Improve your Voice Recordings via Audacity | Guido Mercer | Skillshare

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Improve your Voice Recordings via Audacity

teacher avatar Guido Mercer, Making others sound great again!

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. Welcome! Introduction!

      2:10
    • 2. Recording Environments

      3:40
    • 3. Audacity Setup and Workflow

      2:00
    • 4. High Pass and Low Pass Filters

      2:49
    • 5. Remove Background Noises

      3:45
    • 6. The Equalizer

      2:52
    • 7. Normalizing your Voice

      3:04
    • 8. Using a Compressor

      2:06
    • 9. Setting a Hard Limiter

      2:15
    • 10. Removing Echoes via NoiseGate

      2:53
    • 11. Recording via Krisp

      3:56
    • 12. Your Project

      0:32
    • 13. Some final tips

      1:57
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About This Class

Start learning the basics of improving your Voice in Audacity in this handy 30 minutes long tutorial class.

This class does not cover boring technical theory, but rather practical examples and real situations how to make sound your Voice more professional. By the end of the class, you'll have a fundamental understanding of  how to improve the sounding of your vocal Recordings for Youtube, Podcasts, TikTok, Online-Teaching etc. You will be able to hear your Voice in a way you never expected!

THE INSTRUCTOR

Did you always want to make your own Youtube Videos / Podcasts sounding like professional radio announcers? Then I'll be super excited to introduce you into the wonderful world of Audacity!

My name is Guido Mercer, I am a professional Sound Engineer and I've been helping Youtubers and Podcasters to sound better for several years.

WHAT WILL I LEARN?

  • About Audio Frequencies
  • Setup Hard & Low Pass Filters
  • Normalizing your voice
  • Compressing an audio
  • Removing Background Noises manually
  • Removing Echoes
  • Equalizing
  • Recording without Echo & Background Noises
  • Tips & Tricks about Recording in General

FOR WHOM IS THIS CLASS?

Anyone who's interested in recording Voices via Audacity, this class is directed to Beginners and Intermediates.

Meet Your Teacher

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Guido Mercer

Making others sound great again!

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At woTweets by GuMercer rk...

