Step 1: Recording Your Words
The days of cassette tapes are over, so in order to record you need a computer and a software application designed to record sound to digital files much like digital cameras record pictures now as digital files rather than on film. Again, there are many such software options out there, almost all of which are also capable of “editing” the sounds you record.
Audio editing may sound fairly daunting, but at the basic level it is similar in many ways to word processing. If you can hearken back to the first time you learned how to use Microsoft Word, learning how to select words you don’t like by dragging the mouse over them and confidently hitting the Delete key, be assured that after a bit of a learning curve you will be able to use audio-editing software as proficiently as you now do your word processor.
An application fof recording and editing audio that I highly recommend is Audacity for several reasons: (1) it’s FREE; (2) it is cross-platform, meaning it comes in versions for both PC and Mac users; (3) many other podcasting How-To websites and books use it for demonstrating tips and techniques, so it will be easy to find more info than I am able to provide here; (4) it has a cool name and logo (see above). Download it (free) for Mac OS X by clicking here or for Windows XP by clicking here. If you have recently bought a Macintosh, you already have loaded on your computer an excellent software application for creating podcasts: GarageBand (it comes bundled with all new Macs as part of iLife). For the sake of non-Mac folks, I will continue using Audacity as the example.
A Little Set Up
Once you’ve downloaded and installed Audacity, you need to tell it how it should record. Let’s presume you’re using either a USB headset or another USB microphone. When you plug that into your PC you will likely have to install a driver (or if you have a Mac, you probably won’t have to do anything). So if you’ve plugged in the mic and installed the driver, Audacity should recognize it. Go to Preferences in Audacity, and then to the “Audio I/O” tab (which stands for in/out); then under the “recording device” drop-down choose your USB microphone. Once you’ve done that, you don’t need to worry about settings or preferences or file types at first. If you want to keep it simple, just click the big red record button and start talking.
As you’re speaking, you should see a bunch of blue squiggles being created called the “waveform” (see below). This is a graphic representation of the sounds you are making. The numbers along the top of the waveform are the running time; this shows how long your audio file is in minutes:seconds.
When you’ve said enough (go at least 5 minutes or so, and don’t go too far beyond 30 minutes), click the yellow square “stop” button. Now is an excellent time to save your Audacity project by selecting “Save Project As…” under the File Menu. It will ask you where you want to save it just like any program does. **WARNING: make sure you save this file in the place where you intend it to stay (the desktop is NOT a good place) because Audacity actually creates a folder of several smaller audio files that it uses for your one “project” and it is VERY finicky about them all still being in the same location the next time you open the project. If you move the folder after you save it, the sound in your Audacity file may mysteriously disappear (one of the limitations of it being a free program).**
If you started speaking right after clicking the red record button, didn’t make any mistakes you care to fix or remove, and you hit stop right when you finished, you won’t have to do any “editing.” So unless you want to get fancy by adding theme music or sound effects, once you have saved this audio file (just like you do when you’re done writing a memo or article in Microsoft Word), you’re ready to move on to the next step. If you do need to make a fix or a simple edit, check out simple editing instructions here. If you’re a technical type, you can learn more about audio editing with Audacity by clicking here. For even more tutoring, I highly recommend the book, Podcast Solutions. It’s one of the best-sellers, is written for beginners, and comes with many more step-by-step instructions and recommendations for equipment and techniques than I can include here.
Time to move on to the next step: CREATING AN MP3 FILE on the next page.