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Audacity is an open source digital audio workstation (DAW) that was initially released in the year 2000. The quality of open source programs varies, but Audacity has proven to be one of the better DAWs on the market. We even included it in our guide of top digital audio workstations for 2021.

But if you’re here, we probably don’t need to convince you to use Audacity. You’re probably more interested in learning how to use Audacity on Windows or Mac. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the basics of the program and help you get up and running in Audacity quickly.

All About Audacity: Is It Hard to Use?

If you’re brand new to the world of DAWs, Audacity might seem overwhelming. And frankly, so will any DAW at this stage. If that’s the case, that’s OK. Before you dive into Audacity, consider taking some additional courses on how to produce music

But anyone who has even just played around in a DAW should be able to understand how to use Audacity on Windows or Mac.

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This is what Audacity looks like when you open the application for the first time. 

In many cases, folks find Audacity very easy to use. The menu system at the top is clearly laid out and labeled well. When I dove in for the first time a couple of years ago, I didn’t have a difficult time finding the built in effects or noise reduction features, which were crucial to me as a podcast producer. 

If you haven’t already, download Audacity and start poking around. You’ll be surprised by how user-friendly the application is for even beginner-level audio engineers.

How to Use Audacity: 3 Tutorials

While Audacity tends to be fairly easy to use, there are still a few nuances to the application that you’ll need to explore and adjust to. Here are a few tutorials that’ll help you explore the finer points of Audacity.

1. Audio Recording and Editing with Audacity: Audacity A to Z

This course by Kushal Jasoria is ideal for anyone who wants to explore all facets of recording audio in Audacity.

recording in audacity
Skillshare instructor Kushal Jasoria records vocals in Audacity.

Jasoria gets into the weeds of recording a song in Audacity. He’ll show you the fundamentals of recording a quality vocal or instrumental track, along with how to use compression tastefully, and how to get the most out of Audacity’s built-in library of effects.

2. Audacity Crash Course: Record Great Audio Voice-Over!

Audacity is popular among folks who do voiceover work for a living. If that sounds like you, here’s a course that goes over all the features that you’ll need to master in Audacity.

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Skillshare instructor Lukas Vyhnalek shows students how to cut audio from a track in Audacity.

Lukas Vyhnalek will take you through the effects that will make your voiceover project stand out from the competition, including compression, equalization, and fade in and fade out. While this course isn’t particularly long, it’s a great entry point for anyone who’s looking to dive into Audacity’s impressive library of effects.

3. Record and Edit Audio in Audacity: Perfect For Explainer Video, TV and Podcasting Audio

Here, Skillshare instructor Richard Andersone takes voiceover concepts further by applying them to using Audacity to edit audio for explainer videos, television, and podcasts.

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Skillshare instructor Richard Andersone shows students how to use noise reduction in Audacity.

Andersone explores the finer details of effects such as noise reduction, normalizing, and importing audio or background music. He also unpacks how quality audio makes or breaks a video project—and why Audacity is an ideal tool to make your work shine.

FAQ for Audacity Users

Still have a few burning questions about how to use Audacity? Many of these will be answered in the tutorials above, but let’s chat about some of the most common FAQs for Audacity users.

How to Use Autotune

While Audacity’s library of built-in effects is impressive for an open source application, autotune isn’t among them—at least by default.

However, the bright side of open source is that anyone can suggest updates for the program. Or in Audacity’s case, folks can create third-party plugins that enable audio engineers to explore how to use autotune in Audacity. 

There are a variety of autotune plugins available, and many of them have been vetted by experienced audio engineers

But there’s a big caveat to all of this: Some of these plugins can be tricky to install. You can get some autotune functionality into your instance of Audacity—just be prepared to fiddle with some of these plugins for a long time as you learn how to use autotune in Audacity.

How to Use Noise Reduction

If you’re looking to learn how to use noise reduction in Audacity, I have great news for you: The noise reduction feature in Audacity is great. I’ve gotten some great podcast results from it in the past by doing the following two steps.

Step 1: Grab Your Noise Profile

Start by highlighting a section of your audio track that only contains noise. You’ll be able to find this profile by focusing on sections of the track where a vocalist isn’t singing or a podcast host isn’t speaking.

audio bar
This is a highlighted section of audio that only contains noise.

Once you’ve highlighted your noise profile, click Effect -> Noise Reduction. Then select Get Noise Profile.

Step 2: Reduce the Noise

Once you’ve grabbed your noise profile, it’s time to reduce the noise across your entire track. 

noise reduction menu
This is the Noise Reduction menu in Audacity.

You’ll notice that you can choose how much noise to filter out. In some cases, the default numbers you see above on the sliders removes plenty of noise. But if not, play around with the Sensitivity, dB, and Frequency Smoothing to get the noise reduction you’re looking for as you learn how to use noise reduction in Audacity. Once you’re happy with the noise reduction levels, click OK to apply those settings to the entire track.

How to Record Computer Audio

Recording audio in Audacity is easy. You’ll just need to make sure a few things are set up before you get into the weeds of how to use Audacity to record computer audio.

  1. In the dropdown menus near the top of the screen, make sure that you’ve selected the microphone or recording device that you want to use 
  2. Prior to recording, ask the performer to sing or speak for a few seconds. As they do this, you’ll see a bar near the top that flickers green and occasionally red. If their test audio is consistently in the red, make volume adjustments to ensure that you don’t have any clipping in the recording.
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Here’s what you’ll see as you learn how to use Audacity to record computer audio.

Once you’re happy with your microphone settings and volume, click the red Record button in the top left-hand corner to begin your recording. To stop at any time, press the Stop button or tap the spacebar on your keyboard.

How to Remove Vocals

If you’re mixing two songs together, you might want to learn how to use Audacity to remove vocals from two different tracks that you’re working with. Fortunately, there’s a built-in effect in Audacity that makes it fairly easy to remove vocals. 

vocal remover
This is the Vocal Remover plugin that you’ll use as you’re learning how to use Audacity to remove vocals.

To remove vocals in Audacity, click Effect -> Vocal Reduction and Isolation. The most commonly used version of this is the Remove Vocals feature, which appears by default. To explore a few other use cases for removing vocals, check out this extensive guide on the Audacity wiki

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Recording Your First Podcast with Audacity