Creating a simple voice and music Podcast with Audacity

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Peter 2May14: This page is a potential candidate for moving to the manual as a new tutorial. A fair number of our users deploy Audacity for this. It may already be covered adequately in the Manual by Tutorial - Mixing a Narration With Background Music
  • Peter 09Jun14: ToDo-206 This page can be deleted once 2.0.6 is released. I have transferred relevant content that was missing into the alpha Manual's tutorial.
This tutorial for legacy Audacity 1.x versions assumes creation of a podcast of the very common type where there is talk over a music background, or talk interspersed with music.
Detailed instructions using the current version of Audacity can be found at Mixing a Narration With Background Music in the Manual. It is strongly recommended that you use the current version of Audacity as above.
Related article(s):


Get the music into Audacity

  • Import the required backing music into Audacity. This could be an audio file like a WAV or an MP3; import it by clicking Project > Import Audio.
  • To import music from a CD into Audacity for the podcast it should not be recorded as it plays as that is slow and inaccurate. Instead, extract (rip) the audio from the CD to a WAV or AIFF audio file and import that audio file into Audacity.
    • CDex is a good free Windows program to extract CD audio.
    • Windows Media Player could also be used (click Tools > Options > Rip Music and choose WAV).
    • In iTunes (either on OS X or Windows):
      1. Set the "conversion format" or "import settings" in iTunes Preferences to WAV or AIFF
      2. Click "Audio CD" in the pane on the left
      3. Select the tracks to be extracted and right-click on them
      4. Choose the option to convert to WAV or AIFF.
On OS X, CD tracks should also appear as AIFF files in the Finder, so they can simply be dragged into Audacity or imported from the CD with Project > Import Audio.

Create the Voice Track

Create the voice track by recording it with a microphone onto a new track in the Audacity Project. As the voice recording will be on a different track from the music, it can after recording be edited entirely independently of the music (see "Editing and Effects" below).

  • To record with a microphone, set the recording source to microphone in Audacity's mixer toolbar input selector Mixer Toolbar (or on OS X, set the microphone as the default recording source in Apple Audio MIDI Setup). Then press the red Record button.
  • To be really professional, perform a level test of your voice before it is recorded for real. Click on the downward pointing arrow in the right hand (red) recording level meters and click "monitor input". While speaking into the microphone as loudly as you intend, adjust the recording level slider (by the microphone symbol) on the Mixer Toolbar so the recording meters are almost reaching the far right-hand side (but not far enough to bring the red hold lights on). If the recording level meters are not visible, go to the Preferences and check "Enable Meter Toolbar" on the Interface tab.
  • Audacity can record the voice track while playing the music track, which lets you match the voice track to the mood of the music at a particular point in time. To enable this, check "Play other tracks while recording new one" in the Audio I/O tab of Audacity Preferences, and press the red Record button. The Preferences are usually under the Edit Menu, but under the Audacity menu on OS X.
It is necessary to use tight-fitting headphones to record while listening to a music track, to avoid the microphone picking up the music playback in the voice recording.
  • When recording is finished, press "Stop" then "Play" in Audacity to hear the result – the music track and the voice track will be mixed together just as they will when the recording is exported as a computer audio file.

Editing and Effects

The commands in the Edit menu can be used to do things like cutting pieces out of the music where they are not required. Commands in the Effect menu can do things like fade the music in and out, and so on.

  • Be sure to press "Stop" then select the track before applying edits and effects. An entire track can be selected by clicking on its Track Control Panel (where the Mute/Solo buttons are). Select part of a track by clicking in the track and dragging to left or right with the mouse, or with the left or right arrow keys.
  • Another useful tool is the Time Shift Tool <–-> top left of the Audacity screen (press F5 to select it). With this the music and vocal tracks can be moved back and forth so the music can be positioned in the correct place underneath the words.
  • For the last edit make the tracks as loud as they can be without distorting. To do this choose Edit > Select > All and Effect > Amplify and click OK. Then go the Track Control Panel of each track and slide the -...+ gain slider on each track to left by the same amount to reduce their volume. This is necessary because Audacity will have amplified both tracks so when played together they will otherwise distort. Now hit the green Play button to play the music and voice track together and watch the green playback VU meter next to the red recording meter. If the red hold lights at the right come on, move both gain sliders further back by the same amount.
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