Getting Started with Audacity – Audacity Tutorials for Beginners

Audacity is an impressive free and open-source audio recording and editing software. Don’t let the ‘free’ part confuse you. Even though it is free, it rivals any commercial audio software or plugin with its powerful set of features.

You can use Audacity for varying tasks such as recording, editing, mixing audio clips, adding effects, conversing audio files, and more.

So, whether you are a podcaster, vlogger, audio producer, video producer, or just work with sound, it’s a great tool for you. It’s very lightweight and can run on many operating systems and even on the oldest machines.

This guide will provide you with Audacity’s key features, why you should use it, and how to use Audacity step-by-step. You can download Audacity for free directly from their website.

What is Audacity?

Audacity is a free-to-use, open-source digital audio editor and recorder software designed for macOS, Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems like Unix-like.

As of January 3rd, 2022, Audacity has become the most popular download from FossHub, with over 111 million downloads. And this number is only as of March 2015. With previous downloads added, the number goes up to approximately 200 million downloads.

There must be a reason a lot of people download and use this software. So, what features does Audacity have?

Features of Audacity

Apart from recording audio from multiple sources, you can use this digital audio editing software to post-processing all audio types, such as adding normalization and fading in/out effects or trimming.

Other outstanding features of Audacity include:

  • Editing multiple audio formats such as MP3, MP2, AIFF, FLAC, WAV
  • Changing the speed or pitch
  • Ability to record live sound and audio playback on PC
  • Duplicating, cutting, blending, and grafting different sound documents together
  • Scrubbing (for Version 2.1.1 and later)
  • Timer Record that enables users to schedule when a recording begins and ends
  • Noise reduction
  • Voice reduction and isolation to create isolated vocal tracks or karaoke tracks
  • Ability to save and load user presets for effect settings
  • Converting cassette tapes and records into digital tracks

What Can You Do with Audacity?

In terms of what you can do, Audacity offers a wide range of uses. You can create interviews, work on voiceovers, edit music, record podcasts, remove/edit any kind of voice or sound. It’s even possible to record and mix an entire album.  You can record voiceovers, autotune records, remove background noise, delete awkward silences or the parts you made a misspelling, and so on.

Speaking of podcasts, if you are in the startup business, we recommend reading 13 Best Podcasts About Startups and Growth.

If you are new to Audacity, there are plenty of Audacity tutorials and resources available on the internet. We will mention some of the best ones later in this article.

So, what do you need to start using Audacity?

  • Set up the software.
  • A computer that supports Audacity software
  • It’s not necessary, but the sound quality will be better with an external microphone. Headphones or earbuds with mics will also do based on how much voice quality you need.

And that’s all you need. So, do you have questions in your mind like “is Audacity hard to use? Is Audacity good for beginners?” The answer is: Audacity is very easy to use, and it is an excellent piece of software for beginners who want to record and edit voices and records like a pro.

Before we dive into how to use Audacity step by step, let’s see why you should use it.

Why Should You Use Audacity?

One of the best things about Audacity is that it allows working on complex audio projects longer than an hour. It is a consistent and stable software to preserve even under high disk usage and processor loads.

Working with Audacity is incredibly simple. It supports the different recognizable audio files such as MP3 or WAV. You can directly import an existing audio file into the software.

Audacity lets you record in either 16-bit or 24-bit audio. The digital recording and editing software can smoothly convert and combine any sounds you drag and drop into the interface. It does that regardless of the format.

how to audacity

As for editing, users can cut, copy, paste, duplicate, trim audio or arrange multiple clips on the same track. Moreover, the envelope tool enables adding custom fades as well.

Speaking of effects, Audacity provides a large pack of basic effects right out of the box. There are simple Bass and Treble adjustments as well as high- and low-pass filters. 

In short, if you are looking for an easy-to-use but high in capabilities software to record, edit, and mix audio clips, Audacity will be your go-to software.

If you plan to use Audacity for your video tutorials, you should also see our Guide to Creating Training Videos and Video Tutorials.

How to Use Audacity Step-by-Step

Audacity is a very straightforward audio software, so it’s easier to grasp the basics. Follow the steps below to learn how to use Audacity on Windows and how to use Audacity on Mac likewise.

How do you use Audacity step by step? Here’s how:

Step 1: Find & import the file you want to edit

Start by importing an audio file into Audacity. It supports common audio formats such as MP3, WAV, and AIFF. You need to install the optional FFmpeg library for a more extensive range of formats. Note that Audacity cannot import copy-protected music files.

To import an audio file, select File > Import > Audio.

For a quicker method, just drag and drop the files into the Audacity window.

Step 2: Check the waveform

audacity change waveform

Stereo waveforms in Audacity look like the image above. The audio is louder where the waves reach or closer to the top or bottom (vice versa.) The ruler indicates the length of the audio clip.

Check the waveforms to detect any DC offset, which refers to a waveform that is not centered on the horizontal line at 0.0 amplitude. Most of the time, it is caused by recording with a faulty audio interface.

Select the clip, click on Normalize to remove the DC offset.

Listen to the audio by clicking on the play ▶️ and stop ⏹️ , or you can use the Space button as a shortcut to play and pause.