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Transcripts

1. Welcome! Introduction!: Hello and welcome to this course! Let me introduce myself: My name is Guido Mercer, I'm a professional sound engineer and the last years I helped dozens of YouTubers and podcasters taking their audio to a professional level. Your question surely is, what is this exclusive course all about? It is about how to convert any of your past and future vocal recordings from something like this: Hello and welcome to this course. I hope you are doing fine. My name is Deborah and I'm a podcaster and a YouTuber. What if we can show you how to get from sounding like this example... into something like this within a few minutes: Hello and welcome to this course. I hope you are doing fine. My name is Deborah and I'm a podcaster and YouTuber. Sounding like this only needs some know-how which you will learn within the next couple of minutes in this course. You're recording videos for YouTube? You're a Podcaster? Skillshare? You ever wondered why really popular YouTubers have voices like professional radio announcers? Listeners say your voice being too silent, too loud, there are too many echoes, your air conditioner or noise from the street distract your listeners from what you really have to say? In general, you think your vocal recordings need improvement? YouTube say's itself: Absolutely nothing keeps stopping users more from viewing than bad audio. And it is true. Your content can be outstanding. Your video material of superb quality. No one will watch it if they don't like to listen to the quality of your recording. WAV format, sample rate, normalizing, low-pass, Noise prints, DeReverb and compression? You have heard of this, but no idea how this can improve your recording? This course is for beginners and intermediates who recently started or would like to start making YouTube videos, podcasts, recording voice-overs, or teaching online. You will learn the basics how to get the sound of your voice improved. And we will reveal some secrets which will help you to take your recordings to the next level. Only 20 minutes watching this course, and you will be surprised how good you can sound. Once again, welcome! Let us get straight into our first lesson. 2. Recording Environments: Welcome to our course. About the setup of this recording and the recording environments in General. For examples we used a basic $69 USB microphone. You do not need a $100 expensive microphone at the very start. A microphone of higher-quality and a well-designed recording environment always makes the post-production process less time-intensive and gives better results. But even the best microphones cannot produce great sound in a room with poor acoustics. Someone who wants to record professional YouTube videos or podcasts as a full-time job, should have different equipment than what we used here for pure demo purposes. Let us talk about your recording environment: You can record your videos via your smartphone in the beginning, but nowadays you get excellent microphones for beginners under 100 to $150. Many YouTubers and podcasters I had been working with are using for example the YETI USB microphone or the cheaper Blue Snowball. Others are using a ZOOM or TASCAM mobile recorder: All microphones, which are giving good results in the beginning. Important is how and where do you record. In general, you should speak directly into the microphone at a close distance within a comfortable environment. It should be isolated as good as possible from any distracting sounds like fans, dogs, refrigerators, cats, kids, etc. We will discuss how to get rid of ambient noises automatically and how to reduce them manually, but prevention here is better than cure. Echoes are the most common problem. Your sound waves get reflected from every wall and corner around you. The microphone does not only pick sound waves coming from your voice, but also the reflections coming from behind you after the walls have reflected them. Your recording environment should have carpeted floors and blankets to absorb echoes as much as possible. If you do not have carpets, you can use an acoustic isolation shield or a so-called voice booth box. You'll find dozens of tutorials on YouTube how to create those boxes yourself on low budget. If you prefer not to buy equipment, you can try to record your voice while artificial intelligence algorithms are filtering noises and room echoes automatically. We will show you later how to do so. I'm just trying to remind you that we have a meeting this coming Thursday at ten a As promised I prepared a short report about our accomplishments for the previous quarter. So here's the general as environmental, yes. Essentially is the use of a pop filter. It prevents spelling P and S sounds from pushing air artifacts into the microphone. Our examples were all recorded by Audacity. We recorded at a sample rate of 48 thousand hertz and 32-bit and saved them in WAV format. WAV is a file format which saves audio without losing any information, uncompressed, while the popular MP3 format compresses to reduce the file size and with any compression signals got lost. For consumers MP3 is suitable, for recording and editing we use WAV. You should record with a sample rate of 48 thousand hertz or 44100 hertz - called Compact Disc quality. 48000 hertz leads to more measurements per second and a closer recreation of the original audio, it is often used in professional audio contexts. We discussed principal recommendations for your recording environment and talked about some different file formats. Next, we will start introducing Audacity and setting up high and low-pass filters. Meanwhile, thanks for listening. 