Audacity–a Quick and Dirty Tutorial

Audacity-logo-r_50pct“Audacity® is free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.”

That’s the first thing you read on the website from which Audacity can be downloaded. It’s also a simple, fast and free way to manipulate audio files for music practice.  I have often mentioned Audacity at the session–I’m finally getting around to explaining how to use it. This is going out especially to my session posse! Holla back!

A few things I do with Audacity:

  • Import and edit recordings I have made of our session tunes.
  • Export the session tunes as MP3s to make them easy to up-and download.
  • Speed up and slow down recorded music files–without changing the pitch.
  • Change the pitch of a recorded audio file (transpose to another key).
  • Select a section of recorded audio and play it as a loop.
  • Select, copy and paste a section of recorded audio to create a new file.

What I’ll do today is explain how I do a couple of the most common things I do–selecting audio, slowing it down, and playing it looped (so that it starts over automatically). There are much more extensive step-by-step tutorials on the Audacity website HERE.

Once you have downloaded Audacity and have the program open, you can go to the file menu at the top and select import>audio. Or you can drag and drop the file directly onto the open Audacity window.

Your file will a appear as a “wave form”–a sort of landscape looking thing, like this:

looks like trees reflected in a lake, right?

Typical audio waveform

It’s just a visual representation of the audio you’ve imported. You can press the space bar to play the audio, and watch as the cursor tracks across the waveform. You’ll notice that when the sound is louder, the waveform appears taller. With your cursor, you can click on the waveform, hold the mouse button down and drag the mouse across the waveform and you’ll notice you’re creating a shaded area–this is the part you’re selecting. You can copy, cut and paste this just like you would text, but for now we’re just going to play with it. Don’t click on the waveform again or your selection will disappear!

Now that you’ve managed to select some audio, we can do all sorts of fun things with it. Let’s slow it down, to start with.

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ABC Notation, Pt. 2–What Is It?

ABC notation is a way to write out music using just the characters available on a standard computer keyboard. The End…

Just kidding. There’s a bit more to it than that. Basically the above statement is true, and one could learn to read and write abc notation kind of like standard staff notation, but abc files are very useful in more ways than that. So first of all, what does abc notation look like? Like this:

X: 1
T: Garrett Barry’s
R: jig

M: 6/8
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
A|: DEF ~G3|AGE c2A|dcA d2e|fed cAG|
~F3 GFG|AGE (3Bcd e|dcA GEA|DED D2 A:|
|:dcA d2e|fed (3efg e|dcA c2d|efd ecA|
dAA d2e|fed (3efg e|dcA GEA|DED D2 A:|

Garrett Barry’s jig is the first tune I learned both on whistle and concertina.

So as you can see, it’s got a number of lines, each beginning with a letter followed by a colon. That’s part of the syntax of the notation. All of the information with these tags is collectively called the “header”. It tells various programs important information about the tune so that it can be transformed into sheet music and sound files. To explain–

ABC Notation–Part One

ImageFor many people into Irish traditional music, abc notation is the main way they share and learn new tunes. It’s simple, not hard to write and read, and can be translated by a variety of programs into sound and standard musical notation image files. Some programs also allow you to transpose the key, and organize your collection of abc files for easier reference, among other things

ImageIn posts following this one I plan to explain how abc files and notation work and the basics of what to do with them, with a slight emphasis on a free program called “abcexplorer”, which is available for Windows HERE.

Stay tuned, it’s as easy as a, b, c. (had to say it.)