silence. But, you can combine the Envelope Tool with a Fade to get more control over that Fade. So, I'll select the Envelop Tool and I will just add some control points. Again, I'll click where I want the Fade to start occurring, I'll just add another point here.
And this way I can drag left and right to control how quickly the Fade Out occurs. I can do a real quick Fade Out like this, or just drag a little bit more to the right. I think it's something that looks like that. And we can listen to hear how that sounds. (music playing) So that just gives me a little bit more control over how that Fade is going to occur.
And that's just a way we can get around the limited Fade controls in Audacity. All right, another filter that comes in very handy is the Amplify Effect. This one can be useful if you're editing a talk or an interview and find that some of the portions of the track are quieter than others. Maybe the microphone was moved, or maybe the person talking just moved away from the microphone a little bit, or maybe even started speaking more softly. I'm going to open up another file. Let's open up interview_low. Let's make a copy here. Now, let's track a bit of audio that's a little bit too quiet.
(audio playing) So, basically this waveform section right about here is just a little bit too low from my taste. (audio playing) So, with that selected, let's go to Effect > Amplify. So all you do here is figure out by how many decibels you want to increase or even decrease the selected audio. It's something you'll have to play around with, by trying one setting, seeing if it works and if not, undoing and then adjusting the amount of Amplification.
I'll go with the default here and see what that sounds like. And we can see right away that this is going to be way too loud. We don't even need to listen, but I'll play it anyway. (audio playing) So, that's a little bit too dramatic of a change. Let's Undo that, and try another one. And I'll just make this a little bit less dramatic, maybe around 3.2 or so. So, you can see that raises it up to be about on par with the waveform to its left.
(audio playing) And that sounds much better to me. Now even though we did have the ability to adjust settings within this effect, it's still a pretty abrupt effect. Once you apply it, the selected area instantly jumps up or down to the dB level that you specify. If you want a more gradual ramping up, you can again try using Envelope Tool to draw in some control points for the line. Okay. Another effect I want to show you is one that can be really useful if you're a musician trying to learn a song.
A lot of people play by ear and learn by listening to music. But sometimes the parts you're trying to learn go by too quickly. Let's switch over to that music_bed track again. Now, I'm not going to select anything first, because I want to affect the entire track. I'm going to choose Effect > Change Tempo. This is an effect that lets you slow down or speed up a song without changing the pitch. Meaning you can learn the song in the original key at a slower speed. For example, I'll slow this down to about 25% of the original speed, click OK, and let's listen to this.
(music playing) So, the song is still in the same key, but slowed down and the individual parts are easy to hear now. You might want to apply this effect to spoken words if you're having trouble figuring out what the speaker is saying. We can Undo that with Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. So, changing with tempo is a different effect than changing the speed. You can see we have Effect > Change Speed here as well. This can also slow down or speed up the song, but using this effect will change the pitch.
So, if I increase this a bit, you can see the waveform actually got shorter, because I sped up the entire song. (music playing) We'll Undo that. Now, there's also a Change Pitch Filter, which keeps the track at the current speed, but allows you to increase or decrease the pitch. You can use this effect if you're trying to create a sort of chipmunk voice or maybe a monster voice. I'll apply this to the interview track here, go with Change Pitch. We will ramp that up to maybe 20%.
You can see the waveform stays the same length, but now it sounds like this. (audio playing) I'll Undo that, and of course, we can go the other direction. And by the way, I'm choosing Effect > Change Pitch again, instead of Repeat Change Pitch, because anytime you use the Repeat command, that will apply the exact same settings you just applied. I want to change my settings, so I'll choose Change Pitch. And maybe we'll bump that down to -25%, 26%.
Again, the waveform stays the same length, but now it sounds like this. (audio playing) Okay. So, there you have a handful of the many effects that are available in Audacity. We'll be using a couple more of them in upcoming movies, but a lot of these are pretty self-explanatory, or easy to figure out once you've played around with them. Now, one word of warning. These are what are known as destructive effects. Meaning, applying them permanently changes your audio file. Yes, you can Undo your changes like I've been doing here.
But if you save and close your file, there's no way to go back to the original version. So, I highly suggest making copies of any audio files you intend on applying effects to, or at least creating duplicates on separate tracks within the same project, so you always have a backup copy in case you really screw up your file. If you recall, it's very easy to make a duplicate, just by going to Edit > Duplicate, and that will give you a copy of the track that you can play around with, so you can feel free to go nuts and play around with all the effects to see what they do.
- Creating a new project
- Adding tracks
- Recording two tracks simultaneously
- Making selections
- Splitting clips
- Automating volume
- Adding sound effects
- Using compression
- Inserting silence
- Exporting your project
Skill Level Beginner
Q: Why don't the instructions for downloading the LAME MP3 encoder work?
A: Use the new homepage for Audacity, <a target="_blank" href="http://audacityteam.org/">http://audacityteam.org/</a>, rather than the sourceforge address shown in the course.
Q: This course was updated on 08/14/2015. What changed?
A: The author updated the "Downloading and installing <span class="il">Audacity</span>" videos for Mac and Windows, and added a new video on the LAME MP3 encoder.