3. Audacity Setup and Workflow: Welcome back. We will have a look at one of the most popular so-called digital audio workstations, totally free of costs. Audacity, which was started by a Dominic Mazzoni and Roger Dannenberg back in 1999 as part of a research project at Carnegie Mellon University. It was initially released open sourced in May 2000 and became the digital audio workstation most used by Podcasters, Voice-over actors, and YouTubers. Audacity's features maybe not quite as convenient as those of the far more expensive competitors but in general, it has everything you need to create powerful recordings. It is available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. So let's get directly into it: We first need to download and install the software. A quick Google search of "Audacity download "will show up the download link for us. After clicking download for Windows, it will download automatically and within a few seconds we can run the setup. We do not need to modify any of the setup parameters, we just click OK to the end. The majority of sound engineers do suggest the same special so-called workflow, in which order you should apply at least six filters and effects. Let us have a look at them. No need to worry. It sounds more difficult than it is, I promise. Although there is a reason why books about professional sound engineering easily are hundreds of pages long, One: Using high-pass and low-pass filters. Two: Reducing background noise. Three: Equalizing the track. Four: Normalizing your audio file. Five: Using the compressor. Six: And finally, setting a hard limiter. Grab your vocal recording and let us dive right into it. 4. High Pass and Low Pass Filters: In this lesson, we will cover some basic understanding about audio frequencies and how to apply two essential Audio Filters: The high and the low pass filter. Both filters or let's call them algorithms we run on every vocal recording first. Audio frequency is measured in hertz, and the universally accepted range of human hearing is defined within 20 and 20000 hertz. The so-called 20 to 20 rule. Typical adult male voices have a frequency range around 90 to 180. A typical adult female, 160 to 250 hertz. We use the high-pass filter to attenuate frequencies below 80 to 120 hertz, those are usually rumbling sounds, which we do not want in our recordings. Low-pass filters on the other side passes frequencies below its cut-off frequency and attenuates frequencies above its cut-off. It is usually set around 12 to 15 kilohertz. So our first step will be set those two filters: We start by loading our example, a rumbling old air conditioner. And I encourage you to follow my steps with your own recorded audio file, if you like. First we switch from waveform view to spectrogram, which is somewhat tricky in Audacity. It is a tiny small panel where we can switch the different modes of views use. Now via Zoom, via right-click and "Zoom To Fit" to see the full range of frequencies used. Before we apply the filter, we have to select the audio. To "Effect / High pass filter" where we set our desired cut-off frequency. In our case, 120 hertz. After clicking Okay, you see signals below 120 hertz not entirely removed, but attenuated. We can now evaluate where we should set the cut-off frequency for a low-pass filter. We select a different example, this time a female voice. Click on "Effect / Low-pass filter" and we set the cut-off at around 12 kilohertz and voilà. You can easily see how the frequency above had been damped. To achieve more attenuation, simply run the effect again, or use a greater roll-of value. We learned about the frequencies of the human voice, what the low and high pass filter does, and how to apply those. The next tutorial will be all about reducing ambient noises. Thank you for watching. 5. Remove Background Noises: In the previous tutorial, we had a look at the very first steps in improving your Voice: setting the high and low-pass filters. Now we will cover how we will let Audacity filtering out annoying background noises. You know, those consonant sounds of an air conditioner, flights above you, or sounds coming from the street. To filter out ambient background noises from your recording, you first need to find a section of audio where exactly this noise can be isolated. Audacity calls it the Noise profile. A very useful tip for your recording: Always, really always let the recording run for a few seconds without you saying nothing at all. This will give us our desired noise print and in the end it makes it much easier to subtract later your voice from anything else. After you've done all your editing, before saving, you can finally delete the silent part. Once you have found this Noise Print, which Audacity will use as an example, you should select it with the Mouse - in our example Audio it is the first two seconds. We make sure the selection tool is chosen, we left-click and drag this section of background ambient audio. This audio selection will be used by the noise reduction feature to find similar background ambient, and remove it. With the audio selected, which is highlighted in light blue, we open the "Effects / Noise reduction feature". We see a dialog box with a two-step tool. First, we need to run Step 1 and click the get noise profile button. At this point the Noise reduction box will close. If you find this confusing, I can assure you: I thought as well the first time, but everything is okay. We now have to select the portion of audio that we wish to remove the ambient sound from. In our case, it is the entire track. So we go to the menu "Edit / Select All", or you can just double-click the track. Now we have to return to "Effects / Noise reduction" and have a look at step two. The default noise reduction, sensitivity and frequencies smoothing settings will in most cases work. Since our case is somewhat special, we adjust the noise reduction in decibel to let's say 40. Let us go ahead and click Okay to accept these. It may take a few seconds for the noise reduction to be applied, depending on the track duration, the file size, and the power of your