Recording with Audacity

Ever haul around a tape recorder to record audio of things that interested you—and wonder what the digital equivalent is of that today? Maybe you’d like to record some audio memories of what quarantine was like for future generations. Or perhaps you’d like to digitize some music at home—after all, Audacity is the program Westlake Porter Public Library uses to get your records and audiocassettes onto the computer in our Linux Mint Maker Station. However, you can transfer them at home, too. All you need is a computer with a line-in jack, a record or cassette player with a headphone jack (or USB jack), a cable like this one to connect the two, free software, and a little bit of know-how. (Here are the legal things you need to know). You can download Audacity to your Windows or Mac computer at home, too, completely free!

As for how to use it, log into Lynda.com (brought to you by LinkedIn, made free with your WPPL library card and PIN). After that, you can check out their Learning Audacity video course. Finally, learn how to clean and repair audio with Audacity.

Before digitizing, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re using a quality turntable/stylus/cartridge or audiocassette player. Make sure your turntable is playing at the correct speed by using a 60 Hz strobe disc (instructions here), test disc, or an app like RPM Calculator for Android. For best results, clean your records thoroughly before playing them. Software like ClickRepair used to remove clicks and pops from recorded audio can only do so much (though it works wonders!)

Then, follow Audacity’s instructions on how to transfer your records hereThis site goes into more pictorial detail on how to set up your computer.

Storage media can only last so long, so it’s always a good idea to back up your recording in multiple formats, and digitizing is the first step to do that. The Library of Congress uses a very cool system called IRENE that takes high-resolution images of record grooves in order to extract sound from even broken records!

If you’d like more advanced courses on recording with your computer, try Digital Audio Foundations, Audio Recording Techniques, or Producing Podcasts.

Happy recording!