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Audacity and Sherlock Holmes July 31, 2014

Having performed the major edits on my Sherlock Holmes audio track via a series of splits and joins, it was time to refine the work. The month was now April and I had already invested upwards of six hours, succeeding only in recording three chapters of “A Scandal in Bohemia” and editing out a few of the more unacceptable mistakes from the first.

At this point, I had begun to hit my stride and was, at minimum, capable of recognizing the wave patterns which indicated that I had taken a breath mid-sentence. These, I removed with ease, giving the audio a flow which sounded distinctly more professional than the original recording. But producing a track of the quality I wanted to present to my fiancé would require a bit more work.

Up to this point, my skills with Audacity had been rather basic. I was able to record, split, and join tracks. (If you’d like to learn how to get started with Audacity and use these features, click here.) That, however, was about the extent of my knowledge. Next, I needed to determine the best way to eliminate the background noise produced by the 27 gallon aquarium in my “recording studio”. To learn the art, I turned to YouTube and a rather informative tutorial by Phil Chenevert which can be viewed by clicking here.

Pulling up all three tracks, I highlighted a section of the track containing only the background noise I wished to delete. Selecting “Noise Removal” from the “Effect” drop down menu, I pressed “Get Noise Profile.” Then, highlighting the entire recorded track, I repeated the procedure, this time adjusting the bars and previewing the result until I heard the silence I was seeking. I clicked “OK” and the hum of my filtration system disappeared.

The removal of this base-line sound also went a long way towards the removal of the limited “clipping” evident in my tracks. (“Clipping” is a term used to refer to audio waves which extend beyond the peak recording volume. Such waves can contribute to sound distortion and, in some cases, actually cause damage to audio equipment. Clipping can be controlled by monitoring the volume of your voice as you record and, most unintentional clips can be removed by clicking Audacity’s “Effect” menu and selecting “Clip Fix” from the dropdown.) Applying “Click Removal” (also available on the dropdown under the “Effect” menu) went a bit farther towards cleaning up the tracks and I now had the smooth sounding audio that I was after.

It was time to begin the final stage of editing: removing the tiny bits of vocal track which were hard to split and remove when in normal view. Magnifying the tracks gave me a better view of the waves (and the beginning and ending of each vocalization) as I played through the recording. I carefully selected the portions I intended to remove and was left with what was quite a fine string of audio, ready to be exported as MP3’s and burned onto a disk for my fiancé’s listening pleasure.


An Audio Book, A Scandal, and Sherlock Holmes July 24, 2014

My fiancé likes the sound of my voice and, despite being a fan of the BBC television show “Sherlock” has never actually read any of the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I, on the other hand, am the proud owner of a complete copy in the form of an early edition (1927) gifted to me by my mother. Having been actively engaged in the pursuit of inexpensive, yet thoughtful gifts, it seemed like a match made in Heaven. In one brilliant stroke of genius, I determined that I would record myself reading these stories and give them to him for his birthday.

I had been podcasting for a while as a host on Aboard the Knight Bus (an irregularly released podcast centered on four women who united their midlife crises with a love of the “Harry Potter” books). We used Audacity to record and mix our voice tracks and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to expand my skills with the program. So I set to work.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that recording an audio book was not quite the same as hosting a podcast. There were, in fact, numerous differences beginning with the fact that not everything produced in written form was meant to be read aloud. Obtaining the proper meter for the text proved a challenge and I soon resorted to reading each passage before recording it. Even then, the “voice” of the characters didn’t seem quite right and it took several tries before it was possible to distinguish between the accent-less Holmes and the equally American sounding Watson. Add in the Bohemian prince Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein (try saying that in one breath!) and a few words which I was not accustomed to pronouncing and what I had was ten percent art, ninety percent mess.

The month was March and it wasn’t long before my original goal of recording and producing a set of five stories before my fiancé’s July birthday seemed a touch over ambitious. Deciphering the technique involved in vocalizing such a production had taken time… and I was yet to hit my stride when it came to producing the program.

Initially, my recordings were a series of disparate tracks: each necessitated by my stumbling tongue. Every time I faltered, I stopped the recording, clipped out the poorly vocalized portion, and began recording again on an additional track which I later joined with the original.
This, of course, was rather time consuming and it wasn’t long before I abandoned the “edit-as-you-go” method in favor of a single, long recording which could later be split and joined at appropriate times. Unfortunately, this, too, had its drawbacks. To begin with, the intonation with which I had produced individual segments was not always entirely consistent with the intonation of the paragraph with which I intended to unite it. The result was a slightly robotic and distinctly “edited” sound. It had become clear that rerecording would be required. And that this work of love was going to require far more patience than I ever could have imagined! (To be continued…)


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