computer. Now it's time to preview our results: Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, And when she heard the voice of the enchantress, she unfastened her braided tresses, wound them round one of the hooks of the window above. and then the hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it. After a year or two, It came to pass that the king's son rode through the forest. As you will notice, the jackhammer has almost completely disappeared, but not entirely. So we need to give audacity a second run of noise reduction, but this time with a different noise profile. We select the portion of sound where we still listen to the jackhammer as a new noise profile and we give it a try. Voilá. Looks like now we have at least a satisfying Result. A tip for you: If you want to record in Audacity without any background noises at all from the very beginning make use of special software tools which are using artificial intelligence algorithms. How this is done, we will explain later in our course when we cover recording voices via Krisp. Step two of our workloads is also completed, we successfully reduced background noises from our recording. In the next lesson, we will have a closer look at how we can boost several frequencies via the Equalizer. See you there and I want to thank you for watching. 6. The Equalizer: Welcome back. In the last lesson, we covered how to make use of DeNoise algorithms. Now we improve specific frequency ranges via the equalizer, for example, how to improve bass and clarity of your voice. We can make use of the presets Audacity gives us, but I suggest always trying to do it first manually. since every voice is somewhat different. While covering the high-pass filter, we said between 80 and 250 hertz you will find the basic note of a speaker's voice. Remember, the lower frequencies of speach for males typically range from 90 to 150, female voices from about 160 to 250. To boost the bass 150 to 600 hertz is usually a good frequency range to treat. So first, how do we apply those Factory Presets? We need to select the audio which we want to modify, in our case, we select all. We do so by simply double-click in the waveform editor or via menu "Edit / Select All". Let us open now the Effect menu and click on "Filter curve EQ". Within the Panel "Manage" we find the Factory Presets. Most important for us would be the bass boost and the treble boost. If you want to run both presets, you will have to apply the first one and repeat opening the equalizer to apply the other one as well. Now let us modify the frequency curve manually: We open again the "Filter curve EQ" and zoom in the decibel area on the right side. For Men I recommend start by adding three to five decibels, around 180 to 200 hertz. For women, I suggest adding the same number of decibels, but more around 400 hertz. Our example is a female voice. So let us add six decibels, around 400. Don't add too much- the more low-frequency emphasis you add tends to make the Voice rumbly and muffled. For improving the clarity we need to boost the higher frequencies. In many cases, improving clarity is more important than boosting bass. For male voice you start with four to six decibels, around 3000 hertz and for women you should elevate it around 4000 hertz. Finally, adjust the frequencies to best suit the voice and what you wanted to sound like. Step three completed: We added some Bass and clarity utilizing the equalizer in Audacity. Thank you for watching and see you in the next lesson where we will cover how to normalize a voice. 7. Normalizing your Voice: Welcome back. We talked before about how to boost frequency ranges via the equalizer. Now we will change the overall volume by a fixed amount to reach a desired target level. A process called normalizing. Normalizing analyzes your audio and looks for the highest peak to get the same peak height throughout the track without distortion or the same volume throughout. There are two main reasons you'd want to normalize your audio files: Let's say you have a music segment, a narrated segment and an interview section you want to be all at the same volume level. Normalizing makes sure one is not too loud or too soft. The other scenario is if you simply want to amplify the volume of your recording, Normalizing increases the gain to its highest possible level without going over 0 decibels, which can cause clipping and distortion. Professional sound engineers suggests setting this at minus 0 comma one decibel. That means the very highest peak in a recording will not cross this point. Usually for voice recordings we set this to minus free. To normalize an audio file, we first highlight the area or the track. Secondly, we go to "Effect" on the menu at the top of the screen, we scroll down to normalize, and we open it. At the normalized menu box we will see three checkboxes: The first is "remove DC offset", we make sure this one is enabled. The second is "normalized peak amplitude to", It has a default setting of 0 dB. A level of minus one dB is just below the maximum amplitude possible without clipping, but gives a little headroom for effects and distortion for play back on all equipment. You can enter a more negative value to normalize to lower amplitudes. Like we said before, minus 3 for example. Minus zero comma five dB is usually a good setting for most tracks. The third checkbox is "normal as stereo channels independently". When this is unchecked, the default, normalize will work on the channels of a stereo track as a pair and change the level of both channels by the same amount. Once you're satisfied with the preview, hit the OK button. greatest glory and living, lives matter falling. But in rising every time we fall. Nelson Mandela. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing, Walt Disney. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Steve Jobs. Another important step of improving our vocal recording completed: We normalized our track. I hope this was useful for you and I would like to thank you for watching. 