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Exercise One: Getting Started
For this exercise and the practicum, you are going to need to record yourself reading a text, the idea being that it is something you can record yourself saying more than once. I recommend a poem, a paragraph from a novel, part of a speech, song lyrics, whatever you want. For example, I chose Wallace Stevens' poem “The Snowman” when designing the workshop and it took me about forty seconds to read out loud.
Now you are going to do a quick recording of you reading your text. The following video will take you through the process. (Also, see the technical notes below.)Technical Notes
For either Mac or PC, if you have a mic that plugs in via USB choose it from the input dropdown. If you have a specific output system, select it from the output dropdown.
Mac: If you are recording using your computer mic or a mic that plugs into the computer's audio jack use “Built-in Microphone.” For output, use “Built-in Output” if you are using your computer speakers or headphones.
Windows: Audacity suggests the following for setting up the inputs and outputs: Where on a Mac it says, "Core Audio," select "MME." If using a built-in mic, select "Microsoft Sound Mapper - Input" and "Microsoft Sound Mapper - Output" for the mic input and playback output (read more).
If, when setting up Audacity, you have plugged in a mic that does not appear, restart the application. Mics that are plugged in after the app is launched won’t show in the dropdown menu.
For now, put your recording aside. We’ll get back to that later. Let’s think more about sound...
Practicum: Rerecording Your Reading
For the practicum, you will be recording the text you read for exercise one again and editing it in Audacity. The editing process will involve selecting the best takes of your reading, assembling them, and cleaning up the track from unwanted sounds like pops and clicks. Audacity's manual is thorough and reasonably easy to understand. I recommend looking it over and referencing it when you have technical questions.
Listen to the recording you did in exercise one and consider how you might improve its quality. Should you record in a different space? Can you use a different mic or put your mic in a more strategic place?
Rerecord your reading of the text while making more conscientious choices about your space and microphone. Read it at least twice. Don’t worry about saying it perfectly as this is just an exercise. When recording make sure to capture ten to fifteen seconds of room tone at the beginning (or at some point).
I recommend you record each take on a different track. Depending on your Audacity preference settings, it may or may not generate a new track when you begin a new recording. To create a track, go to Tracks in the menu bar and select Add New and Mono Track.
Because Audacity is a destructive editing platform, it is a good practice to export a copy of your files in case you make a mistake that you can't undo. Export each track individually (otherwise, it will mix them down into one audio file). To do this, highlight a track and go to File, Export, Export Selected Audio. Export them as WAV files, which is the highest quality.