Welcome to your beginner’s guide to podcast editing in Audacity! This guide is designed to walk you through step-by-step everything you need to know to start editing podcasts using Audacity. We’ll take you through importing your audio, cleaning up, cutting and repairing your audio tracks, and exporting your finished product.
If you’re new to podcast editing and looking for a free, user-friendly software to get started, Audacity might be for you. Audacity is a popular audio editing software that you can download on your Mac or PC.
With the increasing popularity of podcasting, the expectations of a quality, well-produced show is on the rise. The podcast content itself is undoubtedly the most important aspect but poor editing and audio quality will not only lead leaders to click off the episode but may also lessen the host’s professionalism and trustworthiness. While we can expect overall quality to improve over the course of a show’s lifetime, it is important to get the hang of it quickly to increase potential listenership. A well-produced podcast is a sign that the host takes their content seriously and wants to provide a well-rounded experience for their listeners.
Like anything, you’ll need to find your groove when it comes to editing your podcast. We’ll walk you through what you need to know to familiarize yourself with the platform, tools, and settings so that you can feel comfortable getting started. Refer back to our post: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Podcast Editing for more insight on editing your podcast for context, clarity, and cleanliness.
If you try editing out for yourself and find that it just isn’t for you, get in touch and see how we can help! Our team of professionals can handle everything from editing your content, podcast monetization, and marketing strategy to the implementation of the entire podcast strategy. So if you want to sit back and record your episodes and let someone handle the rest, we’re the team for you.
A Beginner’s Guide for Podcast Editing in Audacity
Since we’ve tried to capture as much information as possible in this beginner’s guide to podcast editing in Audacity, there’s a lot of info to digest. In this guide, we will walk through the following details:
- Getting Familiar with Audacity
- Importing and Managing Your Files
- Editing Tools and Techniques
- Enhancing Audio Quality
- Adding Final Touches
- Exporting Your Final Product
Getting Familiar with Audacity
Once you’ve downloaded Audacity onto your computer, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the program. You can both record and edit within Audacity so if you’re looking for an all-in-one tool, this might just be the one for you.
Upon opening Audacity, you’re met with a blank canvas. At the top of the page, you’ll find the menu and toolbar. This is where you’ll find a lot of the tools and settings we’ll talk further about in this blog post that you will use to edit your podcast in Audacity.
The middle gray area is your timeline. This is where your tracks will appear once they are imported. Not pictured in the above photo is each track’s control panel that will appear on the left-hand side. Each track you import will have its own controls giving you options to adjust volume, mute track, move track, etc.
On the bottom, you will see both the transport toolbar and the status bar. The transport toolbar allows you to navigate the full length of your audio tracks and the status bar provides information including the current time during playback or the length of the selection.
Keep in mind that Audacity’s layout may evolve with new updates and some tools and settings may shift. If you’re having trouble finding something, please refer to Audacity’s official website for up-to-date information.
The 3 Common Tools You’ll Use Most Often When Podcast Editing in Audacity
Now that you’re familiar with the layout, let’s dive deeper into 3 of the most commonly used tools when editing a podcast in Audacity.
The selection tool is one that you will undoubtedly use the most in editing. This tool allows you to select segments of the audio by clicking and dragging within the track.
This tool also allows you to pinpoint a specific playback point making it easy to move around to different parts of the track. Simply select a timestamp on the track and press the play button in the toolbar (or the spacebar on your keyboard) to begin the playback.
The envelope tool is helpful when it comes to controlling audio levels within the track. You can use this tool to adjust the audio levels on the entire track or pinpoint specific points on the track to adjust apart from the rest.
I find myself using this tool most often when adding in background music and transition effects. I can lower the volume to my desired levels and create custom fade-in and fade-out effects.
The zoom tool allows you to zoom in and out on the track. It is helpful when you’re editing a track and want to select and remove a specific part of the waveform. By zooming in, you are able to see the waveform at a very granular level and see exactly where the portion you wish to remove begins and ends. This tool is equally as helpful to zoom out and view your project as a whole. This can help you visualize where the different elements of your podcast overlap and ensuring you don’t have any unwanted dead space in the project.
Importing and Managing Your Files
Now that you’re familiar with the layout, it’s time to begin editing. If you didn’t record your track in Audacity or want to add in your intro and outro or background music, you’ll need to know how to import.
- Go to the Menu Bar.
