Using Audacity For The First Time: My Ears Are Bleeding
Find out what a one-minute track made by an Audacity novice sounds like…
I love music. I sing more than I speak, I write songs, I play the ukulele, I edit my own stuff, etc. etc. With my experience in music, and my high school comm tech course, I’ve gotten pretty familiar with editing audio, usually using GarageBand. Today, I used Audacity instead.
What I made is not music. I have been warned about Audacity by the techies in high school — it was notoriously referred to as “Audashitty” and avoided at all costs. I really wish I listened.
When I started this project, there were a few rules I intended to follow:
1. The soundscape must be one minute long
2. I could only use audio already provided by Audacity under the “Generate” tab — no importing music, sound effects, or recordings.
3. No tutorials or help. I wanted to test if this software was user-friendly and easy to learn. (spoiler: it wasn’t)
First of all, it is just ugly and uninviting. Right off the bat, there are a lot of buttons with labels that are not explanatory. I didn’t really know where to start.
I already wanted to break rule number three, but I stayed strong. I ended up going straight to the Generate tab and picking one of the random sound effects entitled “Pluck.” A window popped up:
I didn’t know what any of this really meant and didn’t know what the sound even was (in hindsight I could’ve clicked “preview”), so I just hit OK. I was rewarded with this.
Great, now I just had to fill 59 more seconds of sound! I tinkered around with this sound bit for awhile, trying to figure out how to change the pitch (Effect > Change Pitch > Select whatever note you want it to be (e.g. C4))
From there, I began layering random noises, after figuring out how to add more tracks (Tracks > add new).
Problems or annoyances I ran into included:
- Not knowing how to select or move tracks (eventually found out it was the “Time Shift Tool”)
- Having to switch back and forth from the Time Shift Tool and the “Selection” (basically a cursor, and not easy to select with) in order to place a piece, and then listen to it in order to hear if it was what/where I wanted. This was very annoying.
- Another general annoyance was the noises themselves. I was driving myself crazy listening to them over and over again, but that was more of an experiential thing.
- When trying to change the pitch, I would put in a certain note that I wanted, and then when I listened it was not correct. When I clicked on “change pitch” again, the note I had picked was replaced with another random one (e.g. I would set it as C4, and when I came back, it was now at E3). I don’t know what the cause for this was, but eventually I got the pieces to stay on the notes I wanted.
- Whenever you change the length of time you want a sound bit to take up, it changes the pitch as well. (e.g. if you make the sound bit shorter, the pitch will go up — as opposed to just shortening the clip but keeping the same selected pitch)
- The software automatically made the tracks extremely loud to the point that the audio was going past 0 Db, causing static-y feedback noises to occur. I had to manually set the volume down for the tracks so that, when layered, they weren’t so loud that they caused this result. This is when the ear bleeding really began.
In the end, I finished with a minute long soundscape, seven different tracks of layered Audacity sound effects, and about two google searches that were greatly needed.
My soundscape is entitled “Third Circle of Hell,” as it is truly a soundtrack for the damned, and my journey in creating it was one of the least enjoyable experiences I have endured. My ears are in actual physical pain. Audacity seems outdated, not user friendly, and tedious.
There are many small inconveniences that are a result of this software that made creating a soundscape a chore rather than fun, a struggle to fill 60 seconds with noise. I definitely felt as though my creativity had been limited by the software I was using, and I was sorely missing the easy editing tools that Garageband provides.
Overall, I did not enjoy my experience using Audacity. Although it is free and easily accessible, I would not try to use this software to edit music again, and would not recommend it to people.
If you would like to experience the sounds of the Underworld, here is my soundscape. If your ears bleed, I am sorry.