Adventures in Audio Recording - Part IV


Okay folks today we get down into some of the actual nitty-gritty with the Audacity program.  I'm going to be covering a fair amount of info here, while also supplying you with links to various videos that helped me. This way if my own instructions are not clear, or maybe you work better with  a visual, you'll have the link to see exactly what's going on.

Now I'm going to introduce you to what I refer to as "My Best Friend" in Audacity. It's called the CHAIN. What the chain does is applies several clean-up "Effects" that will improve the quality of your recording in one shot. Mind you, it is possible to do every Effect separately, but you'll probably need to do it every one at a time, whenever you do a recording. The Chain command will have all the Effects  preset at the levels you already need in order to meet ACX's requirement guidelines and will save you a LOT of time.

However, we will have to do those presets while creating the Chain. This may take some time, but as I said before, in the future you'll be able to select the Chain command and it will do it all in one shot.  So let's get started.



Looking at the image above you'll see Audacity in all its complicated-looking glory. Don't worry it's not that scary really. Clicking on "FILE" you'll get a drop down menu. Just under the Import Option you'll see Chains. Bring your cursor over it and it will give you two more options Apply Chain and Edit Chains. You'll want "Edit Chains" so click on that. This is what should come up:



Of course in your case there may not be any Chain names in that first column, aside from maybe MP3 conversion, that came with mine, but I don't know if this is true for everyone. Nevertheless, you have to create a new chain command of your own. So down at the bottom you'll hit the Add button. This will start your new Chain. I gave mine the name ACX so I know exactly what it does. 

After you give it a name the next thing you'll see that you have that name highlighted under your Chain List. In the other box you'll see 01 End. That will wind up getting pushed down to the bottom of your list as you add each effect, so don't panic. At the bottom of your screen you'll click on Insert which will bring this up next:



Now you have a list of Effects to choose from. I started with Equalization so select that one. Once you have it hi-lighted you'll see at the top of that box a button that says "Select Parameters" hit that. This will bring up another screen that looks like this:


Looks intimidating doesn't it? But all I want you to do is go to the bottom where it says Select Curve and choose the Low Roll-Off For Speech option. Then you'll take the Length of Filter arrow just above that line towards the right and move the arrow to about 5000. Then click OK.

Congratulations, you've just taken care of your Equalizer Effect. Now we're back on our Command Select screen with Equalization still chosen. You'll now hit the OK button on that screen and see that Equalization is now part of your Chain.

Not so bad, right? Now we're going to hit the Insert to add another Command to the Chain. This time I want you to choose RMS Normalize for your next command. 

*NOTE: If this or any of the other options I'm telling you to choose is not among your selections, you'll need to add it to your options. Should this be the case with you, I recommend watching video which is easy to understand and really helpful visually. I used it and it saved me a lot of aggravation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdQq9W6Ot2w. Mind you you might need to restart Audacity to get it to show up among your Select Command options, so make sure you save the Chain you've been creating BEFORE closing Audacity down. That way all you've done is already still there when you go under File and hit Edit Chains which will bring up your list again and you can select it to continue inserting the new command/effects.

Now back to RMS Normalize. Now remember to choose RMS Normalize, instead of Normalize. These are two very different functions and ACX is focused on RMS Normalize so choose it. Once again it will be hi-lighted and you'll choose Set Parameters at the top of that window. Once there you'll get a small window (which I cannot find an image of online #*@%!!! -those symbols were me cursing under my). However, without the image I can tell you there is very little to do here. You'll simply enter -20.00 in the box marked Target RMS Level. You'll also make sure the Normalize Sterio Channels is set at "Independently". Then hit OK.  This will take you back to Select Command  and you'll hit OK on that window. Now you have both Equalize and RMS Normalize in your chain.

*ANOTHER NOTE ABOUT RMS NORMALIZE: If after you run your chain and  you go to ACX Analyze and it may come back saying the RMS Normalize did not meet their standards. If this happens go under Effects, choose RMS Normalize and this will in turn take you back to that same screen where you set the Target RMS Level. Don't change anything. Simply hit the "Debug" button (while having your entire recording selected so it will be applied to the whole thing), and then run the ACX Analyzer again after that. This happened to me the very first time I ran my chain and it fixed the problem. And apparently it has become the default because I've never had this problem with the RMS Normalizer ever again. Hopefully, you'll have the same luck.

Finally, we come to the last command in my Chain and that is Limiter. Once again we are back on the Chain screen and hitting Insert. This time from the Select Command we choose Limiter and go back up to the top and click "Edit Parameters". This is the screen that should come up:


Here you will choose the following. First you'll want to choose Soft Limit under Type. Then you'll choose 0 for both Input Gains (or if that's already your option just leave it). Then -3.5  for Limit to (dB).  and finally 10 for Hold (ms).  As for Apply Make-up Gain: choose the No option. Then click OK. Then select OK on Select Command and you'll see it as part of your Chain. From here, you'll simply hit the OK button at the bottom of the Chain Command screen and you are done. You now have a working Chain that you can apply to your entire recording.  

To do this, you'll got to Select at the top of your Audacity screen and choose All. Then you'll go to File and choose Chains and this time select Apply Chain. From there you'll select whatever name you gave the Chain and select "Apply To Current Project" and from there the magic happens. The program will tell you which effect it is working on then go straight to the next one and so on until it finishes. You'll see a visible difference in the wave-lengths of your recording and when you play it you'll notice a huge difference in the sound quality. Here's an example of one of mine, the first selection is BEFORE and the second one is AFTER I applied the Chain command.

RAW RECORDING:


AFTER CHAIN APPLIED:



Again you could have applied all these steps individually, but again the time it took to just set this Chain up would be just as long.  But now that you have that Chain you'll be done in way less time. 

Now if anyone found me sounding condescending in how I wrote this piece, please understand I am a total Novice when it comes to tech and I know I'm not the only one out there. So I tried to keep this in terms I know I would understand if I was a reader with the same lack of knowledge.

And in case I left anything out or didn't explain the processes correctly here are the video links that cover this same material. It took me hours to find these but they were so worth it in the end.

How to Make Your Voice Sound Like Studio Quality in Audacity:

Making Your Voice Sound Better In Audacity:

Audacity for ACX:

The last video involves adding a Noise Gate, which I will go into in the next installment of this series. I'd do it here, but I've probably already overloaded you all with enough info. But watch the video by all means and if you choose to experiment on your own, that's great.

Until next time keep writing and recording my friends.


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