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Using Audacity Part 2: Advanced Functions

Now that you’ve had some fun doing basic recordings with Audacity, here is a guide to some of the more advanced functions.

If you look to the upper right of your Audacity interface, you’ll see the “Tools” toolbar.  I know… heck of a name for a toolbar, ain’t it?

Audacity Tools Toolbar

The first icon on the top row is your basic selection tool.  I’m sure that any of you that have used a word processor, e-mail or an image processor know the drill.  Click and drag to select a portion of the track to manipulate in some way.

The second icon gets a little weirder.  This is the “envelope” tool.  This allows you to adjust the volume of a specific section of track.  Once you’ve clicked on the beginning and end of your section of track, what you’ll get looks something like this (I’ve magnified this to 300 times the original size to make it easier to see):

Envelope selection

Those four teeny white dots show your selection.  By clicking and dragging anywhere within them, you can adjust the volume up or down.  In this image, I’ve created several points where I’ve decreased the volume to one degree or other:


You can insert as many volume changes as you want.

The third one in the top row is the “Draw” tool.  This allows you to adjust the volume on a specific sample.  So, for instance, if your cat meows or your AC clicks on while you’re recording, you can zoom the track image to its maximum level and turn that noise all the way down.  If you hold “Ctrl” while you’re doing this, it will limit your selection to the one sample.  If you hold down “Alt” while you’re clicking, it will allow you to “smooth” a section of audio.

The first one on the bottom row, the magnifying glass, is, of course, the “zoom” tool.  Left-clicking zooms in, right-clicking zooms out.  The middle mouse button restores it to the default zoom level.  If you click and drag on a section, it creates a dotted section that you can zoom in or out as much as you want without effecting the rest of the image.

The next tool is the “Time Shift” tool.  This allows you to drag a section of audio from one track to another, or to another point within the track.  So, for instance, if you were recording a message for your girlfriend, and you realized that you recorded “I love you; I want you to move out”, and then realized that you wanted “I love you” at the end, you just select the section of the image where you said “I love you” and drag it to the end of the message.

The last tool is the “Multi” tool.  This gives you all five of the previous tools at once.  The position of the mouse will give you a visual demonstration of which tool you’re using.  For instance, if you’re in a section that can be zoomed, the magnifying glass with appear.  If you’re at the top or bottom line of the track, it displays the envelope arrows, etc.

Under that is the “Mixer” toolbar, which allows you to adjust the input and output volumes independently:


The last tool that we’ll look at is the “Transcription” tool:


By clicking and dragging this left and right, you can speed up or slow down the audio on playback, so if you’re trying to transcribe it, you can adjust it to a comfortable level for yourself.

The last advanced feature that I’ll comment on here is the ability to move any toolbar to anyplace that’s comfortable for you to use it.  You do this by clicking on the serrated left edge (highlighted here in red):


In the next article, we’ll talk about some cool things that you can do with Audacity, such as using special effects and mixing tracks.

~Randal Schaffer