- Under File, select Import.
- Select Audio.
- When the window appears, locate the audio file on your computer and click Open.
You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + I to quickly import files without going into the Menu Bar.
PRO TIP: You always want to make sure you’re editing in WAV format to achieve better results. MP3 is great for storing and delivering files as it compresses the audio and keeps it small.
Once you’ve imported the files you are working with, you can arrange them in whatever way you work best. To move tracks up or down on the timeline, click the dropdown arrow in the track’s control panel on the left-hand side. A menu will pop up with options to move track up, down, or to the top or bottom.
Audacity automatically creates a separate track for each new piece of audio you import. If you wish to combine files onto one track, you can click and drag the clip you wish to move. Alternatively, if you wish to split a clip and move a portion of it onto a new track, you can do this as well.
- In the Menu Bar, click Tracks.
- Click Add New.
- Select the type of track you wish to add to your project.
Keep in mind, only like tracks can be combined together. If you wish to combine a section of audio from a stereo track with a mono track, you’ll have to split the track before moving it.
To slide audio files across the timeline, hover your mouse over the top of the track where a hand shows. You can then click and drag the track into your desired location.
Editing Tools and Techniques
Now that your tracks are imported and organized, it’s time to start editing. How you edit your podcast is going to go hand in hand with your content to establish how you show up as a professional in the space.
When it comes to editing, there are several tools and techniques you’ll commonly use that are important to know.
There are quite a few reasons you may want to split a track. In podcast editing specifically, I find myself using this tool most often to endcap sections of audio I want to move or delete as a whole. I also use it to mark sections from the episode I plan to pull out to repurpose for social media content.
To split a track:
- Use your selection tool to pinpoint the exact location on the track you wish to split.
- Right-click on that section and click Split Clip (you can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + I) to split the track.
Copying and Pasting
While editing, you may want to move around and reorder certain sections of audio. One easy way to do this is to copy and paste the content you wish to move. In Audacity, copying and pasting content is as simple as it is on any other platform.
- Select the portion of audio you wish to move.
- Right-click on the audio and click Copy (you use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C) to copy the content.
- Use the selection tool to select where you wish to paste the content on the track.
- Right-click on this area of the track and click Paste (you can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V) to paste the audio to your desired location.
Removing Unwanted Sections
Every piece of content you work with will need some work to clean up things like long pauses, heavy breaths, filler words, misspeaks, etc. You can easily remove these sections of audio by:
- Using the selection tool to highlight the portion of audio you wish to remove.
- Right-click on that section and click Cut (Ctrl + X) or use either the Backspace or Delete key on your keyboard to remove the section.
There may be instances in editing where you come across a heavy breath or filler words you wish to remove without completely deleting that section of audio. This is where the silence tool comes into play. You can obviously use this tool for a variety of other reasons, these are just examples of where I tend to use it most often.
- Using the selection tool, highlight the track or section of audio you wish to silence.
- In the Menu Bar, select Generate.
- Click Silence (or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + L).
Fade In and Fade Out
The Fade In and Fade Out tool is incredibly useful for creating transitions between different audio tracks. I use these tools most often when creating a seamless transition between the podcast’s intro and outro tracks and the episode content itself as well as when I am adding in transition sounds.
The fade tools can also be used to clean up harsh cuts when removing words that may be connected. You may notice after cutting out unwanted sections that the audio no longer sounds as smooth as you would like. To fix this you can use the fade tool to smooth out any of these areas for a seamless transition into the speaker’s next set of words.
- Using the selection tool, highlight the portion of audio you wish to apply the effect to.
- In the Menu Bar, select Effect.
- Click Fading.
- Choose either Fade In or Fade Out.
There are some situations you instead will use the crossfade tool. With this tool, you can select two tracks (usually that overlap) and have one fade out as the other fades in, simultaneously. I may use this in instances where the ending of the intro music overlaps with the opening of the episode content.
Enhancing Audio Quality
When it comes to audio quality, it is first and foremost important that you record in a quiet and controlled environment. This will ensure you achieve the best audio quality possible. In the technology-forward environment we live in, you can absolutely achieve a professional-sounding podcast from home. But unless you have built an at home studio, there are always going to be noises and distractions that come up that are out of our control.
As a general rule of thumb when cleaning up your audio quality, you want to make sure you don’t overdo it. You can use the following tools to help improve your audio quality for a more professional-sounding podcast episode.