8. Using a Compressor: Previously we covered how to normalize an audio file. Now we learn how we use the Compressor effect. The compressor is lowering the level of the loudest and boosting the level of the quieter sounds. If you have ever listened to a recording that caused you to turn up the volume when you couldn't hear and turned down when it was too loud, you heard a recording that missed compression. Compressing reduces the dynamic range of an audio file. One of the main purposes is to permit the audio to be amplified further, without clipping, then would be otherwise possible. By default the compressor amplifies the audio as much as possible. If you're talking too low, it will make you louder and this is especially useful for people with microphones of lower quality. We need to select the audio first and then click on "Effect / Compressor". I duplicated the original selection via Control-D so that we can compare the outcome with the original. For vocal recordings we keep the settings usually around Threshold:minus 15 to minus 18, Noise floor: minus 40, and the Ratio we set between 2.5 to three. You may need to play around with the settings. Just keep in mind that the lower the threshold, the more background noise you will hear. So try to keep it around minus 15 to minus 18. After listening to preview, we will click Okay. You see easily how Audacity amplified our selection. Let us finally listened to the modified part together with the original one: Hello, and welcome to the course. As you can hear, the audio got amplified a lot. If a voice was almost unperceivable before, you can now hear her loud and clearly. In this lesson, we discussed how to use the compressor effect to reduce the span between the softest and the loudest sounds of a track. I will see you in the next lesson, where we will discuss how to set up a Hard Limiter. 9. Setting a Hard Limiter: Welcome back. Usually one of the last steps before finally exporting and publishing a vocal recording is setting a so-called Hard limiter. But what is a hard limiter? A limiter is a tool for signal processing that applies a type of dynamic range compression. That means that it can take an input signal, evaluate its amplitude - the volume - and lower the peaks of the waveform If those peaks reach and exceed a threshold value who have specified. In other words, if we set the limiter threshold to minus six dB, it will not allow any signal to be louder than minus six dB. The audio may seem to grow louder as it slams into the threshold and the average volume of the audio increases, but the maximum amplitude is blocked from climbing any higher. The hard limiter amplifies - input boost - the audio gain for the entire file by a value you specify, whereas its make sure that the maximum level, the maximum amplitude, never exceeds the value you specify. To put theory into practice, let us put a hard limiter for our example: We go to the menu and under "Effect" we select "Limiter". The type is pre-selected to Hard Limiter. After you made sure that the "limit to" value is set correctly to minus 3 dB the only setting you really need to adjust is the "input boost" if your goal is to amplify the sound so that it sounds louder, but without distortions. The easiest way to adjust this is play your file at the preview and direct the input boost slider to adjust again. For the majority of voice recordings, you would just need to click okay, limiting the maximum amplitude to minus 3. If you really want to get higher, set the "Limit to" to no more than minus 0 comma one decibels to avoid distortions and clippings. After clicking Okay and zooming into our decibel view, you can see how Audacity limits of everything about our specified value. In this lesson, we talked about what a hard limiter is, why we do need it, and how to apply it in Audacity. Thank you for watching, and see you in the next lesson. 10. Removing Echoes via NoiseGate: Welcome back. In the previous lesson, we talked about setting up the Hard Limiter. Now we want to discuss a really annoying issue for many content creators: Echoes. The inconvenient Truth first: Removing an echo is in most cases almost impossible with a free piece of software like Audacity. Powerful algorithms indeed exist to remove echoes, but they are usually not for free. From my experience, you should either try to start a new recording in an improved recording environment or DeReverb the echo with tools like Adobe Audition or Apple's Logic Pro, if you can. Another option would be to record it via Krisp, which we will cover in our next session. Still, in some cases it is possible to reduce it somewhat. We have two features in Audacity to do so: Firstly, the noise reduction effect we already discussed and secondly, the Noise Gate Algorithm. You always asked me why I love you. So I decided to write it all down and read it out loud. I love your sense of humor, it is one of the first things I noticed about you. You have a way of putting people at ease with a simple joke. And you never use your humor to put someone... As you can hear immediately Teresa's love letter unfortunately had been recorded it with a slight echo. So let us try to reduce it. We should start with an attack decay of 75, Gate threshold of minus 30 and the level of reduction of minus 100. Use these settings as a starting point. Level reduction tells the gate how much to reduce unwanted audio. The gate threshold sets the volume level at which the gate starts to reduce sounds, and the attack and decay settings affects how quickly the gate process starts and stops. If the echo doesn't change, increase the gate threshold until the echo is reduced. If important audio gets cut, reduce it. What's most important is that you set the Gate threshold. After you do so, tweak the level reduction and attack decay settings until you are satisfied with the result. You always ask me why I love you. So I decided to write it all down and read it out loud. I love your sense of humor. It's one of the first things I noticed about you. You have a way of putting people at ease with a simple joke. And you never use your humor to put someone down. I love the way you look. You're so handsome, but you don't seem to realize how good-looking you. In this lesson, we talked about using the noise gate effect to reduce room echoes for our audio via Audacity. Next, we will show you how to record without any echos at all. Thanks for watching and see you there. 