Step 3: Select and change the range of audio you want

To change any part of your audio clip, first, select the part you want to change. You can cut, copy, paste, and duplicate, just like editing a selected text.

audacity change audio

The image above shows Audacity’s toolbar. So, how to zoom in Audacity? You can use the magnifiers to zoom in and out or  View > Zoom > Zoom In (or Ctrl + 1) and View > Zoom > Zoom Out (or Ctrl + 3).

Zooming in and out helps you make the most of the window space. Once you select a specific range of audio and click on play, you can listen to only the selected part.

How to split audio in Audacity?

  1. Click on the selection tool, and select the split point in the clip.
  2. Then select Edit and Clip Boundaries.
  3. Select Split.
  4. Or use the keyboard shortcuts Command + I on the Mac or Control + I on the PC to Split the audio.

If you make any mistakes, you can always click on Edit > Undo.

How to trim audio in Audacity?

Make sure to stop the audio by pressing Space if it’s still playing. Select the excerpt you want to delete. Click on Edit > Remove Special > Trim Audio. You can undo or redo if you make mistakes. After you delete the selected parts or trim the audio, the remaining excerpt might be away from the track’s beginning. Use Tracks > Align Tracks > Start to Zero to align it.

However, this is not necessary when exporting the file because Audacity ignores the white space while exporting.

Step 4: Make the last second fade out

How to use Audacity fade out?

  • Click the Skip to End button to go to the end of the track.
  • Zoom in to see the last one or two seconds just before the end.
  • Click the waveform one second before the end.
  • Select > Region > Cursor to Track End.
  • Then, select Effect > Fade Out to make the audio smoothly fade out.

Step 5: Export the final version

Mind that when you select File > Save Project > Save Project, you are just saving the file as an Audacity project, and it can only be opened with Audacity. If you want to open your file in other applications such as Windows Media Player or Apple Music/iTunes, you need to export it.

Before you export the file, go to the Import/Export Preferences and see under When exporting tracks to an audio file, thenuncheck “Show Metadata Editor prior to export step.”

This Metadata Editor adds extra information about the voice or music into the file. You can always check it back if necessary.

To Export a WAV file;

  • Select File > Export > Export Audio
  • Change the file name
  • Choose a location to save
  • Select the “WAV (Microsoft) signed 16-bit PCM” from the bottom of the save dialog menu labeled “Format.”
  • Click Save.

To Export an MP3 file;

  • Choose “MP3  files” in the save dialog menu.
  • Click the Options menu to set the bit rate and other options.

Step 6: Test your audio

Finally, you should test the audio file you saved. Open the exported file (not the Audacity project file or the AUP in short) in Windows Media Player or Apple Music/iTunes etc.

Don’t forget to save the changes in your Audacity project file if you want to make additional changes to the final version in the future.

Getting Started with the Basics of Audacity

How to increase volume in Audacity

  • Select a range of tracks or the whole track depending on the part you want to amplify.
  • Click on Effect > Amplify.
  • A window will open. Set the New Peak Amplitude to -3.0 dB (ideally.)
  • Make sure “Allow Clipping” is unchecked to prevent peaking. Then, click OK.

How to use noise reduction in Audacity

  • Select a part of the waveform containing only noise.
  • Go to the Effects menu and select the Noise Removal tab.
  • Click on “Get Noise Profile.”
  • Select and highlight the region you want to remove the background noise.
  • Go to Effects > Noise Removal.
  • Adjust the settings and click OK.

How to move Audio in Audacity

  • Select the Timeshift tool.
  • Select a track by clicking on the waveform.
  • Simply drag it left or right and move it anywhere on the timeline.

How to use Audacity to record

  • Make sure your microphone is plugged in.
  • Check your microphone and Audacity settings by going Edit > Preferences. Recommended settings:
    • Audio I/O >> Recording Channels [Mono (1)] >> [OK]
    • Quality >> Default Sample Rate [22050 Hz] >> [OK]
  • Click on the red Record button to start recording.
  • Click on the yellow Stop button to stop recording.
  • Export by clicking on File > Export as.

How to slow down audio in Audacity

  • Select the area you want to slow down. Or go to Edit > Select All to select the entire track.
  • Click on Effect > Change Tempo.
  • Drag the slider left to set up how much you want to slow the track down.
  • Click OK.

How to use Autotune in Audacity

You need to install the GSnap plugin, which is completely free, to autotune in Audacity. This plugin can be used in Windows, macOS, and Linux devices. To install the GSnap plugin, copy its file into Audacity’s  “Plug-Ins” folder. Then, enable the plugin in Audacity.

  • Go to Effect > Add/Remove Plug-ins and add the GSnap plugin.
  • Then, GSnap will be listed on the Effect tab.
  • Click on it to Autotune selected audio.

How to Bass Boost in Audacity

  • Select audio (entire track or a part of it.)
  • Go to Effects > Bass and Treble.
  • Keep the treble at zero and set up the bass levels as you like.
  • Click OK when finished.

More Tutorials to Master Audacity

To learn more about performing common tasks in Audacity, you can see the free tutorials provided by Audacity. Here are some of the best Audacity tutorials and courses (paid ones.)

audacity tutorial

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Selman Gokce

Selman Gokce is the Senior Inbound Marketer of UserGuiding. He is highly invested in user onboarding and digital adoption, especially for SaaS, and he writes on these topics for the UserGuiding blog. When he's not writing, you can find him either listening to LOTR soundtracks while cooking or getting angry because he lost in a video game.

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