Voice Over Blog

Home Studio Essentials - Editing in Audacity - Video 6

Home Studio Essential - Video Series. Credit and thanks to:

Vocal Flair guest contributor, Kyle Shevlin (@kyleshevlin)

(click on the image; then click on the sixth tab from the left)






















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Home Studio Essentials - The EQ Reveal - Video 5

Home Studio Essential - Video Series. Credit and thanks to:

Vocal Flair guest contributor, Kyle Shevlin (@kyleshevlin)

(click on the image; then click on the fifth tab from the left)





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Home Studio Essentials - The EQ Spectrum - Video 4

Home Studio Essential - Video Series. Credit and thanks to:

Vocal Flair guest contributor, Kyle Shevlin (@kyleshevlin)

(click on the image; then click on the fourth tab from the left)






















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Home Studio Essentials - Basic Audio Editing

Recently, I shared a short screencast on how to record your first audio track in Audacity and Pro Tools. I hope that it was helpful and pointed you in the right direction as you get started doing your own recording. Today, to build on our first recordings, I am going to teach you some of the basic editing techniques you will need to learn in order to start making some great audio recordings.

Why is editing important?

Most people who start recording see all of the fancy plugins that come with their DAW and think that’s where the magic happens. They start putting a reverb unit here, an EQ there, tweak a few knobs and pretty soon your recording starts to sound... well like something else. But, you still have yet to eliminate the bad parts of your vocal takes (and almost every vocal will have some bad parts).

While having good EQ technique and learning to use a compressor properly will aid you in making great recordings, they will do nothing to eliminate or alter a bad take, a mispronounced word, a cough, sneeze or even a loud breath. Editing is how we polish our tracks before we start applying other effects. Without this polishing stage, we’ll just be making garbage sound as good as we can; and sadly, plugin treated garbage is still garbage.

Microphones Do NOT Tell Lies

One of the harshest truths about audio recording is that microphones rarely tell lies (We will discuss a few important “lies”, such as the proximity effect, in a future blog). Our ears are well adapted to ignoring background noise and other audio artifacts that take place around us, but microphones pick up and amplify every one of these noises and permanently records them into our mixes. It is our job as audio producers to hunt through and find these artifacts in our mixes and like a poor archaeologist, eradicate the evidence that it was ever there.

But, often times we need to combine tracks, takes, clips and other source material together. Editing is as much about splicing together the good stuff, as it is about eliminating the bad stuff. So, let’s discuss how to do this.

Cutting

Your most basic editing technique will be cutting. Your DAW may define this differently than another, but fundamentally, a cut splits an audio track at a given point. You can then treat each new clip independently. For example, you may cut around a cough and eliminate it from the track.

Arrange

Most DAWs will allow you to drag your audio clips along the timeline to new locations. Intuitively, we should recognize that this allows us to arrange the material in a way that may or may not be different than how we recorded it. Perhaps you are recording a podcast and your realize that one section would make more sense later. A clip here and a drag there, and you have rearranged your podcast. Simple as that.

Merge

Sometimes you will want to combine two or more clips together to treat them as one clip. Most DAWs will have a merge or combine feature that will allow you to do this. This might be particularly helpful after you have “comped” your takes and want to have only one track. What’s “comped” mean? Let me tell you.

“Comping” Your Takes

“Comping” is short for compilation and this is where we start to see the difference between the amateur and the pro audio producer. Often times, you will record the same source material multiple times. We call each one of these a “take.” It is then your job to pick and choose the parts from each one that sound the best and then compile them into one take. Perhaps in one take you said or sang the first half of a line perfectly, but flubbed the second half; but in another take you did just the opposite. Comping these takes together will allow us to create the best quality product.

These editing techniques are a great place to start. In the next blog, we will discuss a few more of these techniques in detail followed by a video displaying a few of these editing techniques in action.

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Home Studio Essentials - DAWs

In a previous blog, we briefly discussed DAWs (digital audio workstations) and their two primary functionalities: the sequencer (recording, editing, arranging) and the mixer. Today, we are going to go over a couple different DAWs and what they have to offer. 

The quality of your DAW will have a significant impact on your ability to make quality recordings, so it is well worth your time (and your wallet) to become familiar with a variety of DAWs and find out which one will best suit your needs. 

Before we go any further, it should be said that you can make quality recordings with ANY DAW. You do not need to spend a lot of money to produce good audio, but having one that has great tools for editing and mixing can make a big difference. With that in mind, let’s get in.

Audacity

Type “free DAW” into Google and you will find a plethora of blogs linking to Audacity, a free, open-source DAW available on all platforms. A simple DAW, Audacity offers multi-track recording, basic editing and mixing features, and can work with almost any audio format. It can even extract audio from video files to edit and use in your productions (that is, if you have legal permission to do so).

Functionally, Audacity doesn’t come with too many bells or whistles. It’s sort of the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) of the audio world, but it might work perfectly for you. For instance, if you primarily will use your DAW for podcasting, Audacity could be a great option. You can record multiple vocal takes and then comp them together in the sequencer. You can do some basic edits like cut, copy, paste, fade in, fade out and others. It also gives you some basic EQ and compressor functionality.

There are a few downsides to Audacity as well. Audacity is not well suited for those who would want to produce music as well since it does not offer the user the ability to operate the sequencer using beats and bars for timing. It also utilizes destructive processing on its tracks. What this means is that if you apply compression to the track, you can not make adjustments to it on the fly. In other words, you have to live with your choices, or undo them.

Pro Tools

Jumping to the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Pro Tools by Avid has been the music and audio recording standard for years and have practically become a synonym for DAW. There is good reason for this. Pro Tools is a powerhouse of a DAW and the latest and greatest version, Pro Tools 10 HD, will run you over £400. While it may be a hefty price tag, there are smaller, lighter versions of Pro Tools and frankly, you can do almost anything you would like to be able to with audio using Pro Tools.

Want to remove background noise from a track? PT has a De-Noiser. Want to reverse a clip? Do it! Want to have 768 audio tracks in a mix? You can! Though, that would be a pretty big mix. The point is, PT has all the power you could want and then some (assuming your computer is also up to the task). PT is great for anyone working with audio and comes with a series of solid, great sounding stock plugins (some of which will be featured in future blog posts). The compressors and EQs that come with PT are top-notch, so you won’t be opening your wallet up again right away to buy another set of plug-ins.

Really, the only disadvantage to Pro Tools is the entry level price. Assuming you want any version other than their LE, you will have to shell out a few coins which might be a large portion of your budget if you’re just getting started. That being said, investing in your DAW is one of the best places to put your money. Better to have a DAW capable of handling all your needs than to have a £1000 microphone and have no ability to use it!

Other DAWs

There are many other DAWs out there and its well worth taking a look at them. To name a few: GarageBand, Steinberg Cubase, Logic, Reason, Ableton Live, PreSonus Studio One, Reaper, FL Studio. The list goes on and on. You might find that one of these DAWs has a workflow you enjoy more, or has better plugins, or is in a price range better suited to your budget. Just remember, almost anything on the market these days is capable of delivering quality sound, it comes down to what bells and whistles come with each DAW and how you, the user, can best learn to use it.


That being said, let me leave you with one last piece of advice. Sample a few DAWs, but then choose one and really learn it. Read the manual. Watch tutorials. Figure out all the ins and outs of it and then you’ll find it that much easier to use other DAWs. Good luck!

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