11. Recording via Krisp: So far, you've learned several steps how to significantly increase the quality of your vocal recording. But what about if you now have the option to record directly your voice in Audacity without later have to reduce and eliminate background noises or even echoes at all? Let us here two somewhat exaggerated examples: First, we hear Teresa's recording with a noticeable echo, we toggle the tool on and off and you can hear how it reduces it the room echo significantly. You always asked me why I love you. So, I decided to write it all down and read it out loud. I love your sense of humor - it's one of the first things I noticed about you. You have a way of putting people at ease with a simple joke. And you never use your humor to put someone down. I love the way you look - you are so handsome, but you don't seem to realize how good-looking you are. I see the way other people look at you. And I know they envy me for being with you. Now, we hear in the background the sound of waves from the Atlantic Ocean, peoples in the street talking, while Teresa read some favorite quotes. As soon as she's quoting Steve Jobs, we enable the Tool. I would say the results speaks for itself. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall, Nelson Mandela. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing, Walt Disney. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Steve Jobs. If life were predictable, it would cease to be live and be without flavor, Eleanor Roosevelt. Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember, involve me and I learn, Benjamin Franklin. Whoever is happy, will make others happy to, Anne Frank. A dream finally comes true you say? Recording YouTube audios while sitting at the beach. Artificial intelligence algorithms allow us to analyze and filter in real-time sounds which do not belong to your voice. Commonly, it is realized by a plug-in or an audio device driver. One of the most popular ones in the last few years is Krisp. Krisp was designed for online conferencing software like Skype or Zoom, having video conferences without any background noises at all. But it can be perfectly used with digital audio workstations like Audacity or Audition, as well as to remove ambient noises and even moderate room echoes. Let us show you how: After installing Krisp's audio drivers from their website, we need to select the Krisp microphone as the input device and whatever speaker you like as an output device. Then we have to tell Krisp via its widget which physical microphone we would like to use. Now, if you start your recording in audacity, it gets the input signal via Krisp, which takes it directly from our microphone. If you now want to record free of background noises and echoes you just need to toggle the status of the Krisp Widget. In this lesson, we have learned how to record filtering automatically any background noises or echoes by using commercial software tools like crisp. I hope this tutorial was useful for you and I would like to thank you for watching. 12. Your Project: Now it's your turn. We want you to improve this audio with the methods you have learned or even better. Send us your audio greetings free of background noises. We would love to hear your results. Yes, you heard it. Now is your time for action. All assembled files attached to this course need a lot of improvement to get into practice what we discussed before. I encourage you to either improve them or even better, to send me your greetings or comments. recorded the way we discussed. 13. Some final tips: Congratulations, you made it to the end of the course. I really hope our short how-to tutorials were useful for you and that you get some insights how to take your voice recordings to the next level. As I said in the beginning, the very first step to make really professional recordings is to invest in your recording environment. No microphone of this world can avoid recording echoes - if there are echoes! Lots of tutorials exist of how to improve your recording situation: It should be in the interior of the house, you should surround yourself by soft objects, avoid having windows, consider acoustic panels to absorb noise, etc. etc. The most straightforward technique is to get more stuff into a room, especially on the flat surfaces. Let me give you one kind of strange indeed, but very effective hint: If nothing works out, try to record in your closet! Many, many very high-quality podcasts are recorded in a closet - stuffed with winter clothes. Another idea is to rent a professional sound studio, which has the perfect environment for your recording. One last tip: Make use of one of the best tools completely free of charge you have: Your ears! No digital audio workstation display can replace your ears. If something sounds wrong, something is wrong! Finally, I would love to stay in touch with you. If you have any questions or ideas, what should be better or you need getting your recordings improved, feel absolutely free to drop a message in the discussion section or leave me a message on Twitter at GuMercer. Also watch out for my other courses about improving vocal recordings via Audition or recording with absolutely 0 background noises at all via Krisp on this platform. Thank you for watching and happy recording.