Were you sitting too close to an HVAC system during recording and there’s fan noise on your track? Was your neighbor cutting their lawn and you didn’t think it would appear in your recording but it did? Sometimes there is background noise that is difficult to avoid. Audacity makes removing some of this background noise simple using the following steps:
- Use the Selection Tool to highlight a portion of the audio where the background noise exists. Try highlighting a section without any other noise or speaking over it.
- In the Menu Bar, select Effect.
- Click Noise Removal and Repair.
- Click Noise Reduction.
- Click Get Noise Profile.
- Select the full track or portion of the track where the background noise appears.
- Go back into the Noise Reduction tool and click OK (or adjust the settings and click OK).
PRO TIP: Always edit wearing headphones. This allows you to pick up on minuscule background noises that you otherwise may have missed.
EQ allows you to adjust the balance of different sound frequencies on your audio track. This tool helps enhance your audio by correcting frequency imbalances, managing plosives and sibilance, and enhancing overall voice clarity.
Audacity currently has 2 EQ options: Filter Curve EQ and Graphic EQ. The Filter Curve EQ option provides more control as you can manually adjust the settings and target specific frequencies. Graphic EQ is more of a fixed set of frequency bands, providing less precise control but more of a straightforward approach. If you’re new to this setting, Graphic EQ may be the better option to start with. To use this setting:
- In the Menu Bar, select Effect.
- Click EQ and Filters.
- Select either Filter Curve EQ or Graphic EQ.
Filter Curve EQ:
You may be working with a piece of audio that has spikes where the volume is either too high or too low. The compressor tool helps even out the volume minimizing these spikes and making for a smoother listen.
- Select the track or section of audio you wish to compress.
- In the Menu Bar, select Effect.
- Click Compressor.
- Adjust the settings (or leave them as default until you are more familiar) and click OK.
Similar to the EQ tool, there are 2 different normalization settings you should know about.
- Normalize: Adjusts the overall volume level of a track so the loudest peak reaches a specified level.
- Loudness normalization: Adjusts the volume to a target industry standard. (The standard LUFS, or loudness units relative to full scale for podcasts is between -16 LUFS and -20 LUFS).
To apply normalization settings:
- In the Menu Bar, select Effect.
- Click Volume and Compression.
- Select Normalize/ Loudness Normalization.
With any of the audio-enhancing tools, Audacity has the option to create custom pre-sets so you can save time in the future by using the settings you know work best for you.
Adding Final Touches
Adding final touches may not be Audacity specific but definitely important when it comes to editing a podcast on any platform. Depending on the genre of the podcast you’re creating, some final touches may include adding transitions, sound effects, or background music. If you don’t have a hosting platform that includes dynamic ads, this may be the time to add in any baked-in ads.
After all of the initial edits are made, it is best practice to listen through your podcast episode one more time to review and tweak your edits as needed. When you’re editing on a granular level, you may find yourself cutting down the speaker’s natural speaking cadence and wish to add in more silence between words OR maybe now that you’re listening back you notice unwanted filler words you missed or choppy transitions. This may also be the time you take to write the episode’s show notes and pull out audio clips or quotes that can be repurposed for additional content.
Exporting Your Final Product
Once you have taken the time to review and make any necessary revisions to your episode, it is time to export your final product! Before doing so, be sure to check into which format your hosting platform requires. If you use a hosting platform like Buzzprout, export your episode as a .WAV file as Buzzsprout will automatically convert the file into the correct format. Hosting platforms like Spotify for Podcasters (formally known as Anchor) require your file to be exported as an MP3.
- In the Menu Bar, select File.
- Click Export.
- Choose the format you wish to export in (WAV or MP3).
Keep in mind, Audacity is a very comprehensive editing software that we only scratched the surface of today. Once you get the hang of the basics, you can take your time exploring all of the other features Audacity has to offer.
As you get into the groove of editing, you may be able to do all of your editing in one session. If you’re just starting out, I suggest taking a few passes on the episode focusing on different areas each time. While Audacity is a fairly user-friendly software, podcast editing in general takes practice. If podcast editing in Audacity feels overwhelming, take it step-by-step and learn as you go. You will grow and evolve your skill over time and with some practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.
Be sure to check back in on our resources page for additional tutorials and information to improve upon your skills.