Audacity for Dummies: How a Tech Newbie Struggled through Audio Editing

As a multimedia journalism student, I’m working with new forms of media every week. This week, we’re learning NPR-style audio storytelling, and editing with Audacity. According to their website, Audacity is a “free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.”

For the first half of the semester, we’re focusing on one subject using still photos, audio, audio slideshows, short video and a news-style package. I’m covering The Bridge, a local music venue that’s part music school, part rock club and bar. With the social atmosphere and diverse acts The Bridge attracts, I knew my audio story would stand out.

Then Snowmagedon happened. A slew of snow storms pounding the midwest stopped Columbia, Missouri in its tracks. This forced me to record my audio Wednesday night, the night before the story was due. I assumed getting back from the concert at 11pm would give me plenty of time to edit before 7:30am. With experience editing video and audio through Final Cut Pro, I thought Audacity would be comprable and easy to manipulate.

I was horribly mistaken.

I have yet to determine what I did to prevent Audacity for editing. Every button I pressed, every person I asked, and every tutorial I consulted failed to help me use Audacity. I could upload audio into the program, but when I tried to clip it, I either couldn’t press the cut tools or my cuts wouldn’t save. I began my editing attempts at 11pm and worked until 5:15am. Work before class started at 6am, so I sent an email to my instructor explaining why my assignment would be late and begging for his help after class. I left for work exhausted, defeated and frustrated with myself for not being able to figure out this simple bit of technology.

My TA was able to show me what to do, and I’m slowly discovering for myself how to use Audacity. My late first submission was rough, but I’m working from the critique of that work to improve my second version.

I learned two important lessons from my atrocious Audacity experience. One: never put something off until the last minute. Give yourself 24 hours to edit whenever possible. Two: warn your “boss”, or TA when you might cut it close with the deadline. If you keep your “boss” updated on the status of your work, they’ll know what’s going on and understand if things don’t work out. Keeping them informed on your timeline and progress can save you in the end.

So this week will mark my second attempt at Audacity. Giving myself more time, and engaging in experiential learning, will hopefully lead this audacity dummie to audio editing expertise.


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